At 2-2, the season’s still wide open for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but let’s look at their current salary cap situation this year and in 2019.
Currently the Bucs are $5 million under the cap according to Spotrac, which they’re dipping into too plug up the porous leaks in the secondary ravaged by injury. The top 10 cap-affected contracts are even with offensive and defensive players. The top five. occupied mostly by offensive players, is what we’re going to focus on.
The top spot goes to wide receiver Mike Evans, who stands at $18.2 million hit against the cap, which expands to $20 million in 2019. His consistently playing at his elite level makes him by far the most valuable asset on offense. The second spot goes to defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who has approximately a $12.8 million hit to the cap, which goes to a cap-friendly $13 million next season. Free agent acquisition, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is next on the list with $12.5 million against the cap and it jumps to $14.5 million in 2019. He’s definitely a keeper for next season given his current contributions this early in the season.
Next spot goes to center Ryan Jensen with $12 million against the cap and drops to $10 million in 2019. He’s been intricate in the success of the passing game, but unfortunately, it hasn’t translated to the run game, but it’s still early. DeSean Jackson rounds out the top 5 in cap hits for 2018 with $11 million and he’ll have same hit in 2009. So far, Jackson has by far shown his best productivity with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. Barring any injury to starter Jameis Winston, there’s no clear sign the chemistry is going to improve.
I could see Jackson as the first major cap casualty of 2019 if things don’t improve with him and Winston. Speaking of Winston, he counts $7.9 million against the cap in 2018, which is 8th this season. He’ll jump to no. 1 with $20.9 million with his fifth year option being picked up in April. Winston is a bit of a quandary since he’s projected to set Buccaneers career passing records by the end of the year, but the chaos that shrouds the team annually having only one winning season in the last eight. Also there’s uncertainty with the front office with head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht on the hot seat pending the results of the current season.
Would a new front office accept Winston’s results? Would he be compatible with the new front office should the ax fall? If the incumbents return, Winston will most likely remain and possibly rework his current deal to an extension that’s more cap friendly.
In an offseason, likely to focus on defense, the 2019 estimate cap space sits at $25 million. There are likely some difficult decisions to make especially on the defensive front since the production is not justifying the roster spots. We’re not likely going to see cornerback Brent Grimes return in 2019 as he occupies the 7th spot at $8 million against the cap in his contract year. Linebacker Kwon Alexander may not resign as well. Many of the star players like McCoy and linebacker LaVonte David have regularly contributed, but likely have been accustomed to the culture of losing. Even their fate with the team with a unit regularly finishing in the bottom of the league in defense.
An uncertain future with the front office might force the unit to shift the defensive core for the new system. No doubt, we can see a very different unit in 2019.