March 17 Updates
On Friday, the NFL announced the pending distribution of an additional $336 million in salary to a list of players for the 2022 based on the Performance-Based Pay program that was first introduced in the 2002 Collective Bargaining Agreement. The payments are based on the players' playing time and salary and generally benefits players with higher percentages of playing time and lower salaries.
Buccaneers offensive lineman Robert Hainsey is one of the players set to receive a payment from the program; in fact, his pending allotment of $706,331 is the 13th-highest payment in the league this year. He is the only Buccaneer to rank in the top 25 on the list, which is headed by Philadelphia safety Marcus Epps ($880,384).
A third-round draft pick out of Notre Dame in 2021, Hainsey was thrust into a starting role on the Buccaneers' offensive line when Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen suffered a serious knee injury on the second day of training camp. Hainsey went on to start all 17 regular-season games at center, playing 100% of the team's offensive snaps through the first 16 contests before departing a meaningless Week 17 outing in Atlanta after just 13 snaps. He was part of an offensive line that allowed a league-low 2.93% sacks-per-pass-play figure.
March 16 Updates
The Buccaneers released Donovan Smith on March 7 and thus, for the first time in nine years, are looking for a new starter at left tackle. A common theory outside of team headquarters is that Tristan Wirfs, the 2021 first-team All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler at right tackle, was the franchise's left tackle-in-waiting, ready to flip sides as soon as the team moved on from the ironman Smith.
The idea has been discussed inside the AdventHealth Training Center, too, but it wasn't prompted by the recent roster move. It's an idea that's been on the table since Wirfs was taken 13th overall in the 2020 draft, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily coming to fruition in 2023.
"Ever since we drafted Tristan, we've talked about that," said General Manager Jason Licht. "I think right now it's just talk, but we have the offseason. We still have a lot of time here to see how this unfolds."
The second half of that theory, given the Bucs' current O-Line depth chart, would be to install 2022 second-round pick Luke Goedeke at right tackle, the position he played in college. The Buccaneers opened the season with Goedeke at left guard, but a foot injury and the ascendance of Nick Leverett ended that approach after six games. When the Buccaneers rested most of their starters in a meaningless Week 18 game against Atlanta, Goedeke started at right tackle and acquitted himself nicely.
"It's great that we think he can play both," said Licht of Goedeke's guard-tackle flexibility. "We're not making any decisions right now, today. Things could change in the matter of a couple days or a couple weeks. We've still got the draft coming up. But we're happy with the fact that we think that he can play both guard and tackle at a pretty high level."
If Goedeke were to get the call at right tackle, that would mean one less competitor for the two guard spots, but Licht says the Bucs have plenty of options for those spots, and a whole offseason to get more.
"I think we have a lot of depth and players that can actually start for us," said Licht, referencing Leverett, Robert Hainsey, Brandon Walton and Aaron Stinnie. "Now, we're going to continue to add there. We've got the offseason here, we've got the draft, we've got all the way up until our first game. We're not playing in two weeks, so we have a lot of time to do it. But we have a lot of confidence in these guys."
March 15 Updates
On Wednesday, CB Dee Delaney received a qualifying offer from the Buccaneers, making him an exclusive rights free agent as the new league year begins. An exclusive rights free agent (ERFA) is a player with an expiring contract but fewer than two accrued seasons of free agency credit. As an ERFA, Delaney cannot negotiate with other teams, and signing his qualifying offer converts it into a one-year contract for the 2023 season.
A versatile defender who has seen action at cornerback and safety for the Buccaneers over the past two seasons, Delaney played in all 18 games, playoffs included, in 2022, with one start at safety. He recorded 25 tackles and two tackles for loss. He had five stops and a tackle for loss in his lone start at safety against Pittsburgh in Week Six.
Delaney also played two-thirds of the Buccaneers snaps on special teams and contributed four kick-coverage tackles. The Buccaneers now have two exclusive rights free agents after also extending a qualifying offer to guard Nick Leverett last week.
CLICK HERE for a list of the Buccaneers who could become free agents on Wednesday.
March 10 Updates
The Buccaneers have extended the tender offer to Nick Leverett necessary to make him an exclusive rights free agent at the start of free agency next week. An exclusive rights free agent (ERFA) is a player with an expiring contract but fewer than two accrued seasons of free agency credit. As an ERFA, Leverett cannot negotiate with other teams, in contrast to restricted free agents (RFA), who have three seasons of accrued credit.
