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Todd Bowles Confirms "Tough Decision," Bucs to Release Shaq Barrett in March | Updates

Keep informed with our daily updates: News, notes and more during the Bucs 2024 Offseason

February 27 Updates

Shaquil Barrett arrived in Tampa with a splash, breaking the Buccaneers' single-season sack record in his first year with the team and becoming the first Tampa Bay player ever to lead the NFL in that category. Five outstanding seasons and 45.0 sacks later, Barrett departs with a huge dose of gratitude from a franchise he helped win its second Super Bowl championship.

Appearing on "Good Morning Football" from the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday morning, Head Coach Todd Bowles commented on a report from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that the Buccaneers will release Barrett at the start of the new league year in March. Bowles emphasized that it was a difficult decision to move on from a player who had contributed so much to the team on and off the field.

"It's never a seamless move," said Bowles. "It's always…from a personal side you get very close to these guys as well as they do the coaches, and you have a relationship that never goes away. From a business side, in order for us to get better and bring in new talent and upgrade the team, you have to get some of these things done and they're hard decisions."

By releasing Barrett after the start of the new league year, which begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 13, the Buccaneers will have the option to designated him as a post-June 1 cut and spread his remaining cap hit out over the 2024 and 2025 seasons. Each team can use that option on up to two players each offseason.

Barrett made two Pro Bowls while with the Buccaneers and was a force during the team's 2020 title run, with a combined four sacks over the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LV. He finished fourth in the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2019 after racking up 19.5 sacks.

"Shaq has been great for us over the past five years," said Bowles. "He came in, he made a heck of a name for himself and he's one of the best human beings you could ever meet. And he's still got some great playing ability left in him. But these tough decisions have to be made for us to move on. He understands that and we understand that, and who knows? We'll see what happens down the line."

CLICK HERE to watch Todd Bowles' interview on Good Morning Football.

February 12 Updates

With Super Bowl LVIII now in the books, NFL teams will turn their full attention to 2024, and a new league year that begins on Wednesday, March 13. Between now and a pre-free agency "negotiating period" that begins on March 11, teams have a window of about four weeks where they have exclusive rights to negotiate with their own pending free agents.

On Monday, Buccaneers.com posted a list of 22 players from the team's 2023 roster who could hit the open market on March 13, 18 of which are pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs). The other four fall into two different categories, restricted free agents (RFAs) and exclusive rights free agents (ERFAs), which could prompt some paperwork from the Buccaneers before that deadline in March.

Players with three accrued seasons of free agency credit who have expiring contracts fall into the RFA category. Players with two or fewer accrued seasons of free agency credit are in the ERFA category. However, players only become RFAs or ERFAs if their teams choose to extend qualifying offers to them before the start of free agency. Those who do not receive offers become UFAs, in practice if not by actual definition, and can sign with any team.

The Buccaneers have two players in each category who could receive qualifying offers. Cornerback Dee Delaney and guard Nick Leverett are pending RFAs, while wide receiver Deven Thompkins and tackle Brandon Walton are pending ERFAs.

A player who gets a qualifying offer to become an RFA can negotiate with other teams but if they sign a contract with another team their original team will have the opportunity to match it or receive draft pick compensation. Exclusive rights free agents can only sign with their original team.

Delaney played nearly 500 snaps on defense in 2023, playoffs included, seeing time at both cornerback and safety and contributing 24 tackles, two interceptions and five passes defensed. Leverett was on the active roster throughout the season but was generally inactive on game days. He started 10 games at left guard in 2022.

Thompkins handled all of the Bucs' return duties in 2023, averaging 9.4 yards on 25 punt returns and 20.4 yards on 16 kickoff returns. He also caught 17 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown and ran eight times for 56 yards. Walton served as a reserve tackle for the Bucs and saw action in four games on special teams.

CLICK HERE to review the entire list of the Bucs' pending free agents.

