(Reuters) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said on Monday he is confident the core of his Super Bowl-winning team will remain intact for next season despite a number of key players who will be eligible for free agency.
The Buccaneers, who trounced the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in Sunday’s Super Bowl, will need to get creative in order to hang onto players with expiring contracts while also staying within the NFL’s spending limits per club.
“I’m very confident,” Arians said during a video news conference when asked if the Bucs will be able to return next season with mostly the same team.
“These guys, they have a bond. There will be dollars involved, but I think this group is so, so close that sometimes dollars don’t matter,” he said.
“But we’re going to do everything we can to get the dollars right, too, because they earned it.”
While the bulk of the team’s roster, including quarterback Tom Brady, are already set to return, the Bucs have number of key contributors who are set to hit the open market.
Receiver Chris Godwin, running back Leonard Fournette and defensive starters Ndamukong Suh, Shaquil Barrett and Lavonte David are among the players who will be free to sign with other teams.
“Hopefully we can keep this band together and have an offseason where we actually know what the hell we’re doing,” said Arians. “The sky’s the limit for this group.”
The 68-year-old Arians, who became the oldest head coach to win a Super Bowl, felt his team formed a strong bond during a season played amid a pandemic, and that the relationships forged will go a long way toward many of the players returning.
“This thing started in August and it was all about sacrifice and commitment to each other,” said Arians.
“We had to beat the virus before we could beat another team, and I can’t say enough about our guys’ commitment to each other. This is one of the closest teams I’ve ever been on, and we couldn’t eat together, we couldn’t talk to each other,” Arians recalled.
“For them to care this much about each other and the bonding experience somehow happened, and I’m still trying to figure out how because under the pandemic this was so, so hard of a year for a team to be close,” he said, “and this is one of the closest teams I’ve ever been on.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Bill Berkrot)