The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been in a fairly tight cap space situation so far this season. As a result, they parted ways with longtime Buc defensive end Gerald McCoy and saw others leave for a big payday. After the signing of 2019 first round pick linebacker Devin White, the Bucs will have roughly $3 million in cap space from that point forward. This is hardly an ideal situation, but not a critical one either.
Even though the 2019 regular season has yet to kickoff, the 2020 season (and cap) will be here before Tampa Bay knows it. So what does Bucs 2020 cap space look like, and what potential players could eat up said cap space? Here’s a cap outlook.
Raising The 2020 Cap
Over the last few seasons, the NFL has raised the team salary cap by roughly $10 million a year. If the league keeps pace with that precedent, the team should have a total cap limit of $200 million for its top 51 players. If that seems to be astronomical, it is only bound to go up. Especially after the 2020 season where the league and NFLPA will frame a new CBA.
The Bucs will need every penny of that extra cap space. Even more so when little to no 2019 leftover cap dollars are rolled over. A thing Tampa Bay has been accustomed to in recent years and has given them the flexibility to make the moves they have to date.
How Much Wiggle Room?
How much room do the Bucs have exactly before re-signing their own and bringing in free agents? Roughly $57.8 million. At first glance that seems to be a fairly healthy place to be if you are Tampa Bay. There are though a key few signings that will need to be considered if the 2019 season plays out well for these Bucs players looking for an extension.
If all the chips fall in the right places, players like quarterback Jameis Winston, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and others could be looking for a good-sized payday for their future services. Other smaller pieces like linebacker Shaq Barrett and wide receiver Breshad Perriman on one-year deals could demand more if they perform. Not to mention players like running back Peyton Barber who could earn a payday as well if he is able to burst onto the scene in a big way in 2019.
Winston’s Big Payday
Until this season, Winston’s salary cap number has been rather team friendly but has ballooned to $20.9 million once his fifth-year option kicked in. If he performs well and solidifies his future in Tampa Bay, he could demand anywhere between $20-25 million. According to Spotrac, his estimated market value is somewhere in the middle of that range at $22.6 million.
This assessed market value comes when comparing statistical and contract data of a similar group of quarterbacks. In this instance Spotrac put Winston up against players like, Cousins, Stafford, Carr, and Dalton. When comparing key statistical metrics Winston’s overall game performance was 24% less than his peers. Which resulted in his value being a tad lower as well.
With all of that considered if the Bucs sign Winston for a $22 million-per-year average and don’t front-load his contract, the team will roughly have $35.8 million left over.
A Suh Extension
The former Rams defensive tackle has served as the defacto replacement for McCoy who was drafted after him in the 2010 draft. He is currently on a one-year $9.25 million deal, a move that saved the team money after moving on from the pricey McCoy. If Suh is just good enough, he could earn a new deal in Tampa Bay and at a good price too. If he performs at a high level though, it may be too rich for the team who dealt with a similar situation the year prior.
According to Spotrac, Suh’s market value is $15.44 million. This compares him to players like Geno Atkins, Kawann Short, and Marcell Dareus who are a few years younger and at the peak of their careers. More than likely though, Suh could command $10-12 million after a strong season. If they Bucs re-sign him on the high side, that will leave the team with $23.8 million.
The 2020 Cap Space Could Be Tight
If the team decides to sign both in this scenario, while not cash strapped, they won’t have a ton of flexibility heading into the 2020 free agency. Factoring in around $10 million for the 2020 draft picks, Tampa Bay will have just over $10 million heading into free agency.
It will leave little room to sign other players, like Barber, to a healthy extension and make any desired moves once free agency breaks. Like this season, the Bucs front office could have some very big decisions to make heading into the 2020 season.