February 9 Upates

Hundreds of NFL luminaries gathered at the Resorts World Theater in Las Vegas on Thursday evening for the NFL Honors show that annually precedes the Super Bowl. There, awards were given out for Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year, Walter Payton Man of the Year and more.

Baker Mayfield and his wife Emily were on hand, as the Buccaneers' quarterback was in the running for one of the night's major awards. While Comeback Player of the Year honors for the 2023 season ultimately went to Browns quarterback Joe Flacco, Mayfield was shown plenty of love in the voting.

Of the 49 Associated Press voters who determined the winner, 10 put Mayfield first on their ballots. Bills safety Damar Hamlin got the most first-place votes, with 21, while Flacco got 13. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa drew four votes while Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy each got one.

Overall, Mayfield was represented on 33 of the 49 ballots, drawing 10 second place votes and 13 third place votes. With first place votes with five points each, second place votes worth three points each and third place votes worth one point each, that resulted in a final point total of 93 for Mayfield.

Five other players and coaches from the Bucs' 2023 squad received votes for awards that were given out on Thursday night. Perhaps most notably, outside linebacker Yaya Diaby, a third-round pick in 2023, got a single first-place vote for Defensive Rookie of the Year, plus a third-place selection to give him six total points. His teammate, defensive lineman Calijah Kancey, also drew one third-place vote. They were two of 10 rookies to appear on the 49 ballots. Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. received two second-place votes and one third-place votes, for a total of seven points, in the Defensive Player of the Year balloting.

Head Coach Todd Bowles and former Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales, now the Carolina Panthers' head coach, also got votes. Bowles was one of 12 candidates to get votes for Coach of the Year, getting a single third-place nod. Canales got two third-place mentions for Assistant Coach of the Year, one of 11 coaches to figure into the balloting.

CLICK HERE to watch Baker Mayfield's Mic'd up video at the Pro Bowl Games.

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February 6 Updates

The Buccaneers interviewed seven confirmed candidates before hiring Liam Coen to replace Dave Canales as their offensive coordinator. They are casting a similarly wide net to fill the special teams coordinator spot opened up by the retirement of Keith Armstrong last week.

On Tuesday, the Buccaneers announced that they had conducted a virtual interview with LeVar Woods, who is currently the special teams coordinator at the University of Iowa. Earlier in the day, the team had also confirmed interviews with Saints Assistant Special Teams Coordinator Phil Galiano and former Seahawks Special Teams Coordinator Larry Izzo.

Previously, the Buccaneers also spoke with Craig Aukerman and Thomas McGaughey, the former special teams coordinators for the Titans and Giants, respectively. They have also interviewed one in-house candidate in Keith Tandy, who has been the Bucs' defensive/special teams assistant for the past four seasons.

Woods has been on the staff at his alma mater for 16 seasons, the last six in charge of special teams. He started as an administrative assistant for four years (2008-11), before spending three seasons (2012-14) tutoring the linebackers and three (2015-17) in charge of the tight ends. He added special teams duties in 2017, then relinquished his position coach duties and focused solely on the kick-and-coverage game beginning in 2018.

During his six seasons in his current post, Woods has helped coach such players wideout and return man Ihmir Smith-Marsette, kicker Keith Duncan, kicker Caleb Shudak, punter Tory Taylor and return man Charlie Jones earn first-team All-Big Ten Honors. Duncan was a consensus first-team All-American in 2019 and Taylor was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2020.

Woods played seven seasons in the NFL as a linebacker with the Cardinals, Lions and Titans. He first entered the league as an undrafted free agent with Arizona, spending his first four seasons with the Cardinals before splitting the next three between Detroit and Tennessee. In all, Woods played in 88 games with 11 starts and recorded 183 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. He was known as an outstanding contributor on special teams.

Footballs sit on the field before an NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Buccaneers have met with a fifth candidate for their opening at special teams coordinator, and it's a coach who has worked with Tampa Bay's special teams units in the past.

