Bucs’ Evans on team’s wideouts: ‘We’re going to be even better top to bottom’

Throughout his career, Buccaneers QB Tom Brady has not always had a lot of weapons, especially in his final season with the Patriots. In 2019, Rob Gronkowski retired, and New England released wide receivers Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon. Even without a lot of weapons, Brady was solid last season. He threw for 4057 yards with 24 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.  

Now, in his first season in Tampa Bay, Brady will have a ton of weapons. Both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin had over one-thousand receiving yards in 2019. They have a Hall of Fame-caliber tight end in Gronkowski. Also, they have solid tight ends in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Entering his 21st season in the league, this is probably Brady’s greatest collection of weapons, and according to Evans, Tampa will have even more talent in the wide receiver room this season.

“Every year, it’s our goal to have the best wide receiver room in the league,” Evans said via a Zoom call on Tuesday. “Last year, I thought we definitely had that. This year, we’re going to be even better top to bottom. J-Wat (Justin Watson), he improves every single year – like the quickness at the line of scrimmage, his routes, he’s more physical, he’s running faster [and] he catches the ball better. Scotty [Miller] is improving.

“All of our guys keep improving year-in and year-out, and that’s a testament to coaching and just our work ethic. This year hopefully, we have a great year and can be a catalyst for this team.”

In six NFL seasons, Evans has six one-thousand receiving yard seasons, and with Brady in the mix, Buccaneers wide receivers coach Kevin Garver believes Evans could be even better this season.

“Mike has a lot of respect for Tom, so I think Tom’s going to help him push through things and compete at the highest level,” Garner said. “I think that’s the number one thing that will help Mike. Then, just the little things. That’s really the thing I’ve been stressing with Mike all offseason. Getting in at the right depths, being in the right catch-reception area, using the right technique. I think those are the things Mike is focusing on. Obviously, he’s got to do those things on his own, but playing with a guy like Tom, I think does help just from a motivational standpoint when you’re playing with a quarterback of his caliber.”

Last season, Jameis Winston was able to throw for over 5000 yards with this collection of  receivers, so even at 43, Brady should be able to put up comparable numbers with this offense, which will help Evans and the rest of Tampa’s weapons in 2020.

Bucs’ Pierre-Paul: ‘We can be one of the best defenses in the NFL’

When you have an opportunity to play with maybe the greatest NFL player of all time, you can’t help but be excited, which was the case when Buccaneers DE Jason Pierre-Paul found out Tom Brady was coming to Tampa Bay.

“I was pretty excited,” Pierre-Paul said via a video call on Monday. “I was pretty excited that we got him because I always [asked] myself, ‘If I had a quarterback like Brady, what would I do?’ Now is the perfect opportunity. It’s not, ‘What would I do?’ Now I can go out and do something. It’s totally different from all the years I’ve been playing football, and every guy on this team should have that feeling. Like I said, he’s the G.O.A.T. of football. There’s a reason he has six N.F.L. championship rings. You can see it. There’s really nothing too much to talk about – it’s Brady you’re talking about.”

While some were initially in awe of Brady, according to Pierre-Paul,  who returned to Tampa after signing a two-year, $27 million deal in March, many have adapted to having Brady around. 

“I think everybody has adapted that he’s here,” Pierre-Paul said. “Like I said, he’s making us better as a team, and that’s what he should be doing as a quarterback – bringing the team together – and that’s what he’s doing.”

One thing that will help Brady and the Buccaneers succeed is Tampa’s defense, which Pierre-Paul believes could be one of the best in football.

“It’s going to be the best defense with the work that we put into it,” Pierre-Paul said. “I don’t get caught up too much in the hype. We have a quarterback; we have a running back, we have all this. What you put in is what you get out of [it]. I’m a true believer of that because the works that you put in is the work that you’re going to put out. Hot days in Florida under the weather right now, sweating – those sweats and blood, you getting ripped up and scraped up, that’s what’s going to count.

“Like I said, every guy that we have, what we put in is what we’re going to get out. I’m pretty sure we’re putting in the work, and you see it every day. It takes time, but we’re putting in the work. With that said, we can be one of the best defenses in the NFL, but we’ve got to put in the work.”

