The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jason Licht have done very well in forming their contracts. They can get out of them early when players cannot perform. This is indicated by the lack of dead money hampering the Buccaneers carry on the salary cap.
There are five highly paid players who carry no guaranteed money for the 2021 season. Subsequently, these players need to continue to play at a top-level or improve their play if they want to remain a Buccaneer after the 2020 season. I list the players below in order of how much they count against the cap in 2021.
In 2021, Smith no longer has any guaranteed money on his contract. At a hefty $14.25 million cap number, Smith must continue to get better this season to ensure he remains with the team.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded Smith out as a 62.5 in his rookie season. Each year since he has improved his grade. In 2019 he finished at 70.8. There is plenty of room for improvement. What is not on Smith’s side is his new quarterback. Tom Brady does not have the agility and escape ability that Jameis Winston does. He may still grade well at the end of 2020 but if Brady finds himself hurt or on his back to often and Smith is at fault then perceptions may out weight grades.
Jensen’s first year in Tampa was not as good as his last in Baltimore, but last year he regained his form. A steady presence with a nasty demeanor on the offensive line, Jensen must maintain his top level of play. Last season he was one of the best centers in the league. He’ll look to continue his performance in 2020.
The 2021 season has Jensen in the books for $10 million dollars. None of which is guaranteed.
A steady, sure-handed player who can be a great red-zone target, Brate seems a little under-appreciated. Meanwhile, O.J. Howard seems like he may not reach his full potential. With a crowded tight end room, the Buccaneers may not get to see as much from either in 2020 as they may need to determine each player’s fate. If the Buccaneers can sign Rob Gronkowski to a new contract, one will be an expensive third tight end. Brate graded higher in PFF’s analysis than Howard last season. Both seemed sidelined in the new offensive system.
That could all change this year with Brady on board and tweaks being done to the offense. After all, at six and a half and six million dollars against the cap in 2021 respectively, one may find his services no longer needed.
Closing out this list at $5.5 million of unguaranteed money in 2021 is William Gholston. His play in 2018 had many fans clamoring to have him gone. Some felt he was not living up to the money he was being paid. Last year he entered a new defensive scheme and looked very much improved. PFF graded him as a 69.3 placing him 44th out of 118 at players in his position. Gholston will look to further expand in the second year of the defensive scheme hoping to prove his worth.
With 2020 being an integral year for the Buccaneers, they may seek to make cap space to keep more serious talent on the team. Chris Godwin and Shaquil Barrett need new contracts and will command a heavy price. Gronkowski and Lavonte David will require some attention. There may not be room for all the players listed above.
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