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Todd Bowles

Getty Todd Bowles explained where things stand for free agents Rob Gronkowski and Ndamukong Suh going into draft week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles won’t panic over key free agents Rob Gronkowski and Ndamukong Suh remaining unsigned.

“It’s up in the air right now, but I feel OK about it,” Bowles said via the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday, April 24, at the Bruce Arians Family Foundation gala. “There are still things to work out, and we’ll see what the draft brings and we’ll keep working with those guys, as well.”

Suh, 35, dropped a hint of wanting to return on March 31 after the Bucs announced the hire of Bowles to replace Arians, who retired from coaching, but Suh hasn’t signed. Gronkowski, 32, said he will play for the Bucs if he returns, but he reiterated that he hasn’t decided on coming back.

Based on last season’s salaries, the Bucs will have tight fits for Suh and Gronkowski to make it under the salary cap. Suh made $9 million in 2021 per Spot Trac, Gronkowski made $8 million per Spot Trac. The Bucs have $13.5 million in cap space per Spot Trac after quarterback Tom Brady’s $9 million contract restructure last week, which ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported. Gronkowski and Suh can’t eat up all  of that $13.5 million, however, because the team will need cap space to sign draft picks.

The Bucs could pursue players in the draft to replace Gronkowski at tight end and Suh on the defensive line. Bucs general manager Jason Licht alluded to that in his pre-draft press conference on April 19.

“Well, you have to keep that in mind but you also never really want to push a need, or a perceived need, too high up. That’s where you start making mistakes,” Licht said.

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Depth Needed at Gronkowski’s and Suh’s Positions

Tampa Bay made one move already on the defensive line with the signing of Deadrin Senat on April 22. Senat, who previously played for the Atlanta Falcons from 2018 to 2021, played in 23 career games but spent last on injured reserve.

While Senat helps the depth on the defensive line, the Bucs also have Steve McLendon to re-sign in addition to Suh. Otherwise, the Bucs have Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Vita Vea, and Will Gholston in the trenches.

At tight end, the Bucs haven’t added any players this offseason with just Cameron Brate and Codey McElroy on the roster. Former Bucs tight end O.J. Howard left for Buffalo in free agency.


Draft Options for the Bucs

For tight end, the Bucs could pursue 6-foot-4 Colorado State star Trey McBride,  who had 90 receptions for 1,121 yards and a touchdown in 2021. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. projects McBride to go in the second round. Notable tight end draft prospects who visited with the Bucs include Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert, Nebraska’s Austin Allen, San Diego State’s Daniel Bellinger, and Washington’s Cade Otton according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine.

Tampa Bay could take a defensive tackle earlier than tight end with the 27th pick in the first round. The Bucs had top-30 visits with Houston’s Logan Hall, Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt, and Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey “sources told ESPN” according to Laine. She noted that the Bucs “wanted to get younger and faster in their interior pass rush to pair with Vea, but did not address it in free agency.”

READ NEXT: Rob Gronkowski Sends Message to Tom Brady

Source: Heavy

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