Aug 26, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) looks to the sidelines against the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Without Tom Brady, Tampa Bay tries to stay playoff course

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2022 record: 8-9, first NFC South

Playoff picture: The Buccaneers had the NFL’s longest active playoff drought when they pulled the trigger for Tom Brady in 2020. One Super Bowl title and three straight playoff appearances later, they’ll try to keep a new streak going without him.

Biggest Week 1 question: Is this Baker Mayfield’s last shot at a productive NFL career? Mayfield began 2022 in Cleveland, was traded to Carolina in July and spent five bleak months there before being granted his release. The Los Angeles Rams claimed him off waivers, and he showed brief flashes of what he can do in a pass-first offense, which the Buccaneers undoubtedly had with Brady. Mayfield beat Kyle Trask for the starting gig in training camp.

What’s new: Former Bucs quarterback Byron Leftwich was fired as offensive coordinator and Seahawks quarterbacks coach Dave Canales was hired as his replacement. Hey, if he could turn Geno Smith into a Pro Bowler, Canales might have some tricks up his sleeve for Mayfield. The defensive line will now feature free agent signing Greg Gaines and first-round draft pick Calijah Kancey.

They’re gone: Besides Brady? The offense is also moving forward without running backs Leonard Fournette and Gio Bernard and tight end Cameron Brate. On the other side of the ball, no more CB Sean Murphy-Bunting or S Mike Edwards, and several rookies comprise the defensive backfield depth as a result.

On the money: A week before the season opener, a standoff between WR Mike Evans and the team was simmering. Evans wants more money, and set a deadline for the Bucs to make it happen. Besides addressing quarterback, the Buccaneers spent resources this offseason on taking care of their own. Linebackers Lavonte David and Anthony Nelson, cornerback Jamel Dean and nickel Dee Delaney were all re-signed.

Get to know: Rachaad White is far from a household name, but the 2022 third-round draft pick found success as a rookie, catching 50 of 58 targets while getting carries as a change-of-pace back. He will start the season as Tampa Bay’s No. 1 running back.

Vegas says: While plenty of power rankings are naming Tampa Bay as one of the league’s worst teams entering 2023, BetMGM’s win total is up at 6.5 — and 91 percent of the handle has been bet on the under (-145).

–Field Level Media

Mar 2, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Pittsburgh defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (DL09) participates in the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs’ first-round pick Calijah Kancey (calf) carted off field

Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie defensive end Calijah Kancey was carted off the field with a right calf injury during Sunday’s practice.

Kancey, the team’s first-round draft-pick this year out of Pittsburgh, will have an MRI on what coach Todd Bowles called a calf strain after practice.

“He’s adapting to the scheme mentally, and then he was adding his physical part to it,” Bowles said Sunday of Kancey. “He’s putting it together quicker than normal rookies do. So hopefully it’s not that bad and he can get back.”

The injury occurred during training camp practice as Kancey, 22, was turning the corner on a drill. He pulled his right leg up, then hopped forward without putting weight on the leg. He grabbed his lower leg toward his calf before being helped onto a cart and taken off the field.

Kancey, the 19th pick overall in this year’s draft and a Miami native, ran a 4.67 time in the 40 at the NFL combine.

He played three years at Pitt. In 2002, he earned first-team All-America honors, with 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 11 games, becoming Pitt’s first unanimous All-American since Aaron Donald.

–Field Level Media

Dec 25, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Ryan Succop (3) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs release K Ryan Succop in cost-cutting move

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released kicker Ryan Succop on Thursday, a move that saves them $3.75 million against their cap.

The Bucs also officially announced the re-signing of linebacker Lavonte David.

Succop converted 84 of 99 (84.8 percent) field-goal attempts and 93.6 percent of his extra point attempts in three seasons for the Bucs. His 384 points rank eighth in Tampa Bay history and sixth among kickers.

Over his 14-year career with Kansas City (2009-13), Tennessee (2014-19) and Tampa Bay, Succop has converted 96.1 percent of his PATs and 82.9 percent of FG attempts while scoring 1,430 points.

Terms were not announced for David, but NFL Network reported last week that it’s a one-year deal for a guaranteed $7 million.

David, 33, started all 17 games and registered 124 tackles and three sacks in 2022. It was his ninth season with triple-digit tackles since the Buccaneers drafted him in the second round in 2012. He has 29 sacks, 12 interceptions, 27 forced fumbles and 18 fumble recoveries in 166 games (all starts).

“Lavonte is one of the greatest and most beloved players in the history of this franchise, so it is extremely gratifying that he will remain a Buccaneer,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said in the news release. “It’s rare for a player to perform at such a high level for so many years in one place. Lavonte has made a big impact on and off the field for our organization and is still critical to our success on defense.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 25, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Bucs’ Todd Bowles not coaching for job Monday

Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles’ job is not on the line in Monday night’s wild-card game against the visiting Dallas Cowboys, the Tampa Bay Times reported Saturday.

