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State of the 2024 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Can Baker Mayfield lead a deeper playoff run?

Where does your squad stand ahead of the 2024 NFL season? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the new faces to know, one significant fantasy spin and the stakes at play in the campaign to come.

Members of the Buccaneers organization, Buccaneers fans around the world and those who love to rock a Mike Alstott jersey ...

The Bucs just keep on doing it. The team has made the playoffs in four consecutive seasons! Last year's success was pretty surprising, considering Tom Brady had just retired and Baker Mayfield came into the campaign viewed by many as a likely bridge quarterback. I mean, when the dude signed with Tampa Bay in March of last offseason, it was his fourth team in less than a year (more to come on that). But the Bucs won their third consecutive NFC South title and a playoff game. Can they win the division for the fourth straight year? Let's take a look.

2024 brain trust

Table inside Article
POSITION NAME
Head coach Todd Bowles
General manager Jason Licht
Offensive coordinator Liam Coen
Run game coordinator/defensive line Kacy Rodgers
Pass game coordinator/inside linebackers Larry Foote
Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Buccaneers' most notable roster developments for the 2024 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Graham Barton, C, Duke (1-26) Sterling Shepard, WR Russell Gage, WR
Chris Braswell, OLB, Alabama (2-57) Ben Bredeson, OG David Moore, WR
Tykee Smith, S, Georgia (3-89) Sua Opeta, OG Matt Feiler, OG
Jalen McMillan, WR, Washington (3-92) Randy Gregory, OLB Aaron Stinnie, OG
Bucky Irving, RB, Oregon (4-125) Bryce Hall, CB Ryan Jensen, C
Elijah Klein, OG, UTEP (6-220) Tavierre Thomas, CB Shaq Barrett, OLB
Devin Culp, TE, Washington (7-246) Jordan Whitehead, S Devin White, LB
Carlton Davis, CB
Ryan Neal, S

New faces to know

Liam Coen_TN
Liam Coen
Offensive coordinator

A lot of credit for the success of Baker Mayfield last season (and Geno Smith the previous year in Seattle) has been attributed to former Seahawks QB coach and Bucs OC Dave Canales, who is now the head man in Carolina. Coen was the Rams鈥 offensive coordinator in 2022, where he did work with Baker for a minute. Experiences with the Rams will clearly have an influence on this offense -- backup QB John Wolford also spent a few years with the team before signing with Tampa in 2023. 

Randy Gregory
OLB · Year 8

The Bucs signed the veteran to help replace Shaquil Barrett. But it was a low-cost deal, and Gregory had an unexcused absence from the Bucs鈥 recent mandatory minicamp. I wouldn鈥檛 be shocked if rookie Chris Braswell from Alabama ends up seeing more snaps than Gregory. 

Jordan Whitehead
S · Year 7

The Bucs got a relative bargain in their reunion with Whitehead, who spent 2018 through 2021 with Tampa Bay and the last two seasons with the Jets. He signed a two-year deal worth $9 million in March. The 27-year-old brings some versatility and stability to the back end of a defense that ranked 29th against the pass last season. 

State of the QB

I would like to believe we are just now starting to see the Baker Mayfield we expected when the Browns selected him with the first overall pick in 2018. Think about this: The Browns traded him to Carolina after mortgaging the future on Deshaun Watson in the 2022 offseason. Baker was eventually released and ended that season with the Rams, leading them on a 98-yard game-winning drive against the Raiders on a Thursday night in December. He then signed with the Bucs, throwing for 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns, both career highs. He got a bonus for leading the team to the playoffs and signed a three-year deal worth $100 million this offseason. I'm really happy for him and hope he can continue on this comeback journey. Having some familiarity with Liam Coen from their stint together with the Rams is also a good thing, since Mayfield's time in L.A. seems to have helped him reach the initial expectations many had for him. The Bucs also re-signed Mike Evans this offseason, which was huge, considering the wide receiver just logged his 10th consecutive 1,000-yard season.

Most important non-QB

Antoine Winfield Jr.
S · Year 5

The Buccaneers tagged Winfield and then signed him to a long-term deal, which they needed to do. CB Carlton Davis, S Ryan Neal and LB Devin White are no longer with the team, which could be a concern for a defense that allowed the fourth-most passing yards per game last season. Tampa Bay was pretty good against the run, but why would teams run against this defense? The Bucs have had a bottom-12 pass defense in four of the five seasons under Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator or head coach (DC from 2019-2021, HC since 2022). 

My HOTTEST Buccaneers fantasy take:

Scoop up Bucky Irving where you can.

I know Rachaad White ranked fourth among running backs with 1,539 scrimmage yards last season. But I believe it will only be a matter of time before the rookie takes over. Irving, a fourth-round pick, led Oregon with 1,180 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns in 2023. He's also a good receiver out of the backfield.

2024 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 2: at Detroit Lions. The Bucs have the fifth-easiest schedule in the NFL based on their opponents' 2023 winning percentages, and they open with three home games in the first four weeks. This visit to Detroit -- the site of last season's playoff exit -- is a biggie, though.
  • Week 5 (Thursday): at Atlanta Falcons. The division-rival Falcons have upgraded with Kirk Cousins and these two teams face off twice in October (nice scheduling).
  • Week 18: vs. New Orleans Saints. The Bucs close the season with back-to-back home games against division opponents (they play the Panthers in Week 17). Wow, that's pretty fortunate.

For 2024 to be a success, the Buccaneers MUST:

A) Win the Super Bowl
B) Make a playoff run
C) Earn a playoff berth
D) Finish above .500
E) Show progress

My answer: B) Make a playoff run. Again, I know they have made the playoffs in four straight seasons. Yes, they've won the NFC South in each of the past three years. Fortune seemed to be in their favor in 2023. I mean, they were 4-7 before they won five of six games to close out the season and take the division title. To me, the Bucs need to make a serious run in 2024. They have some older players in guys like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on offense. It feels like they are coming to a point where they will have to decide on the direction of this franchise. Are they in a Super Bowl window? Or are they one of those teams that's solid but not spectacular? If Baker truly is coming into his own, Tampa Bay could have a great year.

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