Absolutely nothing is normal, but the NFL's 2020 free agency period is off and running, just as originally scheduled.
The travel issues and other restrictions caused by the national health crisis have added difficulties to every aspect of American life, including NFL personnel moves, though that is far down the list of importance. Generally, deals that are reportedly struck during the two-day negotiating period prior to the start of free agency are announced quickly after the new league year officially begins. This year, official news has trickled in.
Still, players are on the move, including some who played for the Buccaneers in 2019 and some who did not but will in 2020. Our Free Agency Tracker will be paying attention to all of those moves and the ones to come over the next couple months. Here's where we are so far, as of the afternoon of Thursday, March 26, just over a week into free agency.
• QB Tom Brady
• T Joe Haeg
So, this is big. The Buccaneers found an incredibly bold way to address their starting quarterback position, bringing in the player many consider the greatest of all time. Brady's credentials are certainly worthy of that G.O.A.T. status, beginning with his record six Super Bowl championship rings. He's won more games as a starter in both the regular season and the postseason than any other quarterback, and he's also second on the NFL's all-time charts in both passing yards and touchdown passes. Interestingly, the only player ahead of him on both lists, and by relatively slim margins, is his new NFC South division-mate, the Saints' Drew Brees.
Haeg, who inked a one-year deal on Friday, March 20, provides the Buccaneers with some much-needed depth at the tackle position, with Demar Dotson, Jerald Hawkins and Josh Wells all becoming unrestricted free agents. Haeg played his first four seasons in Indianapolis and made a total of 35 starts while playing three different positions. While his experience at right guard offers valuable versatility, the Buccaneers likely targeted Haeg for his ability to play both tackle positions, as he did in Indianapolis.
• OLB Shaquil Barrett
To no one's surprise, the Buccaneers elected to use their franchise tag on Barrett when no long-term deal was in place by the tag deadline on Monday. It's the first time that the team has used a franchise or transition tag in eight years, and as was the case with kicker Connor Barth in 2012, the hope is that it will just be the precursor to a long-term deal later this offseason.
Players Released, Traded and/or Signed by Other Teams
*• DL Beau Allen
• RB Peyton Barber
• OLB Carl Nassib
• WR Breshad Perriman
The Bucs are doing a good job of keeping their strong defensive front intact in 2020 but they didn't bring back the entire depth chart. Allen left for a two-year deal with the Patriots, taking the reverse Tom Brady path. Nassib reportedly got a three-year contract with the Raiders, perhaps stepping back into a starting role after two good years in Tampa. The Raiders have yet to make the signing official, as is the case with many reported moves around the league under this year's unusual circumstances. That's also true of the deal that Barber reportedly got with the Washington Redskins on Tuesday, March 24.
Wide receiver Breshad Perriman reportedly signed with the New York Jets on that same Tuesday. Perriman had his best NFL season with Tampa Bay in 2019, finishing the year with his first three 100-yard receiving games.
Remaining Unrestricted Free Agents*
• OLB Sam Acho
• T Demar Dotson
• QB Blaine Gabbert
• T Jerald Hawkins
• G Mike Liedtke*
• CB Ryan Smith
• S Darian Stewart
• S Orion Stewart*
• G Earl Watford
• T Josh Wells
• QB Jameis Winston
(* Liedtke and Orion Stewart both could have become exclusive rights free agents if they had been extended tender offers from the time. Since they did not, they are essentially in the same position as those officially labeled unrestricted free agents, in that they are free to sign with any team.)
Obviously, Winston will be seeking a new NFL home after five years as the Buccaneers starter, since Brady is now assuming that role.
Other key names on that list include Suh and Dotson. Suh was a key figure in the Buccaneers' league-leading rush defense and also soaked up double-team blocks to help the team's edge rushers get one-on-one matchups. Dotson has been the Bucs' starting right tackle for most of the last decade. Smith has been one of the team's better special teams players the last few years.