Obviously, with Brady in the mix, it’s going to help Tampa’s defense. Last season, Jameis Winston, who threw 30 interceptions, put the Buccaneers’ defense in a lot of bad positions. In 2019, the Buccaneers were number one against the run and were 11th in sacks(47), so without Winston, the defense will probably be even better this season. 

With all the talent on defense and Tom Brady, the sky’s the limit for the Buccaneers in 2020, so, yes, Pierre-Paul should be excited.

Bucs’ Wirfs is excited to play with Brady

Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie OT Tristan Wirfs has a big job ahead of him in 2020. He has the responsibility of protecting maybe the greatest quarterback of all-time in Tom Brady. While Wirfs has not had much contact with Brady, he is excited about the opportunity to play with the six-time Super Bowl winner. 

“The first time I met him, we were just coming around a corner and met each other,” Wirfs said during a video call on Friday. “He said, ‘What’s up, big dog?’ I thought it was kind of crazy because he’s Tom Brady. Then he asked me how old I was, and I told him 21, and he kind of started laughing. He said something like, ‘You think you have experience? I’ve got double your experience.’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ That’s really about it. I waved to him when he was leaving the other day. He seems really nice. I’m excited to get to be his teammate.”

For the 21-year-old Wirfs, who was 13th overall pick in this year’s draft, playing with Brady also excites his friends and family. 

“I think my friends and family were more excited to see if I had met him or not,” Wirfs said. “I think it was every day they would text me, ‘Did you meet Tom yet?’ I don’t want to underplay it at all, but he’s just a guy, and I think that’s how he wants to be treated. I think that more so, my family was in shock that I was going to be his teammate.”

As rookie, the Buccaneers are expecting Wirfs to be a starter for this team, and according to Wirfs, he had a similar experience at Iowa.

“That’s kind of how my college career started – I was kind of just tossed in there,” Wirfs said. “It happening this way, at this level – I’d be all right with it. I’ve just got to go out there and do my best – that’s all I can ask of myself. You’ve got to prepare every week and come out and execute. That’s really what it comes down to. If that’s the case where I have to get tossed in there, then so be it. I’ll be as ready as I can be and give it my all.”

Wirfs has a great chance to make an impact with Tampa Bay, and if he does, Brady and the Buccaneers will be thrilled. 

Photo/courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs’ Barrett signs franchise tender

Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass-rusher Shaquil Barrett has signed his franchise tag tender for the 2020 NFL season, the team announced on Wednesday.

The deadline to work out a long-term deal was today at 3 p. m. , and the two sides could not come to an agreement. Barrett will make around $15.8 million in 2020. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the 27-year-old Barrett has filed a grievance with NFLPA to be tagged as a defensive, not a linebacker. There’s a $2 million difference between a defensive end and linebacker.

In his first season in Tampa Bay, the seven-year veteran led the NFL with 19.5 sacks, breaking Warren Sapp’s single-season franchise record (16.5, 2000) on his way to earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors.

In addition to leading the league in sacks, Barrett posted career highs with 58 tackles, 37 quarterback hits, 19 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, and one interception.

2019 was Barrett’s biggest season by far. Before last season, his highest sack total was 5.5. Was last season a fluke for Barrett, or will he continue to put up double-digit sack numbers? If he has another big season, Tampa will have to pay him, but Tampa could get a discount if his play drops off in 2020. It should be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Buccaneers exercise fifth-year option on O.J. Howard

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have exercised the fifth-year contract option on tight end O.J. Howard, the team announced today.

After trading for Rob Gronkowski, the thought was Howard could be on the move, but at this point, it appears that Tampa will go into the season with three excellent tight ends in Howard, Gronkowski, and Cameron Brate.

Howard (6-6, 251) was the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. In his first three seasons, he has started 36-of-38 games played, recording 94 receptions for 1,456 yards (15.5 avg.) and 12 touchdowns. His 15.5 yards per reception (min. 30 catches) mark leads all tight ends since he entered the league in 2017.