On Tuesday, the team confirmed it had conducted an in-person interview with Phil Galiano at the AdventHealth Training Center. Galiano was previously an assistant special teams coach with the Buccaneers on Greg Schiano's staff in 2012 and 2013. The Buccaneers have also interviewed Larry Izzo, Craig Aukerman and Thomas McGaughey, the former special teams coordinators for the Seahawks, Titans and Giants, respectively. The fifth interview was with in-house candidate Keith Tandy, who has been the Bucs' defensive/special teams assistant for the past four seasons.

Galiano has been the Saints' assistant special teams coach for the past five seasons (2019-23). During that time, the return game has been a net positive for New Orleans. The Saints ranked sixth in punt return average (10.1 yards) and 11th in kickoff return average (23.2) and scored twice on punt returns. In coverage, the Saints ranked third against punt returns (7.0) and ninth against kickoff returns (21.4). New Orleans punters also combined to rank 10th in that span with a 41.6-yard net average.

The Saints' special teams units as a whole have consistently ranked highly in the comprehensive special teams rankings annually produced by NFL writer Rick Gosselin. New Orleans took the top spot in 2019, landed fifth in both 2020 and 2021 and were second in 2023.

Galiano has coached on the college or NFL level for each of the last 24 years. He began in 2000 with the first of four one-year stints at Dickinson, New Haven, Villanova and Rutgers. After one season as a graduate assistant at Rutgers, he was promoted to defensive ends/linebackers coach in 2004, a position he held for three years. After a three-year stint as the defensive coordinator at Florida International, Galiano returned to the Rutgers staff to coach defensive line and tight ends in 2010-11 before following Schiano to Tampa Bay. He then had stops at Rutgers again, with the Miami Dolphins in 2016 and at Penn State in 2017-18.

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Larry Izzo, long a special teams ace as a player in the NFL and most recently the special teams coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, has conducted an in-person interview for the same position with the Buccaneers. The team confirmed the interview on Monday, making Izzo the fourth candidate to speak to the Buccaneers about replacing the retiring Keith Armstrong.

Izzo is the third external candidate to land an interview in Tampa, joining former Giants Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey and former Titans Special Teams Coordinator Craig Aukerman. The Bucs have also interviewed their current Defensive/Special Teams Assistant Keith Tandy.

Izzo was on Pete Carroll's staff for six seasons (2018-23), first coming aboard as an assistant special teams coordinator in 2018 and then becoming the interim coordinator when Brian Schneider left the team due to personal reasons. Izzo then got the full-time job in 2021. He started his coaching career with the Giants, spending five seasons as an assistant special teams coordinator (2011-15) before landing his first coordinator position with the Texans in 2016-17.

Over his three seasons as the full-time coordinator in Seattle, the Seahawks ranked first in opponent punt return average (6.7 yards), fifth in opponent kickoff return average (20.6), and fifth in net punting average (43.3). While those numbers suggest excellent coverage units, the Seahawks in that time period also ranked fifth in kickoff return average (24.5).

As a player, Izzo spent five seasons in Miami (one spent on injured reserve), eight with the Patriots and one with the Jets. He was consistently one of the best special teams players in the NFL, earning three Pro Bowl invitations in that category. In his career, which began as an undrafted signee with the Dolphins in 1996, Izzo racked up 298 kick-coverage tackles. He was a member of three Super Bowl-winning teams in New England.

CLICK HERE to read about the Buccaneers' new offensive coordinator, Liam Coen.

February 5 Updates

The Buccaneers could look to fill their new opening at special teams coordinator from within.

On Monday, the Buccaneers confirmed that the team had interviewed Keith Tandy for the position, as the process to replace the retiring Keith Armstrong continues. Tandy has spent the last four seasons (2020-03) working with Armstrong as a defensive/special teams assistant.