Leverett, who originally joined the Buccaneers as an undrafted rookie out of Rice in 2020, emerged as a starter on the Buccaneers' offensive line last season. He took over for injured rookie Luke Goedeke at left guard in Week Eight and started the final 10 contests, though he missed the Bucs' lone playoff contest due to knee and shoulder injuries.
Leverett spent all of his rookie season on Tampa Bay's practice squad in 2020, then made the active roster in 2021 and appeared in three games, including one in the postseason.
The Buccaneers have two players who could qualify as ERFAs if they receive the necessary tender offer; the other is cornerback Dee Delaney.
CLICK HERE for a list of the Buccaneers who could become free agents next Wednesday.
March 6 Updates
Buccaneers Legend Rondé Barber has decided who will present him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he is inducted with the Class of 2023 this summer, and it was the natural choice. Barber's Presenter at the enshrinement ceremony on August 5 in Canton, Ohio will be his twin brother, former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber.
The Hall of Fame announced Barber's choice on Monday afternoon and Barber confirmed it minutes later in a tweet that read, "If you know me, you know there was no choice but @TikiBarber."
At the ceremony, Tiki will introduce his brother in a video segment before Rondé gives his speech to the crowd. After the speech has concluded, the two brothers will join each other in revealing Barber's new bronze bust by pulling off the cover.
The two Barber brothers played together at Virginia and they were both selected in the 1997 NFL Draft, Tiki by the Giants in Round Two and Rondé by the Buccaneers in Round Three. Tiki played 10 years in the NFL, all with the Giants, and earned three Pro Bowl invitations and one first-team AP All-Pro selection. He is New York's all-time leading rusher, finishing with 10,449 career yards and 55 touchdowns. He also caught 586 passes for another 5,183 yards and 12 scores and 1,181 yards on punt returns and 544 on kickoff returns. Tiki joins Hall of Famers Marcus Allen and Marshall Faulk as the only players in league history to run for 10,000-plus yards and catch passes for 5,000-plus yards, and he's the only one ever to do that and add at least 1,000 return yards.
Rondé believes Tiki is deserving of joining him in the Hall and plans to make that point in no uncertain terms.
"I've got a platform now to start talking about his candidacy more," said Rondé. "Running backs are getting the short end of the stick and I'm not sure why. I'll be glad to share my opinions about Tiki Barber, the New York Football Giants' all-time leading rusher. It's one of the storied franchises in the history of this game, of professional football, and he doesn't get much attention for his accomplishments."
CLICK HERE to hear Rondé discuss his selection for the Hall of Fame on the Salty Dogs podcast.
March 3 Updates
Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. followed up his first Pro Bowl appearance after the 2021 season with another strong campaign in 2022. Winfield racked up 80 tackles to go with seven tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, six QB hits, one interception, three passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Winfield did this while playing a new hybrid role in this third NFL season. While he continued to start at safety in the Bucs' base defensive scheme, he would generally move into the slot when the team went to a nickel or dime package. The Bucs felt he had the coverage skills to match slot receivers, and moving him closer to the line of scrimmage allowed Head Coach Todd Bowles to take advantage of the young defender's blitzing talent and strong tackling. However, Bowles envisions simplifying Winfield's role in 2023 in order to allow him to more fully master one particular job.
"Since he was so young, he gets better mentally every year," said Bowles. "His tackling is outstanding, his intensity is outstanding, what he does for the team is outstanding. I think he's one of our top three defensive players. He can only get better with experience, you know? I don't want to move him around as much this coming season than I have this year – I'll try to leave him at one spot as best as I can. I think he'll master that spot and get even better for us."
CLICK HERE to listen to more of Coach Bowles thoughts from the NFL Scouting Combine this week.
Running back Rachaad White had a promising rookie season for the Buccaneers in 2022, but he plans on getting a fresh start in 2023, at least sartorially.
On Friday, White revealed on Twitter that he plans to switch to jersey no. 1 after playing his debut season in no. 29. White simply tweeted "Da 1," along with a workout video and a stylized image with him wearing Buccaneers jerseys with his new number. A team source confirmed that White has applied for the jersey switch.
A third-round draft pick out of Arizona State last April, White played in all 17 games of his rookie season, taking over as the starter in the Bucs' backfield around midseason. He finished second on the team to Leonard Fournette with 481 rushing yards and also added 50 catches for 290 yards and three total touchdowns. White also returned 11 kickoffs for 244 yards and made five tackles on special teams.