Bucs’ Arians on Winfield Jr.: ‘He’s part ‘Honey Badger’ (Tyrann Mathieu). and he’s part Budda Baker’

Safety Antoine WInfield Jr. comes from good stock. His father, CB Antoine Winfield Sr., was a three-time Pro Bowler during his 14 seasons in the NFL, and now his son will have the opportunity to carry on his name. 

Winfield Jr., who was selected in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was a 2019 unanimous first-team All-American, first-team All-Big Ten, and Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year at Minnesota.

According to Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, Winfield is a mix of Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker, two players that Arians coached in Arizona. 

“Yeah again, he’s an extremely bright football player that’s got great bloodlines,” Arians said about Winfield Jr. “He is so position flexible – half-field, deep-field, middle-field, nickel, dime, linebacker – he’s got so many positions he can play. We love to mix it up with our safeties when they’re interchangeable. He’s part’ Honey Badger’ (Tyrann Mathieu), and he’s part Budda Baker – he’s that style of player that we can use in a different type of role along with our other safeties, who are interchangeable.”

Tampa Bay needed to upgrade the back end of their defense, and Winfield definitely has playmaking ability. The 21-year-old Winfield, who had two years left of eligibility, recorded 83 tackles, seven interceptions, and two forced fumbles last season at Minnesota. You could question his height 5’9, but Winfield Jr. is fearless, has good genes, and will probably continue to makes plays in the NFL.

Bucs’ GM: ‘Rob Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends in NFL history’

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are back together, and now, the Buccaneers could have one of the best offenses in football. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have acquired  Gronkowski as part of a trade with the New England Patriots, the team announced today. The Buccaneers sent a fourth-round selection (No.139 overall) in the 2020 NFL Draft in exchange for Gronkowski and a 2020 seventh-round pick (No. 241 overall).

Before retiring after the 2018 NFL season, the 30-year-old Gronkowski spent all nine of his NFL seasons (2010-18) in New England, winning three Super Bowls with the Patriots during that time, while earning five Pro Bowl selections.

Gronkowski and Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady spent nine seasons together in New England, combining for 78 touchdowns, a mark which ranks second all-time among quarterback-tight end connections and fifth in league history among all quarterback-receiver duos. The 7,786 regular season passing yards accumulated from Brady to Gronkowski also rank second among all quarterback to tight end combinations, trailing only Philip Rivers/Antonio Gates (9,352).

“Rob Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends in NFL history, and he plays the game with the type of passion and desire that sets him apart,” said Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht. “Rob has played his entire career alongside Tom Brady, and their accomplishments speak for themselves. Together they have developed the type of chemistry on and off the field that is crucial to success. Rob combines elite-level skills as both a receiver and blocker, but what really makes him special is the fact that he’s a proven winner who brings that championship mindset and work ethic.”

With the addition of Gronkowski, it should be interesting to see what happens with TE O.J. Howard, who had been rumored to be on the trading block. It should be interesting to see if he is dealt during Thursday’s draft.

Obviously, anytime you acquire Brady, you are all in, and right now, it’s clear that the Buccaneers are all in. Gronk might have some rust to dust off, but that year away from football might have done him some good mentally and physically.

Sadly, Gronk will now have to relinquish his WWE 24/7 title that he won at Wrestlemania 36, but that should not be much of an issue. 

For now, with wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and the additions of Brady and Gronkowski, it’s happy times in Tampa Bay!

Bucs GM Licht is right, Winston not a bust

For five seasons, free agent QB Jameis Winston had many ups and downs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At times, he was spectacular, and at other times, he was a train wreck. Obviously, when the Buccaneers drafted Winston with the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, they expected a guy who won a national championship in college, to lead the franchise to big things. Unfortunately, that never happened.

Winston was 28-42 as a starter with the Buccaneers and could not lead the team to the playoffs. It was mixed bag for Winston, and nothing epitomized that more than what happened with him in 2019, where Winston threw for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns, which was canceled out by his 30 interceptions.

Fortunately for Tampa Bay, Winston is gone, and arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time, Tom Brady has arrived.

