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Bucs like their championship chances with offseason moves so far

The future looks rosier with Tom Brady back, key free agents locked up, and a few restructured contracts helping Tampa Bay become cap compliant at Wednesday’s deadline.
Bucs wide receiver Breshad Perriman (16) scrambles for yards during the fourth quarter of the game against the Panthers in January.
Bucs wide receiver Breshad Perriman (16) scrambles for yards during the fourth quarter of the game against the Panthers in January. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Mar. 16|Updated Mar. 17

TAMPA — Just last week, the Bucs were a franchise in transition. The two-year run in which they won 29 games and a Super Bowl with Tom Brady was over. Done. Finished.

They chose to use the word “remodel” instead of “rebuild,” but the one thing they likely weren’t going to be was relevant.

Then Sunday, Brady shivered the timbers of the NFL by announcing he was returning to the Bucs for the 2022 season.

Shortly thereafter, center Ryan Jensen re-signed for three seasons. Defensive back Carlton Davis did the same. The Bucs traded for Patriots guard Shaq Mason to go with re-signed guard Aaron Stinnie. They agreed to terms with Falcons receiver Russell Gage and receiver Breshad Perriman.

Another big development came Wednesday night when franchise player Chris Godwin agreed to a three-year, $60 million contract with $40 million guaranteed. It includes two voidable years that lowers the wide receiver’s 2022 salary cap figure to $5 million, well below the $19.2 million franchise player tag value.

“It’s kind of feeling like last year,” Davis said Wednesday. “You’ve got the guys in the room to compete for another championship.”

There is much more work to do. The Bucs eventually will attempt to re-sign tight end Rob Gronkowski, who joked in a Tampa barber shop Wednesday that he may make Brady sweat about his future.

“There’s a very good chance,” Gronkowski said when asked if he would rejoin the Bucs and Brady. “I’ll let (Brady) have a little scare. Let him go a couple months without me. He did it to me a couple months.”

It's not that surprising that the Bucs declined to offer tight end O.J. Howard, who was snapped up Wednesday by the Bills.
It's not that surprising that the Bucs declined to offer tight end O.J. Howard, who was snapped up Wednesday by the Bills. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

In addition to Gronkowski, more than a dozen Bucs players hit the free agent market Wednesday. Tight end O.J. Howard signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Bills.

Other players who are available include running back Leonard Fournette, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, defensive end William Gholston and outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul.

At least Perriman won’t need to leave a forwarding address this season. Having played for the Browns, Bucs, Jets and Lions over the past four seasons, the former UCF receiver will stay put in Tampa Bay after signing a one-year contract.

Perriman rejoined the Bucs late last season after injuries riddled the receiving corps. He wound up playing so well that he supplanted Tyler Johnson as the No. 4 receiver.

At 6 feet 2 and 215 pounds, the 28-year-old Perriman possesses the size to go with great speed that the Bucs covet in coach Bruce Arians’ offense. He made an immediate impact when he produced a walkoff 58-yard touchdown reception in overtime to beat the Bills.

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The Bucs also restructured a few contracts Wednesday to be compliant with the $208.2 million salary cap by the 4 p.m. deadline.

Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, 29, who signed a four-year, $68 million extension a year ago, agreed to adjust his $16 million base salary for 2022 into a bonus of nearly $15 million, which was spread over the three remaining years on his contract. That should reduce his cap hit by about $10 million.

Tight end Cameron Brate (84) runs the ball as offensive tackle Donovan Smith (76) applies a block against the Eagles back in January.
Tight end Cameron Brate (84) runs the ball as offensive tackle Donovan Smith (76) applies a block against the Eagles back in January. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

For the third straight season, tight end Cameron Brate reduced his salary to remain with the team. The 31-year-old was scheduled to earn $6.55 million in 2022 and $7.5 million in 2023. But he agreed to a new two-year pact worth $8 million to return to the Bucs for a ninth and possibly 10th season.

And Perriman gets the security of a second straight season in one place.

Big-play moments are what Perriman’s career has been known for, and the biggest ones have occurred with the Bucs.

In 2019, with receiver Mike Evans and Godwin injured, Perriman became the Bucs’ primary receiver. He enjoyed a string of three consecutive 100-yard games while scoring four touchdowns over that span. He finished that season with 36 catches for 645 yards and six touchdowns.

The Bucs have been focused on securing targets for Brady, who announced he would return for his 23rd season Sunday.

Godwin received the team’s franchise player tag last week. On Tuesday, the Bucs signed Gage to a three-year, $30 million contract. Even if Godwin isn’t fully recovered from a torn ACL/MCL by the start of the season, the Bucs have Gage and now Perriman to give Brady options.

It should be an interesting training camp with players such as Johnson, Scotty Miller, Jaelon Darden and Cyril Grayson competing for the No. 4 receiver spot.

And the Bucs may not be done. They could target a receiver early in the draft.

Contact Rick Stroud at rstroud@tampabay.com. Follow @NFLSTROUD.

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