The Buccaneers have now interviewed three people for the job, including external candidates Craig Aukerman and Thomas McGaughey. Aukerman spent most of the last six seasons as the Titans' special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, while McGaughey previously held the same position for the Giants (2018-23), the Panthers (2016-17), the 49ers (2015) and the Jets (2014).

Tandy began his NFL coaching career in 2020 in Tampa, the same place he kicked off his NFL playing career as a sixth-round draft pick in 2012. A safety and a special teams ace, Tandy played the first six of his seven seasons with the Buccaneers before finishing with six games with the Falcons in 2018. He spent one year coaching high school football before returning to the Buccaneers.

In 2023, the Buccaneers' special teams units finished fourth in average kickoff return yards allowed (18.9), tied for sixth in field goal percentage (93.5%) and fourth in gross punting average (50.1).

As a player, Tandy was known for his cerebral approach and for making the most of his opportunities. Though he started only 15 games during his six seasons with the Buccaneers, he recorded eight interceptions, the most by any Tampa Bay defensive back in that span.

CLICK HERE to read Tandy's 2023 Buccaneers bio.

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February 5 Updates

The Buccaneers have interviewed a second candidate for their opening at special teams coordinator, speaking with former Titans assistant Craig Aukerman at the AdventHealth Training Center. Aukerman is the second candidate to emerge for the position following the retirement of long-time special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong. The Bucs also interviewed former Giants Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey last Friday.

Aukerman spent most of the last six seasons as the Tennessee Titans' special teams coordinator before the team made a change at the position last December. During that time period, the Titans ranked first in the NFL with a gross punting average of 48.2 yards and fourth with a net average of 41.9 yards. Punter Brett Kern made two Pro Bowl appearances under Aukerman's tutelage and punter Ryan Stonehouse was a second-team Associated Press All-Pro selection as a rookie in 2022.

Aukerman had two stints on the Titans' staff, first working as an assistant special teams coordinator under head coaches Mike Munchak, Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Mularkey from 2013-15. After spending one season as the Chargers' special teams coordinator, Aukerman returned to his assistant coordinator post in Tennessee in 2017. When Mike Vrabel took over as the Titans' head coach in 2018 he promoted Aukerman to the coordinator position.

Aukerman began his NFL career in 2010 as a defensive assistant in Denver, then spent the following two seasons in Jacksonville as a defensive assistant and an assistant special teams coordinator. Prior to joining the Broncos he coached for 10 years on the collegiate level, beginning at his alma mater of Findley in 2000 and eventually moving on to Miami (Ohio), Western Kentucky and Kent State.

CLICK HERE for more on Coach Armstrong's retirement.

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February 2 Updates

The Buccaneers have begun their search for a new special teams coordinator following the retirement of Keith Armstrong. On Friday, the team conducted an in-person interview with Thomas McGaughey, who spent the last six seasons in the same position with the New York Giants. McGaughey was originally hired by the Giants in 2018 as part of Head Coach Pat Shurmur's staff but was later retained by both Joe Judge in 2020 and Brian Daboll in 2022.

During his most recent tenure with the Giants, the team ranked sixth in the NFL in field goal percentage (87.1%), fifth in opponent kickoff return average (21.2) and ninth in opponent punt return average (7.8). McGaughey also served as the Giants' assistant special teams coordinator from 2007-10.

Overall, McGaughey has 17 years of NFL coaching experience, including stints with Kansas City (2002)Denver (2005-06), the New York Jets (2014), San Francisco (2015) and Carolina (2016-17). He has held a corrdinator position for the last 10 years. McGaughey played defensive back at the University of Houston and spent time with the Bengals and Eagles in 1996-97. He also played for the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 1998 and later returned to Houston to coach special teams and cornerbacks in 2003 and 2004. He also had a stint (2011-13) as LSU's special teams coordinator.

Armstrong retired after 30 seasons of coaching in the NFL, the last five in Tampa. The Buccaneers will now have two new coordinators in 2024 as they are also seeking to replace Dave Canales, who left for the head coaching job in Carolina.

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