One of the best comments to come from this week’s coverage of the NFL combine was from Jason Licht. He was talking about pointing out Buccaneers tight end OJ Howard to Bruce Arians on one of his first days in the building. Howard was out on the field rehabbing, and Coach’s eyes got very big. Licht finished by saying he knew Coach was excited.
Last season it seemed like one of the genies that never quite got out of the bottle was Howard. Buccaneer fans, look for that to change in 2019.
With yesterday’s news of Donovan Smith’s contract, the NFL combine ending, and free agency starting next week, the salary cap is going to become the friend—or enemy—of every general manager across the league. For some it will be both—at the same time!
The salary cap for 2019 is set at $188.2 million. None of the 32 teams can commit any more money to players’ contracts, bonuses, workout incentives, or even lunch money for field trips and exceed that cap limit of $188.2 million during the 2019 NFL calendar year.
The Buccaneers and GM Licht will be tweaking, twerking, and adjusting the roster to find that perfect balance of the right personnel for 2019 while keeping wiggle room for 2020 and beyond. The team will say goodbye to some old friends and hello to some new ones. This is the hard part. This is the business side.
The following are three players who could be on that departure list:
This kid has worked his tail off and earned a solid shot at a good paycheck. Bruce Arians has history with utilizing the slot receiver position. But something has to give. Doesn’t it always? We have Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and OJ Howard. Finding a receiver in the draft, filling the slot via free agency, or even one or more of the aforementioned receivers spending time there makes spending the $6-8 million or more it could take to retain Adam Humphries out of the question.
We can debate how a family man, community leader, Pro Bowl lineman, and Walter Payton Man of the Year finalist should be welcomed on any team in the league. But with a $13million salary, a new defensive coordinator in Todd Bowles, and a cap that is already near the limit, freeing this space up could be a necessary evil for GM Jason Licht. Then again, a restructured contract could keep McCoy in a Buccaneer uniform until retirement. It could also secure him a place in the Buccaneer Ring of Honor one day. But there will be things that need to happen for either of those to become a reality.
Ten million problems, and this receiver is the one. He’s never developed a relationship with Jameis. He likes California and making movies, and unless he has had a come to Jesus meeting between November and now, it just doesn’t make sense to keep that large of a cap hit to run go routes. DJax is still a talented player but would find better use on a team short on receiver talent, something the Buccaneers are not.
So there you have it. Humphries: $8 million. McCoy: $13 million. Jackson: $10 million. Allowing for Humphries’ potential worth and the other two contract numbers, we arrive at $31 million dollars. Will these be the decisions that Jason Licht makes? Is the mad scientist already working on restructuring contracts to allow for better cap space and future flexibility to allow the Buccaneers to win multiple championships? Who knows? But Licht has put together a pretty impressive chunk of putty that Arians will be able to mold and form into an impressive football team. If he is able to sculpt it half as good as OJ Howard has sculpted himself, the Buccaneers should find themselves in pretty good shape.