The tagline for an article on ESPN ranking each team's offseason from 32 to 1 says it best: Can anyone beat the Bucs?
The short answer is no.
Bill Barnwell of ESPN has Tampa Bay topping the list of all NFL teams this offseason. His rankings are based on what a team did to bolster their roster, what their cap situation is and what future draft capital they have. Basically, if a team added talent, they'll rank higher. If they didn't and saw an influx of notable departures, they drop. Things like market value, needs and financials with current player contracts were also taken into consideration.
Well, when you add the G.O.A.T., who else could possibly top that?
"Getting even a declining Brady would be enough to push them toward the top 10, but they followed up those moves by convincing tight end Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement and acquiring him from the Patriots for a pick swap," wrote Barnwell. "With a huge hole looming at right tackle, they then managed to protect Brady by using their first-round pick on Tristan Wirfs."
Well, ok, apparently Tampa Bay can top that by adding more than just Brady. A healthy Gronkowski will provide a familiar target in a foreign place for the veteran quarterback and an athletic youngster will mend the hole the Bucs have at right tackle. Wirfs was widely considered one of the top tackles in this year's draft and put on a show at the NFL Combine this year. He comes from a pro-ready program at Iowa, known for churning out trenchmen, that both Head Coach Bruce Arians and General Manager Jason Licht are familiar with, too. So, though he may be a rookie, he should assimilate quickly.
But as was mentioned before, it's not just who the team added that is taken into consideration for these rankings. A lot of other things happen in an offseason – like holding on to key players set to become free agents. The Bucs did that too, re-signing their starting front seven on defense. Not only were the able to elevate the offense with two of the greatest players to ever play their respective positions and a promising plug-and-play rookie, but they were able to retain who they needed to continue the defensive turnaround put into motion last year.
"…] lost in the shuffle was the work Tampa Bay did to retain the core of a defense that ranked fifth in DVOA a year ago,” Barnwell continued. “It managed to bring back tackle [Ndamukong Suh and ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett. The Bucs pressured opposing quarterbacks 34% of the time when all three of those players were on the field last season, which would have been the second-best mark in football over a full season. They got everything they could possibly have hoped for this offseason."
Barnwell struggled to pick out what the Bucs could have done better this offseason, citing a more experienced back-up quarterback as Tampa Bay's only potential weakness. But when you take into consideration that Gabbert is more than familiar with Arians' system, having also played under his in Arizona, even Barnwell admits that was a little forced. His only suggestion for what else the Bucs need to do this offseason is acquire a veteran talent for the running back room. And with the list of free agents still out there, that wouldn't be hard to do should Tampa Bay feel that's in the cards. As it stands right now though, they drafted their pass-catching back in Ke'Shawn Vaughn in the third round and are also looking for Ronald Jones to continue his development this season.
Either way, the Bucs seem set up for success and they aren't the only ones who think so.