Bowles, 59, guided the Buccaneers to an NFC South title despite finishing with a losing record (8-9) in his first year as the team’s head coach.

Tampa Bay never won more than two games in a row this season and finished 25th in the NFL in scoring with 18.4 points per game.

The report points out that the Glazer family, which owns the Buccaneers, has never fired a coach after one season. Greg Schiano (2012-13) and Lovie Smith (2014-15) both coached two seasons and neither made the playoffs.

Bowles was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach on March 30 after Bruce Arians moved to a job in the front office.

Bowles has a career record of 34-50 including his tenure with the Miami Dolphins (2011) and New York Jets (2015-18). This is his first appearance in the postseason.

–Field Level Media

Oct 27, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) warms up before the start of the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Buccaneers hosting Rams in surprising battle of mediocrity

Two of the most surprising developments of the NFL season are the mediocrity of both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams. Neither team thought they’d be below .500 entering Week 9 — and neither team made a noteworthy move at this week’s trade deadline.

The past two Super Bowl champions will compete for a much-needed win on Sunday in Tampa, Fla.

The Rams (3-4) have lost three of their last four games, including a season sweep at the hands of the rival San Francisco 49ers. They were outscored 21-0 in the second half of last week’s 31-14 home loss to San Francisco.

“They made some big plays that they were able to capitalize on, scoring opportunities, and then there was a couple instances where we had chances to be able to make plays and didn’t quite deliver,” coach Sean McVay said. “That’s where things get out of whack and you don’t end up finishing the game the way that you want.”

Multiple reports said the Rams attempted to land Carolina Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns at the trade deadline by offering multiple first-round picks, but were rebuffed.

The defending champs can still rely on a fearsome defense without Burns — the Aaron Donald-anchored unit ranks fifth in yards allowed per game. But the Rams are fifth from the bottom in the NFL in scoring offense at just 16.9 ppg. Matthew Stafford has thrown eight interceptions, tied for second-most in the league, to just seven touchdowns.

Still, Los Angeles catches Tom Brady and the Buccaneers (3-5) at an opportune time.

Tampa Bay is 1-5 in the past six games, including losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers, two of the weakest teams in the league. The Bucs have had extra time to regroup after playing on “Thursday Night Football” last week, when their comeback effort fell short in a 27-22 home loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Though Brady has a 9:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and leads the NFL in completions (224) and pass attempts (340), he’s averaged a substandard 6.7 yards per attempt and the offense is tied for 25th in third-down efficiency (34.6 percent).

Brady and Stafford aren’t getting any help from their respective running games, the least productive in the league. Tampa Bay (61.9 yards per game) ranks dead last; Los Angeles (68.4 ypg) is 31st.

Bucs coach Todd Bowles alluded to the notion that his team wants more balance on offense.

“You’d like to say that, but if they’ve got nine guys up there, you’re going to have to throw the football,” Bowles said. “We’re going to take what they give us, but we’re definitely going to try to run it more.”

For the Rams, disgruntled running back Cam Akers hasn’t played since Week 5 as the team worked to try to find a trade partner who’d take him. None materialized before the deadline, and on Wednesday McVay said Akers expressed a desire to remain with the team.

There’s a chance he could play Sunday — and just as much of a chance that the Rams release him.

“We’ve talked about a couple of different options,” McVay said. “Wanted to be able to give him an opportunity to weigh that with his family and with his representation, and then we’ll circle back later on this afternoon and see what the next move is.”

The Rams also could get rookie running back Kyren Williams (ankle) back soon after he returned to practice last week.

Star wide receiver Cooper Kupp (ankle) missed Wednesday’s practice, but McVay has indicated the injury is not serious and he should be able to play against the Bucs. Center Brian Allen (knee) also sat out while receiver Van Jefferson (knee) was limited.

Tampa Bay’s interior offensive line is banged up and could be tested again this week, as guards Luke Goedeke (foot) and Shaq Mason (personal, ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Wide receivers Russell Gage (hamstring) and Julio Jones (knee) and cornerback Antoine Winfield Jr. (concussion) were also DNPs, while receiver Mike Evans (ankle) and tight end Cameron Brate (neck) were limited participants.

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) runs the ball against Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White (45) during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers top Bucs as Mitch Trubisky relieves injured Kenny Pickett

Mitchell Trubisky tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Chase Claypool early in the fourth quarter to lift the host Pittsburgh Steelers to a 20-18 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Trubisky relieved rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, who sustained a concussion midway into the third quarter after he was hit in the chest by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White. The tackle caused Pickett’s head to bounce off the ground.

