The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took another step toward keeping the band together when they re-signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a one-year contract today. That continues their offseason concentration of re-signing the core players who helped lead them to the 2020 Super Bowl. But while it's fun to imagine what this team can do in its second act, history tells us the sequel is rarely as successful as the original.
Anchorman 2 sucked. So did Coming 2 America and Major League 2. Godfather II was great, but that's because it had new star characters and a completely different storyline. The Bucs are basically trying to run it back with the same cast and storyline as act one. Again, good in theory, harder in practice.
Lest you think I would only compare football to movies, let's look at the recent history of NFL teams that kept their core intact in hopes of claiming a second title. The Chiefs were led by the same players in 2020 as they were in 2019 when they won it all and they fell short against the Bucs. The same thing happened to the Seahawks in 2014 and 2015. The Patriots made three straight Super Bowls from 2017-2019 and won twice, but those teams, like Godfather I and II, featured different lead characters and new storylines. The Bucs are going with the same cast.
So far this offseason the Bucs have retained noted 2020 starters Rob Gronkowski, Chris Godwin, Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David and now Suh. They also extended Tom Brady's contract another year. They are reportedly interested in re-signing Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette. They have yet to sign a free agent who didn't play for them in 2020.
The draft offers a chance to inject some new blood into the organization. That's something the Bucs have been very good at recently. Their last three first-round picks (Tristan Wirfs, Devin White, Vita Vea) were all critical pieces of the Bucs 2020 Super Bowl win. Then again, all three of them were selected in the first 13 picks. The Bucs draft No. 32 this year.
Tom Brady and Co. already made me look stupid once for doubting the Bucs' ability to win it all in 2020. They very well could do it again. I've even provided some ammunition above highlighting teams that returned to the Super Bowl with the same core players. It can happen, though it doesn't always end in triumph.
Regardless, Brady, Gronk, David and Suh are now all on the other side of what historically is a player's prime years and they'll only be older when the 2021 season kicks off. NFL teams now also have a full year of film on what the Bucs did in 2020 and are undoubtedly scheming ways to stop what should be a similar assault in 2021.
In the NFL you're either getting better or worse every offseason. Rarely is there stagnation. It's why you saw the Chiefs make big changes along their offensive line and why the Patriots completely revamped their offense and even why the Washington Football Team made some big improvements to their offense this offseason. They're trying to get better. Meanwhile, the Bucs seem to be toeing the stagnant line so far. Will it be a hit sequel or a box office bust? The odds say the latter.