Free agency has officially started. Lo and behold, the Buccaneers are still in need of cap relief.
That is, they are in need of relief if they want Ndamukong Suh, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette to come back. Don’t forget about depth guys like Blaine Gabbert, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, and Ross Cockrell, either.
Based off what I’ve seen so far, I’m confident the Bucs will find ways to get these deals done. The big difference between now and last week, however, is the Buccaneers have to worry about competition from other teams.
Worry aside, let’s take a look at what the Buccaneers can do to create more cap room.
WR Jaydon Mickens
On the surface Mickens $920,000 salary doesn’t appear to be much savings. Couple that with his recent arrest and it might be time to wish the return man standout goodbye. The Bucs now have more than 51 guys on their roster, so Mickens’ contract will be replaced by a lesser contract once cut. It’ll likely be a contract in the $660k range that replaces Mickens. So really, the Bucs will only save around $260k against the cap.
DE William Gholston
At $5.5 million, Gholston might be a luxury the Buccaneers can’t afford this season if they want to bring as much of the roster back as they can. It’s possible the team could straight out cut Gholston, but with no real replacement for him on the roster its most likely they approach him on a pay cut. Also, it is unrealistic for Gholston to expect to be paid as much on the open market, so he and the team come to an agreement here on $3.5 million salary with the opportunity to gain $2 million back in incentives. The deal takes $2 million off the books.
TE O.J. Howard
Howard is the ultimate enigma on this team. Drafted in the first round in 2017, 19 overall, Howard has shown flashes of brilliance, but injuries have limited his ability to make a true impact. Yet to play a full 16 game season, the Buccaneers still decided to pick up the 26-year old’s fifth-year option last summer. If Howard is healthy it is easy to see the team offering the tight end a long-term deal after the season. A team player, knowing he has something to prove and like Gholston, Howard takes the money he is not likely to get on the open market, in the form a restructure. Howard agrees to reduce his salary from $6.013 million to $3.013 million for the season with the ability to earn the other $3 million in incentives. Saving the Buccaneers $3 million against the cap this season in the process.
P Bradley Pinion
Pinion signed a four-year $11 million deal with Buccaneers in 2019 and that deal has not aged well. Set to make a whopping $2.8 million, Pinion is set to make more than Carlton Davis III, Alex Cappa, Jamel Dean, Jordan Whitehead among others. Pinoin improved his net average this year (29th in 2019 to 17th in 2020) but it still seems counterintuitive to pay top-10 money for average performance. And in his defense, Pinoin does hold major value on kickoffs. Regardless, his new salary for 2021 will come to $1.6 million, a $1.2 million cap savings for the team.
G Ali Marpet
No stranger to restructuring his deal for the betterment of the team, Marpet does it again to help the Buccaneers gain much needed valuable cap space. With a cap hit of $12,025,000 and a salary of $10,250,000 this season, Marpet restructures to a $6 million base with the remaining $4.25 million converted to a signing bonus to be prorated over the three years of his deal at $1.42 million each season. In doing so Marpet opens up around $2.83 million in cap relief for 2021.
WR Mike Evans
Like Marpet this is a road Evans has been down before. Evans currently counts $16,637,500 against the cap while he’s set to make a salary of $12,250,000. Evans follows in the footsteps of Marpet and converts $4.25 million into a signing bonus to be prorated over the the three years of his deal at $1.42 million each season. In doing so, Evans also opens up $2.83 million in salary cap relief for 2021.
C Ryan Jensen
The Buccaneers re-up Jensen to match the potential life of Brady’s deal. Jensen who has no guaranteed money left on his deal, adds on two additional years for a total of $22 million with $16 million guaranteed and one void year. This allows the Buccaneers to restructure his salary and cap hit for 2021. Jensen turns $7 million of his $10 million 2021 salary into a signing bonus prorated at $2,333,333 per year million over the life of his deal. This lowers him to a $5.3 million cap hit, while saving $4.7 million in 2021 in the process.
T Donovan Smith
Much like Jensen, Smith too goes into the final year of his contract with no guaranteed monies left. A chance to gain short term financial security and still be able to enter free agency again at the age 30, Smith extends and restructures his deal to match that of Brady’s. Smith signs a two-year extension for $32 million with $20 million of it guaranteed, while adding two void years as well. With the extension comes a restructure of his $14,250,000 salary. He can convert $8 million into a bonus spread out over the five years. This brings his cap hit to $7.85 million and it opens up $6.4 million in cap flexibility, as well.
Cam Brate: $6,500,000 cap hit
The Buccaneers can’t justify paying $6.5 million to a third string tight end with so many other free agents they need to bring back. While Brate did take a pay cut last year and see his usage increase towards the end of the season and in the playoffs, the odds are stacked against him. At 30-years-old when the season starts and with cap hits at $6.8 million in 2022 and $7.5 million in 2023 its likely the Buccaneers will move on. Couple that with his eight-percent usage rate before O.J. Howard’s season ending injury and the writing is on the wall. Fortunately for the team they are able to find a trade partner rather than cutting him out right.
Again these are just hypotheticals, but with the work Jason Licht, Mike Greenberg, and Jacqueline Davidson have done so far, I have trust they will be able to make the moves to continue building a roster set to “go for two.” These moves would save the Bucs nearly $27.8 million dollars. The best part about that is they don’t need that much money to bring the remaining players back, therefore, all of these moving parts don’t need to happen.
What would YOU like to see the Bucs do over the next few days and for the remainder of free agency? Let us know in the comment section below!
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