The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the midst of a 2023 season in which they have racked up a 3-3 record and find themselves in a tight race with the Atlanta Falcons to see who will win the NFC South division. However, this is a team that has not proven to be ready to face off against the league’s top sides and must make a decision on whether to buy or sell on the upcoming October 31 trade deadline.
Let us analyze both potential scenarios and see which moves they could make before the deadline.
Analyzing the Two Potential Scenarios for the Buccaneers’ Trade Deadline
First Scenario: Buyers
Despite their slim Week 7 loss against the Falcons, the division is still pretty much up for grabs, and the Buccaneers could still make a push to win it. With the 0-6 Carolina Panthers already out of the picture, it will be a dogfight between the Falcons, the Buccaneers, and the third-place New Orleans Saints.
If Tampa Bay does decide to push for the division and buy at the deadline, here are some moves they could make:
Acquire a Running Back
The running back position is the most significant positional need for the Bucs this season. The Bucs rank among the bottom five teams in rushing yards with 467, with a dismal 3.0 yards per carry to show for it. Running back Rachaad White leads the team with just 266 yards, followed by quarterback Baker Mayfield with just 99 yards.
Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams is the obvious choice to fill this positional need. In a pass-heavy offense in which he has been forced to share ground duties with fellow running back Jaleel McLaughlin and quarterback Russell Wilson, Williams has not been able to reach his true potential. Plus, the Broncos are in the midst of a mediocre 2–5 season and will likely look to sell on the deadline. If he does come to Tampa Bay, he will lead the backfield for the remainder of the season and will be a huge help to the team’s struggling offense.
Another running back that could be making their way to Tampa, although more unlikely, is New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley. The Giants should sell this coming deadline; however, the Bucs would be forced to surrender a bigger package if they were to trade for Barkley over Williams. Although he’s very injury-prone — he has missed 20 games over five seasons due to injury — Barkley is one of the best backs in football when healthy. If the Bucs do trade for him, they will be forced to give up multiple early-round picks but will be getting one of the truly elite players in football.
Last but not least, New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson could be on Tampa Bay’s radar this trade deadline. He has struggled to start this season, but the 2021 fourth-round pick has proven he can be a reliable asset both as a running back and as a receiving back. Last season, he managed to exceed the 1,000-yard mark and was a key component of the Patriots’ offense. It would make sense for the Buccos to make a move for Stevenson, and it would be cheaper than trading for Williams or Barkley.
Reinforce the Secondary
Although defensive performance has been somewhat decent this season, it still has not performed well enough to be considered one of the game’s top secondaries. Aerial defense hasn’t been there at all; they rank 25th in the league with 1,480 passing yards allowed, which indicates there’s an issue with the team’s cornerback position.
Assuming the Bucs decide not to pursue Williams or are willing to give up a lot in a trade with the Broncos, cornerback Patrick Surtain II could be making his way to Tampa. The 2021 first-round pick has proven himself to be a valuable piece in Denver’s secondary and one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He would be a huge improvement over Tampa Bay’s current cornerbacks, Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis.
Speaking of Denver, safety Justin Simmons is another player with a real possibility of ending up in Tampa this season. Offseason signing Ryan Neal is still yet to find his rhythm in Todd Bowles’ defense, and Simmons will surely welcome a move out of Denver’s sluggish secondary.
However, not everything is bad in Tampa Bay’s defense; their ground defense has been pretty good and shouldn’t be a primary concern for the upcoming trade deadline. They rank eighth with 575 rushing yards allowed and are among the middle rankings in sacks with 16. Linebacker Lavonte David is having a great season on his side of the ball and leads the team in tackles (40) and tackles for loss (5), and defensive tackle Vita Vea has also been a bright spot on the defense, leading the team in sacks (3.5), sack yards (22), and forced fumbles (2). Don’t expect the Bucs to make moves on this specific part of their secondary.
Second Scenario: Sellers
While the mediocrity of the NFC South is what could drive the Buccaneers to be buyers at the deadline, it could also ultimately be what drives them to become sellers and secure some draft picks for their future.
If they do sell, these are some possible moves they could make:
Trade Away Evans and Godwin
This will hurt if you are a Tampa Bay fan, but wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin could be well on their way out of Tampa if the team decides to sell at the deadline. Evans is a 10th-year veteran who would not be of any use if the Bucs decide to rebuild, other than being a valuable trade asset for which they could secure good picks for future drafts. The same goes for Godwin; although he is younger than Evans and the team could decide to keep him, he bears a high trade value, and the team could be persuaded into trading him if the return is good enough for them.
Besides, there are some top teams in the league in desperate need of wide receivers. The Baltimore Ravens are a good example; although their offense is based primarily on running plays, quarterback Lamar Jackson would be relieved to have more options to connect with through the air, and that could make the Ravens a serious contender for the Super Bowl. If a team inquires about Evans or Godwin and offers a good package of draft picks in return, the Buccaneers won’t be hesitant to let any of them go.
Trade Away the Defense
In the first scenario, we talked about the Buccaneers’ secondary having a solid season and why it should be reinforced. For the same reason, they could decide to let go of some of their most important pieces on defense. David and Vea, along with safety Antoine Winfield and linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Devin White are all players with big names that the team will not hesitate to let go of if the price is right.
Just like the Ravens need wide receivers, there are top teams in need of defensive help. The Buffalo Bills undoubtedly have one of the best offenses in the league, but rank 29th in rushing yards allowed (898) and among the middle of the pack in passing yards allowed (1,409). They desperately need some help on defense if they want to contend for the Super Bowl, and Tampa Bay has some quality players with serious trade value they could use.
The two scenarios are very real possibilities, and we cannot be completely sure of which one the Buccaneers will decide to follow. They will have to make a very important decision before the deadline, and it could determine the future of the franchise in the league. One thing is for certain: whether they decide to buy or sell, they must completely commit to it or they will find themselves in a position where they are not good enough to compete for a championship, but they are also good enough that they won’t have any early-round draft picks. We will have to wait and see what happens.