On paper, that might seem like enough to add the one or two wins that would push the Bucs over the hump and into the postseason in 2017. But here’s the rub: The NFL’s other 31 teams were pursuing the same sort of self-improvement, if not necessarily in the exact same areas. The math isn’t quite as simple as (near playoff team) + (draft and free agency) = playing in January.
There’s a reason every general manager in the league says his aim is to build through the draft. Free agency can certainly help a team get over the top – see Peyton Manning and the Broncos – but most teams that make the leap from golfing in January to playing in the postseason need to see internal development of the roster. New contributors emerge, steady vets become stars and stars become MVP candidates. Whether you want to call it cause or effect, it’s no surprise that the last two NFC champions were led by first-team NFL MVPs.
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