Bruce Arians on Bucs’ free agents: ‘I don’t think any of them want to leave’

The coach talked free agency while promoting his Friday night virtual fundraiser.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, pictured during the team's celebratory boat parade, hopes the Bucs can retain their prominent free agents.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, pictured during the team's celebratory boat parade, hopes the Bucs can retain their prominent free agents. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Feb. 18, 2021|Updated Feb. 18, 2021

Eight days after his team’s celebratory boat parade, where he was spotted hoisting beers and trophies while publicly insisting a number of his prominent free agents were going nowhere, Bruce Arians softened his tone Thursday.

The Bucs coach was a bit more — how to say it? — sobering.

“If (the money) is close, I think our guys really want to stay,” Arians said during a Zoom session with reporters.

“They know they have something special; I don’t think any of them want to leave. I don’t get involved in the dollars, I just let them know we want them back, and then they want to be back. So hopefully we can get everything done and keep our guys.”

Arians addressed the media to promote his virtual cocktail party Friday night to benefit the Arians Family Foundation, which supports the area’s court-appointed special advocates and Guardian Ad Litem programs.

Hosted by Rich Eisen, the event also will feature country music superstar Blake Shelton, impressionist Frank Caliendo and perhaps some Bucs players. Information on the event can be found here.

Related: Examining the Bucs' biggest free-agent decisions of the offseason

But the conversation veered quickly toward free agency, which formally begins March 17. Among those the Bucs are hoping to re-sign include 25-year-old receiver Chris Godwin, who played for slightly more than $2 million this season and is poised for a big raise — somewhere. At this point, Godwin shapes up as a prime candidate for the franchise tag.

“I think he loves it here,” Arians said. “It’s hard to leave and go to another system just for money. But it’s not bad paying two No. 1 receivers, that’s for sure, when they’re as good as our two No. 1s.”

Other free agents on whom the Bucs must decide are 34-year-old defensive end Ndamukong Suh and 31-year-old tight end Rob Gronkowski. Arians said the desire of both to win another Super Bowl ring might offset any salary desires — to a degree.

“I don’t think it will trump it much, but hopefully we can keep them them within the framework of the team, because I know they both want to be back,” Arians said.

“That’s one thing I stay away from; I don’t get involved in the dollars, but I would hope that they would both be structured really, really in a ballpark where we can get it done.”

Suh, whose wife is expecting twins, recently told Sports Illustrated his goal is to remain in Tampa.

“Me and Tom (Brady) spoke the other day about that opportunity, as well as with (general manager) Jason Licht,” Suh said. “I don’t know if you saw our celebration on that podium, (Arians) said I’m not going anywhere. And he’s usually a man of his word.

“And I honestly believe I have a lot of elite, great talent left in me to play. I’m not ready to hang them up yet. And my wife has given me the okay — that’s first and foremost, I got that permission.”

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Arians also indicated the Bucs won’t be impacted significantly by the “reimagined” 2021 NFL combine, which will feature no in-person workouts (and virtual interviews) due to the coronavirus.

“I think for me, it’s always been what’s on tape — now let’s do the background on the person,” Arians said.

“You go to the combine, you fall in love with those guys in shorts, they run a 4.3 (in the 40-yard dash). You look at the film though, they don’t run 4.3...and that guy that ran 4.6, he’s the fastest guy on the field. So the tape don’t lie. You can fall in love and get your heart broken at the combine.”