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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Just how historic was Bucs offensive output Sunday?

Florida Football Insiders

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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

It was one of the most unlikely debuts in recent NFL history for many reasons. And when the clock struck triple zeros in the Superdome quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs had put together an amazing statistical show.

In the end, the most important numbers were: Buccaneers-48 Saints-40, and it added up to  a 1 – o start to a season that began with uncertainty. Uncertainty, because Jameis Winston is suspended for the first three games of it, and even the biggest Buccaneer fans had their doubts about whether the 35 year-old Fitzpatrick had a game anywhere like Sunday in him. Or even, close.

Well, Wonder no more.

From the outset, Fitzpatrick was composed, accurate and at times downright deadly, throwing the football to the assortment of Tampa Bay weapons.

It started with his rainbow 58 yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson in the first quarter, and he kept hitting the Saints with more big plays, as the first half wore on in “the Big Easy.”

And when that first half was over, Fitzpatrick had completed 11 – 14 passes for 210 yards and 2 TDs. Plus, he had run in a third score. And the Buccaneers had set a franchise road game first-half record with 31 points.

And the bearded veteran did not let up in the second half, finding Mike Evans with a 50-yard bomb in a third quarter. Then, he all but iced the game early on in 4th quarter with a 36-yard perfect pass down the middle against a blitz for a touchdown to Jackson again. The Bucs led 48-24 at that point.

Those 48 points the Bucs scored Sunday? Their most in any game, since their 2002 Super Bowl season, ironically also against the Saints that year, too.

The 48 points are also the most Tampa Bay has ever scored in the opening game of any season. And the Bucs and the Saints combining for 88 points, with each team having at least 40,  was the most on an opening day ever in the NFL.

Ever.

And if you’re wondering, Drew Brees was equally amazing and impressive with 439 yards passing and 3 touchdowns strikes of his own. He kept the Saints alive.

But, when it was all said and done, Fitzpatrick finished with a career-high 417 yards and a perfect 156.2 quarterback rating.

And the Harvard grad even scrambled for the crucial third down conversion with just over two minutes remaining and the Saints out of timeouts. That enabled the Bucs to kneel on the ball three times and ice the remarkable win.

Yes, the numbers were dizzying, but interestingly, the most important one is: 1.

As in, one game played, and one win for the Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Peter King- “Bridgewater to Tampa Bay makes sense”

Florida Football Insiders

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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the start of another week, and speculation about “quarterback musical chairs” in NFL free agency continues. And a prominent NFL media member believes that current Saints backup Teddy Bridgewater might leave New Orleans and he sees a possible fit with the Buccaneers.

Peter King, now with Pro Football Talk, gave analysis on numerous quarterback situations and potential free agents to be in his Monday morning column. And, while he is not reporting that the Saints will allow Bridgewater to be a free agent and/or that the Buccaneers would be his destination, he does lay out a solid case for a marriage between the two:

Obviously, the Saints must first decide what to do with veteran Hall of Famer to be, Drew Brees, who is slated to become a free agent and cannot be franchise tagged. And, Bridgewater more than acquitted himself a year ago coming off the bench, when Brees was out with a fractured thumb. That included a four-touchdown performance in October in a a win at home against Tampa Bay.

King wrote in part, these thoughts Monday,

Teddy Bridgewater: Tampa Bay makes sense

I can hear it now: Bridgewater doesn’t have the deep arm Bruce Arians needs. I would dispute that. When Arians put Carson Palmer in the pilot’s chair in Arizona, his previous NFL yards per attempt in Cincinnati and Oakland was 7.2. Bridgewater’s career NFL yards per attempt: 7.2.

…..I noticed something with Arians this season. He defended almost every (Jameis) Winston miscue for the first three months of the season. In December, though, that changed. Tampa was 7-7 entering the last two games, both at home. In game 15, against Houston, Winston threw interceptions on two of the first five Buc snaps, and Tampa was down 10-0 after four minutes.

The Bucs lost by three. Next week: Overtime against Atlanta. First play, Winston somehow didn’t see lurker linebacker Deion Jones on tight end Cameron Brate. Pick six. “It smells as bad as it could possible smell,” Arians said after the game. The Bucs had a clear path to a redemptive 9-7 seasons, but six interceptions in the last two weeks ruined that. 

….. This is the story about Bridgewater I appreciate: After Drew Brees was lost with a hand injury in Week 2 and Bridgewater took over, Bridgewater hosted a dinner in Seattle—site of the next game—for all the offensive players, basically to say, All is not lost. We’ll be fine. Minus Brees, the Bridgewater-led Saints went 5-0.

Maybe the Bucs will think Winston deserves another chance with Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. But I won’t be surprised if they go after Bridgewater or Ryan Tannehill, the best free-agent quarterbacks on the market.”

Definitely a compelling argument, but, again, it still has to play out as to whether the Saints don’t re-sign Bridgewater and how, interested are the Bucs vs. other potential teams when the free agency mayhem begins?

As for Tampa Bay are obviously trying to decide what to do with their own free agent-to-be, Winston. As we wrote late last week, coach Bruce Arians remained non-committal on whether to bring back their starter of the last five seasons. This is mainly due to Winston’s inconsistent play, numerous interceptions and the fact the Bucs have had only had one winning season in his five years at the helm.

It this type of  “connect the dots” free agency talk will only continue to build until either Tampa Bay commits to Winston or free agency begins without the Bucs having signed Winston to a long term deal or given him the one year franchise tag. The clearest of indications that they’ve moved on and want a new QB.

And, everyone continues to wait on those decisions.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL analyst- Bucs DE Shaq Barrett top player in free agency

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off an amazing first season with the Bucs, defensive end Shaq Barrett is in line for a huge payday. And, a respected NFL analyst says Tampa Bay better be ready to pay, because he believes Barrett is the top free agent upcoming for the entire NFL.

Brian Baldinger, a former 12 year player and now analyst with the NFL Network, posted on social media Saturday evening what he loves about Barrett’s pass-rushing skills and then made his declaration:

There is no exaggerating that Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectations off of a one-year, modest free agent signing from the Broncos by Bucs GM Jason Licht. His four sack game in week 2 against Carolina put the entire NFL on notice.

And, Barrett continued to be a dominant pass rush force for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles the entire season. He ultimately broke Tampa Bay’s single season sack record held by Hall of Famer Warren Sapp in the final game of the season. Barrett finished with 19.5 sacks, which led the NFL.

Now, the Bucs and Licht have to decide whether they’re going to give Barrett a massive contract or perhaps, entertained putting the “franchise tag” on him to ensure that he’s one of the top five paid defensive ends in football. If Licht and the Bucs choose to do that, Barrett will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year.

One concern for the Buccaneers is that Barrett’s breakout 2019 with the 19.5 sacks is more than he had in his previous five years in Denver combined. So, naturally, there is some skepticism that he will be able to produce at that high of a level for multiple years.

Still, it’s going to take that kind average per year deal to keep him from being available via free agency for someone else to sign. And, a further benefit to the franchise tag is at the Buccaneers could always reach a long-term agreement later this off season after tagging Barrett, too.

Now, we wait to see what Tampa Bay can get done.

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