Going into the NFC Divisional Round of the 2021 NFL Playoffs, I stated on my Podcast Locked to Bucs that the winner between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams would win Super Bowl LVI.
I was right.
Unfortunately, it was the Rams who won the game and not the Bucs.
Injuries derailed the team, as did a slow start, as we’ve seen before. And yes, new head coach Todd Bowles’ decision to bring home eventually led to former Bucs kicker Matt Gay using his foot to drive a stake in his former team’s repeated aspirations.
READ MORE: WHY TODD BOWLES CAN WIN IN SECOND ROUND AS HEAD COACH
Tampa Bay is back in 2022, for the most part. And with 2021 NFL first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka looking set to play an increased role in his second season as a professional outside linebacker, it’s time we take a full look at the future and who might join the team this year that can help reclaim the top spot in the NFC.
According to NFL.com’s Dan Parr, the Buccaneers’ Top 3 needs right now lie in the inside offensive line, defensive line and tight end positions.
“A starting spot at guard remains vacant,” Parr wrote. “Then there is the question of whether Ndamukong Suh and Rob Gronkowski will return.”
Parr’s analysis seems simplistic, but it is accurate.
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Now, that’s not stopping the Buccaneers from taking a wide receiver or a cornerback — or a player from any other position for that matter — in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Initially, I like Aaron Stinnie and Shaq Mason as a potential starting duo replacing Ali Marpet (retired) and Alex Cappa (signed with the Cincinnati Bengals), but philosophically any NFL team would like players to earn their starting job.
Drafting another talented young player in the squad, along with the likes of Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett, ensures the top two join Donovan Smith, Ryan Jensen and Tristan Wirfs on quarterback Tom Brady’s personal protection detail .
The team wants Suh back, and from his social media activity, he certainly seems interested in returning. Where there is a will, there is a way, so expecting Suh to return this season seems like a safe bet.
READ MORE: PREDICTING TAMPA BAY’S NFL DRAFT
For Gronkowski, the further we go without a decision on the future Hall of Famer, the closer it seems he is to retirement than a return.
Of course, a mid-season addition wouldn’t be out of the question, but going into the draft without Gronk greatly increases the need for a team that likes to run a lot of tight sets.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have needs, like every other NFL team, and finding a contributor or two at April’s draft meeting will be key to helping them get to Arizona next February.