Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht says he is delighted to retain all 22 starters from a star-studded roster assembled around Tom Brady.
Coach Bruce Arians cites a winning culture fostered with help from quarterback Brady and a highly regarded coaching staff that also remains intact as maybe the biggest factor contributing to the Bucs holding on to seven key players who could have departed in free agency this spring.
“I can’t really point to a single factor, but I think everybody wanted to be back,” Licht said. “Everybody’s getting paid fairly, but everybody’s very excited to try to (win) it again.
“We’re going to be in good shape if we continue to make sure we make smart decisions and do things right.”
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The first major move in a busy offseason was placing the franchise tag on wide receiver Chris Godwin.
From there, Licht proceeded to negotiate multi-year contracts for linebackers Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett and kicker Ryan Succop, as well as one-year deals to keep tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, and running back Leonard Fournette.
They have kept all their starters, although reserve wideout Antonio Brown remains unsigned, and could well be a notable free agent still on the market.
“We’re going to take our time. There’s offers out there, and we’ll see how it goes,” Arians said.
The Bucs will also pick up the fifth-year option on mammoth defensive tackle Vita Vea. That would place the 12th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft under contract for 2022 at $7.6m.
Vea played in just five regular-season games in 2020 after suffering a right ankle injury in a contest against the Chicago Bears.
He returned to play in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers and the Super Bowl win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
“He plays a very pivotal role in our defense,” Licht told reporters. “When he’s in there, a lot of things happen, not just for him but everybody else around him. The day that we found out that he was gonna come back and play, it was a very big day for all of us, a very exciting day – coaches, players, scouts, owners, everybody. We were all very excited.”
Vea, 26, has 73 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 34 games (29 starts) over three NFL seasons. Just as important as the numbers is that he often clogs the interior of the line with his 6ft 4inch, 347-pound frame.
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