Heading into the 2016 offseason, we expected a Logan Mankins retirement announcement, Doug Martin to test free agency and the team to be searching for their replacements immediately as well as being players in the free agent market. So far, that has been the case.
As Mankins announced his retirement on Monday, Tampa Bay was mentioned as a team interested in a few offensive linemen, including Browns’ right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. The Plain Dealer reports that along with the Bucs, the Giants, Falcons, and Vikings are all in play for the veteran right tackle and he is set to earn a major pay day — a contract worth $8.5 million per year.
Another linemen the Bucs have been tied to is Seattle’s offensive guard J.R. Sweezy. They are one of 10-plus teams expressing interest in his services. Kevin Pamphile has an opportunity to take over for Mankins, but the Bucs are clearly looking at the bigger picture and that is certainty across the line to protect their franchise guy in Jameis Winston.
Sweezy and Schwartz are 26 years old.
For the backfield, the Buccaneers have reportedly expressed interest in New York Jets running back Chris Ivory and Miami Dolphins’ running back Lamar Miller. Both had success in their own right in recent seasons but their interests in these two is telling on how they are viewing their pursuit for Martin.
How so? Ivory and Miller are reportedly looking for deals in the $5 million to $6 million range. With the Bucs allowing Martin to test free agency, that almost certainly validates the initial claim of Martin seeking north of that. Martin is not worth more than that and that is how the team is viewing that situation. As TheBayCave.com has reported previously, Tampa Bay is basing his value off of his entire career so far, not just 2015. The team’s concern about his durability is legitimate and feel his projection in terms of production-to-value is concerned is perhaps at or slightly south of what Ivory and Miller are seeking.
Another telling note is the Titans acquisition of former Eagle’s running back DeMarco Murray. Former right hand man of Bucs general manager Jason Licht, Jon Robinson, made the decision to trade for Murray as Titans’ general manager. Since the front office was in agreement on their thoughts towards Martin throughout the 2015, the Murray trade validates all of that.
On the defensive side of the ball, it appears that the Bucs have no intentions on bringing in free agent defensive end Mario Williams (Signed with Miami). However, the importance on upgrading the position still exists as they will bring former Panther Charles Johnson in for a visit. Johnson’s visit with the New York Giants over the weekend reportedly went well but Johnson seems to be keeping his options open (UPDATE: Johnson returned to the arms of Carolina). Another name to still keep an eye on is Dolphins’ Olivier Vernon.
It’s hard to imagine the Bucs being major players in free agency. Even with all the cap space in the world, there isn’t much they have to necessarily spend due to being on track for meeting the CBA’s four-year average on money spent by teams.
So while they will be mentioned as suitors for players, don’t expect much in terms of making more than one major splash. It will be surprising if they do.