Coach Raheem Morris said the Bucs will spend the next several weeks evaluating everything from the coaching staff to the players' performances. Then it's on to the main task: turning around a team that finished 3-13. Issues the Bucs must deal with as they head into the offseason:
Even with Morris returning, that by no means is an indication his coaching staff will return in its entirety.
Several changes are expected, stemming largely from the changes in coordinators. When the team fired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and defensive coordinator Jim Bates, the coaches they brought with them or those who share similar philosophies became exposed.
Those include OL coach Pete Mangurian, DL coach Robert Nunn, RBs coach Steve Logan and DBs coach Joe Baker.
Elsewhere, special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia reportedly has been entertaining a move to the University of Tennessee staff, but his departure is hardly a sure thing. He would prefer to stay in Tampa.
"Nobody has told me they're going anywhere or anything like that," Morris said. "I guess I would answer that with a flat-out no."
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson is almost certain to be on the staff next season, though in what capacity remains to be seen. He could resume coaching quarterbacks, but he could stay a coordinator, too.
Morris and GM Mark Dominik have several decisions to make, chief among them being what to do with WR Antonio Bryant. He will be the team's highest profile unrestricted free agent. Bryant, the team's leading receiver in 2008, had a lingering knee injury, and the team struggled to get him the ball when he was healthy.
The problem isn't the team's desire to bring Bryant back. The issue is more about what his price tag will be. That likely will be set by the market, because it's likely Bryant will test the waters before re-signing with the Bucs. The lack of a potential No. 1 receiver beyond Bryant makes this a critical decision.
Most of the team's other free agents will be restricted, assuming there is no collective bargaining agreement before the signing period starts March 5.
The list of restricted free agents, assuming 2010 is an uncapped year, includes RB Cadillac Williams, LB Barrett Ruud, RT Jeremy Trueblood and WR Maurice Stovall.
The Bucs will have the third overall pick, giving them the opportunity to land a player who can make an instant impact.
But the team can't afford to miss. The Bucs' last top-five pick — fourth overall pick DE Gaines Adams in 2007 — is no longer on the roster. He was traded to Chicago after the team grew tired of waiting for him to develop.
The draft is no quick fix, but it is the best way to build a franchise. And with five of the first 99 picks this year, the Bucs figure to find some building blocks.
"You have to fill in the holes where you need, and then you evaluate the college tape and determine what the best fits are," Morris said. "All of those things will be accounted for here. That's what we have this next month for. I don't have to make that decision right now. I can look at the tape and study it."
The Bucs have the third pick in the second round, 35th overall. And they have the pick garnered in the Adams trade, which will be 42nd or 43rd depending on the result of a coin flip between the Bears and Jaguars, who had identical records.
Find offensive identity
Firing Jagodzinski might have been a move the Bucs deemed necessary, but it set back the offense. As a result, the unit never developed consistency and could never be counted on.
And the fact the Bucs played three quarterbacks only complicated matters.
This offseason, whether Olson is the coordinator or someone else takes over, the idea is to adapt the scheme to QB Josh Freeman and recommit to the power running game.
Morris noted that when the team was true to its intentions, it had its best performances.
"That's when we had our most success, and that is what you want to (build) around," he said. "That's what you want your identity to be. It is starting to come out."
Change is a fact of life in the NFL, especially when a season ends with a 3-13 record.
That means the Bucs must be sure to upgrade at certain positions. There will be different players in the starting lineup in 2010. The task is identifying which positions must be upgraded most and addressing those needs by tweaking the roster and ensuring that those who end up starting truly earn their jobs.
Expect the defensive line to be overhauled. It's possible the secondary could be addressed, with S Sabby Piscitelli struggling and CB Ronde Barber, 34, being a year older. Receiver is another position that lacks depth.
"Everybody is looking to improve their talent," Morris said. "There is no secret to that. You got to go out to get better. These guys played hard. That's where it starts. That has nothing to do with talent and has nothing to do with anything else, but you have to go out and try and improve your talent every single year. We'll try and get better at each position like we always do."
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.