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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Have Nearly Two Dozen Potential Unrestricted Free Agents in 2023

The Buccaneers are facing a list of 26 players who could become free agents on March 15, including 23 of the unrestricted variety, though Tom Brady's retirement has resolved one of those situations


Last February, when the L.A. Rams completed the 2021 season by beating Cincinnati in Super Bowl LV and all 32 NFL teams turned their attention to 2022, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were staring at a list of 26 potential free agents, including 23 of the unrestricted variety.

A year later, the Buccaneers are in virtually the exact same situation, with 26 pending free agents, including 23 unrestricted free agents. It is not exactly the same situation despite those matching numbers because, of course, the specific list of players is different. The task it represents, however, is identical: Keeping as much talent in the building as possible and prioritizing the targets on the list amid a difficult cap situation.

The Buccaneers famously "kept the band" together after their victory in Super Bowl LV, with General Manager Jason Licht and company somehow managing to bring back every starter from that championship team despite a similarly daunting list of possible defections. Last year, the Bucs couldn't quite duplicate that 2021 feat – and surely never planned to – but still were able to convince some key free agents to stay, most notably Chris Godwin, Carlton Davis, Ryan Jensen and Leonard Fournette.

Of the 23 Buccaneers from a very successful 2021 roster who could have hit unrestricted free agency (or in some cases briefly did), the team was able to re-sign 10 of them. One, Rob Gronkowski, retired. Four signed with other teams in the early days of free agency, including Alex Cappa and Jordan Whitehead. Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh eventually joined other teams midstream during the regular season. Six others, including Richard Sherman, did not sign with any team and were not in the league in 2022.

That range of outcomes is far more common than what the Bucs accomplished in the 2021 offseason, and is likely to be closer to the team's outcome when dealing with its own free agents in the coming weeks and months. Particularly given the team's difficult salary cap situation, there will be some difficult decisions ahead.

"We know we won't have everybody, we understand that and with all the draft picks, injuries, free agency and so forth," said Head Coach Todd Bowles at the end of the Buccaneers' 2022 season. "You can't afford everybody, so we'll try to make the right decisions going forward.

"You want to have plans going into it, so we will do our due diligence, meet with the parties involved and we will come up with a plan one way or the other."

One of those decisions has already been made, as Tom Brady announced his retirement on February 1. However, his expiring contract still affects the Bucs' salary cap, and depending upon how it is processed it could provide a bit of cap relief, helping the team retain other pending free agents.

Like every team, the Buccaneers have exclusive negotiating rights with all their pending free agents until 52 hours before the start of the new league year, when a "negotiation period" (commonly referred to as the "legal tampering period") opens and allows teams can speak to representatives of those players and enter into contract negotiations. This year, the negotiation period begins at noon ET on Monday, February 13 and the new league year begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 15.

Unrestricted free agents are players with four or more accrued seasons and an expiring contract; restricted free agents have three accrued seasons; exclusive rights free agents have two or fewer accrued seasons. Teams may also begin placing franchise tags on potential free agents on February 22.

Here is Tampa Bay's list of potential 2023 free agents.

Unrestricted Free Agents

  • OLB Genard Avery
  • RB Giovani Bernard
  • QB Tom Brady*
  • ILB Lavonte David
  • CB Jamel Dean
  • S Mike Edwards
  • QB Blaine Gabbert
  • DL Will Gholston
  • DL Akiem Hicks
  • WR Julio Jones
  • WR Scotty Miller
  • CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
  • OLB Carl Nassib
  • S Keanu Neal
  • OLB Anthony Nelson
  • DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches
  • DL Patrick O'Connor
  • WR Breshad Perriman
  • TE Kyle Rudolph
  • S Logan Ryan
  • DL Deadrin Senat
  • G Aaron Stinnie
  • T Josh Wells

Restricted Free Agents

  • OLB Cam Gill

Exclusive Rights Free Agents

  • CB Dee Delaney
  • G Nick Leverett

* Brady announced his retirement on February 1 but the move has not yet been officially processed, which means he will technically become a free agent on March 15 if that remains the case.

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