Brady-led Buccaneers ‘re-loading’ with lofty expectations
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (14-5)
CAMP SITE: Tampa, Florida
LAST YEAR: Coming off winning the Super Bowl in Tom Brady’s first season outside New England, the Bucs set a franchise record for regular-season victories with 13 and captured their first NFC South title since 2007. Brady, meanwhile, led the NFL in completions, attempts, passing yards and touchdowns. The seven-time Super Bowl champion briefly retired after losing to the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs, announcing six weeks later he was returning for a 23rd season — third in Tampa Bay.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Coach Todd Bowles (promoted from defensive coordinator), WR Russell Gage, S Keanu Neal, S Logan Ryan, G Shaq Mason, DL Akiem Hicks, DL Deadrin Senat, OL Fred Johnson, DL Logan Hall, TE Cade Otton, G Luke Goedeke, RB Rachaad White, P Jake Camarda.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Coach Bruce Arians, who retired after three seasons and one Super Bowl title with the Bucs; S Jordan Whitehead, G Alex Cappa, TE O.J. Howard, RB Ronald Jones, DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Jason Pierre-Paul, CB Richard Sherman, P Bradley Pinion, and TE Rob Gronkowski and G Ali Marpet, who both announced retirements.
CAMP NEEDS: Despite the change at the top of the coaching staff, the team’s offensive and defensive systems remain intact. With WR Chris Godwin recovering from knee surgery and Gronkowski and Howard no longer on the roster, Brady will need time to get acclimated with new arrival Gage and a group of young receivers and tight ends competing for jobs. Defensively, newcomers Neal, Ryan, Hicks and Hall look to settle into roles in Bowles’ system.
KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: If Gronkowski indeed remains retired, veteran Cameron Brate returns to a role as the primary pass-catching tight end. He has 253 receptions, including 33 for TDs. Five other tight ends vying for jobs, including rookies Otton and Ko Kieft, have a combined one regular-season catch. Goedeke, a second-round draft pick, could challenge for a starting job on the offensive line. Third-round selection White will compete for playing time among a group of running backs that includes Fournette, Giovani Bernard and Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
EXPECTATIONS: Brady, who turns 45 in August, isn’t returning simply for an opportunity to pad record-breaking statistics. Once he ended his brief retirement, general manager Jason Licht’s focus shifted to “re-loading” in hopes of making another Super Bowl run. The plan included bolstering the offensive line by trading for Mason, upgrading an already solid receiving group by signing Gage in free agency, and retaining Godwin, Fournette, cornerback Carlton Davis and Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen with new contracts. Brady cited “unfinished business” as one of his reasons for coming back. The Bucs remain committed to giving him everything he needs to win an eighth ring.
FANDUEL SUPER BOWL ODDS: +750
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