Not only did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make NFL history by becoming the first team to play in – and subsequently win – a Super Bowl in their home stadium, they are continuing their historic run going into 2021. All 22 starters on offense and defense that appeared on the Super Bowl LV flip card roster will be on the team for 2021, a first in the NFL's salary cap era.
The funny thing about success is that while attaining it is hard, sustaining it may be even harder. It takes more effort and more sacrifice to stay at the top – and there are far from guarantees. This Bucs team apparently knows that, which is why they're trying to give themselves every advantage in an attempt to "go for two" this coming season. That starts with prioritizing something very elusive in today's NFL game: continuity.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh made things official on Monday when he re-signed with the team, becoming the final of the 22 starters to return for the 2021 season. Perhaps more than any other of the Bucs' six free agent Super Bowl starters, Suh has the most experience on other teams and holds the most individual career success. For him, especially, what was left to do? Why stick around?
"At the end of the day, I wanted to have an opportunity to come back with a group of guys that have an opportunity to potentially go back in and earn another ring," said Suh on Monday. "The sky's the limit for us. We just got to continue to hone in and understand what Coach Arians wants from each one of us and really embrace our roles, so I'm excited."
"The bond that we had, the bond that we shared this year, it's like no other, with the coaching staff included," said inside linebacker Lavonte David when speaking to the media after signing his new contract with Tampa Bay a few weeks ago. "Everybody is a real tight-knit group and that's something I haven't been around in a while and it's something I definitely want to be a part of."
Suh and David were two of the Bucs' long list of free agent re-signings. General Manager Jason Licht has been busy to say the least, following a promise made by Head Coach Bruce Arians to the crowds at the Super Bowl Championship boat parade that these guys were 'not going nowhere.' Wide receiver Chris Godwin was franchise tagged. Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett was given a long-term deal. Lombardi Lenny signed back on for another season in Tampa, as did tight end Rob Gronkowski, while key rotational pieces like Aaron Stinnie, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Kevin Minter and Josh Wells were all retained. Mr. Anything but Irrelevant in kicker Ryan Succop was given a new deal, too.
The overwhelming sentiment among nearly every free agent we've heard from was that this group of men is special. Therefore, it's worth the sacrifice of more money or lengthier contracts in order to keep the band together. Imagine if John Lennon never listened to Yoko Ono. Or if Ginger never left the Spice Girls. There's probably some Marvel Universe parallel to be drawn here, too. And while no, these aren't exactly the same thing, the point is that achieving success together and remaining together is rare. When it happens, though? Well, there's precedent in the NFL for that success continuing.
While it's true that the Bucs are the only team in the salary-cap area (since 1994) to return all of their Super Bowl starters, prior to that, the 1977 Oakland Raiders did the same, according to Elias Sports Bureau. They went as far as the AFC Championship game the following season. Even more impressive: the 1979 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers returned their entire Week One roster of their championship roster and ended up repeating as Super Bowl Champions.
The Buccaneers will now attempt to pick up right where they left off, which was playing their best football down the final stretch of last season. Tampa Bay captured their second Lombardi Trophy by capping off an eight-game win streak, last losing in Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs, falling by a field goal to the team they'd eventually beat in Super Bowl LV. Tampa Bay rolled through four division winners in the playoffs to become champions of the NFL world. And though it was a high note, that wasn't something Licht and his team wanted to see end any time soon.
"I think everybody wanted to be back," said Licht. "Everybody's very excited. That's the common theme. Everybody's very excited to come here and try to do it again."
View photos of the 22 Super Bowl starters who will be returning for the 2021-2022 season.