Trubisky completed 9 of 12 passes for 144 yards and Claypool had seven receptions for 96 yards. The two connected on a scoring strike with 9:55 left in the fourth quarter to help the Steelers (2-4) snap a four-game losing skid.

Tom Brady hooked up with Leonard Fournette on an 11-yard touchdown to bring Tampa Bay within two with 4:38 to play. Brady, however, was unable to connect with Chris Godwin on the ensuing conversion attempt.

Brady completed 25 of 40 passes for 243 yards and Godwin had six catches for 95 yards for the Buccaneers (3-3), who have lost three of their last four games.

Tampa Bay tight end Cameron Brate was placed on a stretcher and removed from the field following a 6-yard catch late in the third quarter. He was hit in the head on a tackle by Myles Jack, who promptly signaled for assistance from the medical staff for Brate.

Pickett completed all five of his pass attempts for 37 yards on the Steelers’ first possession, capping the possession with a 6-yard scoring strike to Najee Harris. The touchdown on an opening drive was Pittsburgh’s first since Week 10 against the Detroit Lions last season.

Ryan Succop trimmed the deficit with field goals of 30 and 27 yards, but Chris Boswell countered with a 55-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 10-6 lead. Boswell’s kick was aided by a fortunate bounce off the crossbar.

Succop responded with a 54-yard field goal just before halftime. The kickers then traded short field goals in the third quarter.

–Field Level Media

Jan 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) run the ball for a touchdown  against Los Angeles Rams safety Nick Scott (33)  in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Bucs RB Leonard Fournette signing 3-year, $21M deal

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed running back Leonard Fournette to a three-year, $21 million contract, ESPN reported Tuesday.

Fournette, who visited with the New England Patriots on Monday, will receive $11 million guaranteed and could earn up to $24 million with incentives, per the report.

Fournette, 27, gained 1,266 yards from scrimmage and scored 10 touchdowns in 14 games (13 starts) last season.

He has rushed for 3,810 yards and 31 touchdowns and caught 239 passes for 1,696 yards and four scores in 63 NFL games (52 starts) with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2017-19) and Buccaneers.

In the postseason, “Playoff Lenny” has 593 rushing yards, 248 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games. He had 135 yards from scrimmage and a TD in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl LV win against the Kansas City Chiefs.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) reacts after making a catch during the fist quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Bucs to use franchise tag on WR Chris Godwin

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expected to use the franchise tag on wide receiver Chris Godwin before Tuesday’s deadline, USA Today reported Monday.

Godwin, who is recovering from a season-ending knee injury, would earn approximately $19.2 million on the tag in 2022 if the two sides can’t work out a long-term deal.

The 26-year-old Godwin caught a career-high 98 passes for 1,103 yards and five touchdowns in 14 starts in 2021. He tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee in a Week 15 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Godwin has 342 receptions for 4,643 yards and 29 touchdowns in 72 games (47 starts) since the Bucs drafted him in the third round in 2017.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) on the field before the game against the New York Jets during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arians: Antonio Brown’s departure not an ‘if’ but a ‘how’

In the wake of wide receiver Antonio Brown’s public outburst during his team’s game last Sunday against the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said that the mercurial player was “no longer a Buc.”

Three days later, Brown is still on the official roster, so Arians addressed the discrepancy Wednesday.

“It’s a management decision, what’s happening right now,” Arians said. When asked if Brown’s departure was imminent and if it was more a question of “how” rather than “if,” Arians responded, “Right.”

Brown, 33, who threw his equipment into the stands in the middle of the Jets game and left the field shirtless, did not practice with the team Wednesday. He was listed on the injury report as “not injury related — personal.”

The seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time All Pro has 42 receptions for 545 yards and four touchdowns this season in seven games. He’s second among active players with 928 career receptions.

The Buccaneers (12-4) end their regular season when they host the Carolina Panthers (5-11) on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arians to coach Sunday; more Buccaneers might return, too

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have their head coach back when they play the Jets in New York on Sunday, as the Bucs announced Saturday that Bruce Arians had cleared COVID-19 protocol.

Arians, as well as wide receivers coach Kevin Garver, had spent most of the week in isolation before being cleared to return Saturday.

The Buccaneers (11-4) also might see the return of cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting, as both players were activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and are listed as questionable for the game.

Fellow cornerback Richard Sherman is listed as doubtful with an Achilles tendon injury.

Four players were elevated from the practice squad: punter Sterling Hofrichter and outside linebacker Elijah Ponder (standard elevation), as well as running back Kenjon Barner and wide receiver Cyril Grayson (COVID-19 replacements).

For the Jets, cornerback Bryce Hall has been activated from the COVID list and will be eligible to return for a secondary that has struggled with youth this season.

The Jets (4-11) also elevated defensive end Ronnie Blair, tight end Dan Brown, wide receiver D.J. Montgomery and cornerback Lamar Jackson.

–Field Level Media