What Happens If The Bucs Go Over The Cap?


*Updated to reflect NFL date requiring teams to be under the salary cap.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in one of the tightest cap spots in awhile, and currently are last in the league in cap space. Currently they have roughly $1.78 million in cap space, but need about $8.76 million more to sign their 2019 draft picks.

So what happens in a scenario where the Bucs decide not to move any high salaries players to make room, and go $8 million plus over the cap? In short, they simply can’t. As the league office keeps a very close eye on every player transaction. Per the NFL calendar, all teams must be under the cap by March 13th at 4:00PM EST. If they did try to make such a rogue move though, a world of hurt would be in store for Tampa Bay.

The most recent example of this was back in 2002 when the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers both tried to sneak around that year’s cap limit. They were penalized draft picks that following season, and 49ers front office personnel, Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark, were both fined as well. In some instances a team can be fined $5 million for each contract violation that puts them over the cap.

In the instance where a team goes over the salary cap when they release or trade a player, they have a week to restructure current salaries to get below that year’s cap. If a team is caught in this scenario, the are prohibited from signing any players until they are under said cap. As a result, teams do everything possible to avoid this scenario as well.

Without a doubt the league takes their annual team cap limit very seriously, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s an equalizer that gives some of the bottom-feeder teams of the league a chance to go from worst to first. Simply because it doesn’t let bigger market teams like New York, LA, or Chicago stockpile top shelf talent with fat contracts that smaller markets, like Tampa Bay, could never match.

Even though the Bucs have found themselves with ample wiggle room in years past, in 2019 the front office has some hard decisions to make. Make a big splash by moving a big contract, like Gerald McCoy’s, or release more players to create cap space. Which could create a bigger issue by cause the team to fill more holes at key positions.