While things did not work out the way Tampa Bay wanted it to with Winston, according to Buccaneers GM Jason Licht, Winston is not a bust and still has a bright future. 

“We have a lot of respect for Jameis,” Licht said during a video call today. “Jameis was still part of our plan if things went a different route. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. I thought he did a lot of great things and I think anybody in our office, or our building, would say the same thing. He did some spectacular things for us. I would never say that personally – and I think I speak on behalf of the organization – that he was a bust.

“I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him. It just really comes down to, we had a chance to get Tom Brady. Tom Brady is a hell of a player and we are very excited about that. I’m very confident that Jameis is going to go on and get an opportunity. That’s not the last you’re going to hear from Jameis.”

The 26-year-old Winston still does have a bright future, and he young enough where he could still have success with another team. At this point, it seems that Winston may have to be a backup in 2020, which might not be a bad thing. It could be an opportunity for him to take a step back, and if all goes well, he could go try to find a starting position in 2021. 

Winston is not a bust, but the Buccaneers would love to have had more success during his time in Tampa Bay.

Photos: Buccaneers reveal new jerseys

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers today introduced a fresh look for the 2020 season with the unveiling of a trio of new uniforms that feature the distinctive style that defined the franchise’s most successful era from 1997- 2013.

After conducting extensive research among its fans, the team worked with Nike and the National Football League to deliver a uniform that seamlessly blends the best elements of its last two designs while also introducing a new all-pewter Color Rush option.

Buccaneers Owner/Co-Chairman Ed Glazer stated: “This new but familiar look is a direct result of the valuable feedback we received from our fans. We are excited to return to our classic Super Bowl era uniforms while also introducing a sleek Color Rush uniform that showcases our signature pewter in a new and dramatic way. The refreshed classic design of our home and away combinations bridges our past with our exciting new future, and we are confident it will resonate with our fans.”

Tampa Bay returns to the traditional deeper, richer red to accompany the modern pewter hue as its primary colors while including orange highlights to honor the team’s origin and restoring black as an accent color.

Both the red home and white away jerseys are one solid color and feature the familiar “Twill” number font outlined in orange and black, which will coordinate with the familiar red-orange-black striped pattern on the side of the pewter and white pants. All are part of the innovative Nike Untouchable Speed chassis providing upgraded technology for optimal performance. The pewter pants do not have the same high sheen as the original versions used in the late ‘90s and early 2000s due to changes in Nike’s fabric technology. Black and white socks will be worn with the home and away uniforms.

The Buccaneers’ pewter helmet shell will remain unchanged but will now be accompanied by a menacing black face mask. Additionally, a scaled-down version of the club’s iconic wind-swept flag logo will adorn either side of the helmet, a change made to better accommodate the various sizes and shapes of headgear used by today’s players. The cutlass, skull and crossed swords of the primary logo will remain intact over the deeper red.

The club’s refreshed pirate ship will be embroidered principally in black on both shoulders, while the front of the jerseys will have the “Buccaneers” wordmark embroidered below the collar in the team’s updated font.

For the first time ever, the Buccaneers will wear a pewter jersey with matching pants as part of their Color Rush uniform ensemble. The head-to-toe pewter look also includes red and white stripes along the sides of the pewter pants and solid pewter socks. Red pirate ship logos on each shoulder and a red “Buccaneers” wordmark on the chest will accent the bold new scheme. The team will be permitted to wear the uniforms three times in the regular season.


Devin_WhiteChris_GodwinFL: 2020 HelmetLavonte_DavidFL: 2020 Uniform Update

Buccaneers re-sign CB Ryan Smith

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed CB Ryan Smith, the team announced.

The 26-year-old Smith appeared in 57 games, including 16 starts, for Tampa Bay, notching 98 tackles (one for loss), 12 passes defensed, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception over his first four seasons in the league.

On special teams, Smith has notched 15 tackles and a forced fumble, while also returning ten kickoffs for 169 yards (16.9 avg.). He led Tampa Bay with seven special teams tackles in 2019.

Last season, Smith was suspended for the first four games after violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The fifth-year cornerback returned to the field in Week 5.