For the Buccaneers, holding the #5 pick in the draft is like drawing a wild card early in a game of poker. This card could become valuable or remain neutral depending on how the hand plays out. The team has needs. Every team has needs. But with a new coaching staff, changing offensive/defensive philosophies, and a franchise QB starting a one year prove it campaign, the team must use this draft smartly. Many Buccaneer fans predict the team won’t draft at #5. Let’s see how this could come to pass.
It Won’t Be Salary Cap Related
There are 51 reasons a rookie contract will not count against the salary cap immediately. The Rule of 51 states that during the offseason, only the top 51 contracts count against the salary cap. The moment a player is drafted, they will count approximately $435,000 toward the cap, not the full cap charge of the slotted contract until that contract is signed. So unless a team has less than 51 players or players make less than approximately 435k, the drafted rookies will not count full against the cap until inking their rookie contract sometime later this summer. So don’t count on the Buccaneers trading out of the #5 position for cap purposes.
They Won’t Be Trading Up
The salary cap will always be a consideration of how an NFL team operates. Major League Baseball dreams of what it could be with a salary cap. Teams with cap stress must find ways to stay competitive while mending the situation. The greatest asset in this regard is the draft. Finding greatness in the draft and locking players up to a rookie contract promises that a team stays competitive while building for the future as aged veterans continue to leave the team. To trade up, even for a guaranteed superstar, the Buccaneers would have to mortgage the potential draft talent in future years to compensate a trade partner. Buccaneer fans would never trade the 2002 Championship, but bringing in Jon Gruden from the Raiders for those 1st and 2nd round picks in 2002, the 1st rounder in 2003 and finally the 4th round pick in 2004 starved the team for talent for nearly half a decade. It seems safe to say that the Buccaneers aren’t in love with any one player this year to put together any kind of a trade package.
The Team Might Be Down To Move Down
Because of the very reason mentioned above, trading back or even out of the first round could net the team a lot more draft capital. The NFL draft is a hit and miss proposition. There are so many variables to a successful or disastrous draft. Can’t-miss players who miss badly. Underrated players who succeed wildly. Not to mention undrafted free agents who surpass 32 teams’ wildest dreams. DL John Randle, WR Drew Pearson, QB Kurt Warner, DB Dick “Night Trane” Lane, to name a few. The shiniest stones will not necessarily come closer to the surface. The team that grinds and finds talent throughout the entire draft will be the most successful on gameday.
Part of the excitement of a down season is having a seat at the big stakes poker table on draft night. The moment the card is handed in for the #1 pick, the rest of the hand starts to be dealt. Only then will Buccaneer fans start to get a glimpse of the real value the team holds with the wild card at #5.