The Tampa Bay Buccaneers capped their 2019 season, the first under Head Coach Bruce Arians, with a 28-22 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. While Arians' crew would love to be one of the 12 continuing play into the month of January, attention must now turn to molding the Buccaneers into a playoff team in 2020.
Arians, General Manager Jason Licht and their staffs will spend the coming weeks evaluating every player on the roster and determining a path forward. That evaluation will include decisions on a long list of potential free agents, including quarterback Jameis Winston, outside linebackers Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, offensive tackle Demar Dotson and wide receiver Breshad Perriman.
As usual, there will be a number of Buccaneer players whose primary postseason concern is returning to full health after their seasons ended early due to injury. Among the Bucs who finished the season on injured reserve are Pro Bowl wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, safeties Jordan Whitehead and Justin Evans, linebacker Jack Cichy and tight end Antony Auclair.
Evans and Godwin could conceivably still play in the 2020 Pro Bowl on January 26 if they are fully recovered from their respective hamstring injuries. That's a notable upcoming date on the schedule, as Barrett will also be featured in that contest after setting a Buccaneer single-season record with 19.5 sacks.
There will be a couple of additional games in January that will draw the attention of the Buccaneers' scouting staff. The East-West Shrine Game featuring draft-eligible college players will be held at the nearby Tropicana Field on Saturday, January 18 after a week of practices open to scouts. Those same scouts will then head to Mobile, Alabama the following week for the Senior Bowl and its attendant workouts.
Super Bowl LIV will be played on Sunday, February 2 at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium, but the Buccaneers may be paying close attention to another big decision the day before. The Hall of Fame Selection Committee will convene on February 1 to choose the class of 2020, and it's possible that former Buccaneers Ronde Barber, John Lynch and Simeon Rice will all be among the 15 finalists. Those three are currently semifinalists and that group of 25 will be pared down to 15 in the coming days.
The NFL Scouting Combine will be held in Indianapolis, as usual, from February 24 to March 2. Roughly two weeks later, the NFL's new league year will begin at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 18, bringing with it the start of free agency. How the Buccaneers approach that period, and their opportunity to negotiate exclusively with pending free agents in the two months before, will be determined by the aforementioned evaluation period about to begin.