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What are the Bucs thinking ahead of the NFL Draft?

In addition to "going for two," Tampa Bay is trying to figure out how to build a contending roster for the future.
Credit: AP
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, left, speaks with quarterback Tom Brady (12) before the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a unique position coming up in less than a month when the NFL Draft kicks off in Cleveland, Ohio. In fact, they’ve done something that hasn’t been done in over 40 years. They will have all 22 starters from their Super Bowl winning team back for the upcoming year.

So where does that leave them on draft day?

For the first time in a long time, the Buccaneers have no glaring needs. They’ve borrowed from their future selves to get everyone back in 2021, but a lot of that has come with one-year deals.

Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette, Ndamukong Suh, and Chris Godwin are all on one-year contracts. O.J. Howard, Carlton Davis, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ryan Jensen, and Ronald Jones are all in contract years.

The future for the Bucs looks thin - both in terms of money (for now) as well as impact players under contract.

So when Jason Licht and Bruce Arians have their chances to make picks over draft weekend, is that what will be on their minds? There aren’t a lot of players or positions that can come in on day one and be those immediate impact players.

There are, however, plenty of players that can come into a rotational role in 2021 and become starters in 2022 at a far more affordable price than some of the one-year deals we’ve seen the Buccaneers give out.

A player like Najee Harris or Javonte Williams could come in to be a rotational running back while learning the offense before taking over in their sophomore season. Edge rushers like Quincy Roche or Cam Sample could get valuable playing time while learning Todd Bowles’ intricate defense, then step in as a starter the following year if JPP were to move on.

To go even further, you could look at quarterbacks like Ian Book or Kyle Trask as guys that can sit and learn behind Tom Brady for two years before becoming the Buccaneers’ quarterback of the future.

These are the things to keep in mind as the Buccaneers and the rest of the NFL bring in the next class of stars. For Tampa Bay, it isn’t about what the players can do for the team right now but how this staff can continue to build a contending roster for the future.

This is why you don’t fall in love with one prospect heading into draft night - you’re only bound to be disappointed. For the Buccaneers, it’s all about setting this franchise up for the long term while simultaneously "going for two."

Click here to listen to the latest episodes from the Locked On Bucs daily podcast.

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RELATED: Arians: 'Can’t really say I’ve ever gone into a draft not having a need – a drastic need'