Tampa Bay Level 2 – JoeBucsFan.com

Click to shop at BillCurrieFord.com. Bill Currie Ford GM Sean Sullivan is ready to help PERSONALLY and give you the Ira Kaufman discount. You just have to ask!

BY IRA KAUFMAN

Three of Tampa Bay’s remaining free agents were greeted by the sounds of silence.

It’s understandable that there hasn’t been much talk about Rob Gronkowski since Tom Brady announced his return to One Buc Place. If Gronkowski is playing anywhere this fall, it appears to be with Tampa Bay.

At this point, it would be an upset if the future Hall of Fame tight end didn’t return for another Vince Lombardi Trophy shot as Brady’s prime target in the red zone.

But for some other prominent Bucs who have tested the free agent market, the lukewarm response seems a bit confusing.

Gronkowski and Brady are attached to the hip pad, so that’s understood. You can bet the two have engaged in several ongoing discussions, with Brady pleading his case for Gronkowski’s return.

Ndamukong Suh

But what about Ronald Jones, Ndamukong Suh and Will Gholston? They don’t have nearly the same ties to Brady as Gronkowski.

Theoretically, they are unabashedly free to sell their wares to 31 other teams in pursuit of their next contract. Still, it’s week 2 of free agency and you rarely hear their names linked to potential suitors.

They’re still there, assessing their worth and wondering when they’ll find a place at the adult table.

Young. Costs. Experimented. Proven.

What are these other teams waiting for?

Ronald Jones

Before Jones was knocked out by Leonard Fournette at the end of the 2020 championship year, he was on his way to a 978-yard season, averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

He doesn’t have much wear and he’s only 24, so Jones must be frustrated with the relative lack of interest he’s generating.

Since his terrible rookie year, Jones has averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the past three seasons. His hands remain suspect, but Jones has proven to be a productive inside slasher. Former second-round pick Jones isn’t going to cash in but someone’s going to get a bargain signing No. 27.

It’s hard to believe Suh can’t start for more than half of the teams in this league. He’s looking to get paid and he’s 35, but his credentials are compelling.

We’re talking a 5-time Pro Bowler and a 5-time All-Pro defensive tackle that remains incredibly durable and effective. This guy hasn’t missed a start in the last decade and Suh has had back-to-back 6-sack seasons.

It won’t be surprising if the Bucs finally reach a deal with Suh to line up next to Vita Vea this fall and re-anchor a miserly point defense.

Unless there is a substantial gap between the offers, Suh would be wise to bring his talents and professionalism back to Tampa.

The rock

Season 10 in Tampa for Will Gholston?

Gholston might be the most intriguing case of all.

The 30-year-old left defensive end is a good fit for Tampa Bay’s 3-man front. He’s very solid against the run and let’s remember that he led the Bucs with 20 QB hits in the 2020 championship season, despite only playing 57% of the snaps defensively.

Gholston has had nine seasons with the Bucs, but he generally flies well under the radar. He’s rarely quoted and rarely mentioned when breaking down Tampa Bay’s roster, but he was a solid pro who earned the respect of Todd Bowles. He hasn’t missed a game since Bowles arrived in 2019 and he won’t be easily replaced if the right team arrives.

However, the longer Gholston stays on the market, the more plausible it becomes that Gholston’s agent will strike a deal for a third contract with the Bucs.

At this point, it’s clear that Suh, Gholston and Jones weren’t Jason Licht’s top priorities going into the free agent period. While it’s likely that Jones will move on, Gholston and Suh could very well be back – especially if Mr. Brady drops them a penny or two, urging their return.

This franchise’s determination to push all its chips is unwavering and impressive. You can thank Brady for that sense of urgency, so don’t be surprised if the Bucs make a bit more noise by breaking that ominous silence surrounding Suh and Gholston.

Yes, this warranty includes USED vehicles!
Ira drives a 2020 Ford Escape (cherry red).