Fixing The Buccaneers’ Cap Situation

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Per Spotrac the Tampa Bay Buccaneers look to be over the potential 2023 cap of $227.7 million dollars by a whopping $55.397 million for the top 51 contracts (assuming spotrac is correct). So for now it looks like the Buccaneers are in trouble. But there are creative ways to move some money and create enough space to retain key players. Much of it tough revolves around Brady. So here is how the Buccaneers can clear the cap issue.

Tom Brady

At this moment Tom Brady is a free agent. Unfortunately though the Buccaneers are still on the hook for all the money owed to him in his voidable years. The way the voidable years pays out is fairly simple. All the money for each year is added up and is due the first year that is voided. So, unless he signs a new contract with the Buccaneers they owe Brady a whopping $35.104 million dollars.

Now the Buccaneers can re-sign Brady if he decides to come back and it will erase the voided years. Though the offer would probably be similar to the one he received initially. Meaning more voidable years tacked on and serious cap implications later. If he returns one would hope he would go for another two year $30 million dollar contract. It would be broken down to two years one of them being a void year. Or they could use the max four void years and spread it out even further reducing the cap by even more. For simplicity we’ll say two years with $15 million on this year and $15 million on a void year in 2024. That would save the Buccaneers $20.104 million.

Running Savings: $20.104 Million

Cap: $35.293 million over

Vita Vea

Vita Vea signed a four year contract extension worth $71 million. Broken down it equates 10 $12.5 million in base salary next season and increases over the following three years. There is also a signing bonus, roster bonus and some restructuring that occurred previously that brings Vea’s 2023 cap hit to $15.651 million.

The Buccaneers can simply convert his base salary to the vet minimum and move the rest to a signing bonus. This would be something along the lines of a $1.080 million dollar base salary and an additional $2.855 million in bonus money each year remaining on his contract. His cap hit in 2023 would then be $7.085 million. Saving the Buccaneers around $8.566 million.

Running Savings: $28.67 Million

Cap: $26.727 million over.

Mike Evans

In 2023 Mike Evans will be playing on the last year of his current contract. He carries a huge $23.699 million dollar cap number and still has three void years. $13 million of that is base salary. That currently sits as the third highest hit to the cap and accounts for 10.41% of what is anticipated for 2023.

Signing him to a new contract this offseason could be used to spread some money out. Given his continuous production and leadership on this team the Buccaneers should have no issues with giving him another four to five year contract. Also given his age it doesn’t have to be one bigger than the one he last signed. Add in the fact that Evans has been extremely loyal to this franchise he may even provide a home town discount. After all he’s taken some many adjustments to his current contract to help the team he may be willing to do it again.

So the Buccaneers could offer a four year $20-23 million dollar extension to the end of this contract. Going with the high number it would add four more years for a total of five active. Then we would use the same model we used with Vea. He’d receive $1.165 million in base salary and the rest would be spread out over five years. So an additional $2.367 million a year.

This brings his cap hit from $21.396 million to $14.23 million. A savings of $7.166 million.

Running Savings: $35.836 Million

Cap: $19.561 million over.

Shaq Barrett

Shaq Barrett’s current contract has him hitting a large $21.650 million against the cap in 2023. That a 9.51% of the projected cap next season. Coming off an injury it will be hard for the Buccaneers to determine if it’s worth extending his current contract and eliminating his voidable years. They could offer him something but it’s a risk.

So of Barrett’s $21.650 million dollar cap hit, $14.25 million of it is base salary. He’s been playing as long as Evans so per the CBA his veteran minimum is $1.165 million. Converting the rest of the base salary to a bonus and spreading it over the next two active seasons and two void years means a bonus of $3.2 million.

His cap hit is then brought down to $11.83 million. A savings of $9.814 million.

Running Savings: $45.65 Million

Cap: $9.747 million over

Chris Godwin

Chris Godwin comes into 2023 with a hefty cap hit as well. He’s due $23.750 million and has 2023 and 2024 left on his active contract with two voidable years following. This can be approached two ways. First, and preferably, using our Mike Evans example. Extending his contract with full fledged years not voidable ones. But, for Godwin I don’t think this is as enticing as it may be to Evans. He’s younger and could find himself a stronger suiter at the end of this contract. So for now we’ll use the same method of spreading out money we did with Barrett.

By taking his $20 million dollar base salary and converting it to a bonus you leave $1.08 million in base and the rest is spread out as a bonus over the four years (including the voidable ones). That gives him a bonus of $4.73 million.

Dropping his cap hit from $32.75 to $9.56. A savings of $14.19 million.

* The dead money associated with Chris Godwin’s void years don’t scare me as much as I would expect the Buccaneers to throw a large offer at him and retain him before they ever hit the cap.

Running Savings: $59.84 Million

Cap: $4.443 million under

Ryan Jensen, Shaq Mason

Ryan Jensen has 2023 and 2024 as active years on his contract with a base salary of $12.5 million and $2.5 million dollar bonus sin 2023. That’s a $15 million dollar cap hit. Additionally he has two void years on his contract too. Unlike Jensen, Shaq Mason only has 2023 as his final active year on his current contract and three additional void years. Both offensive linemen are aging and I would expect them to be in the realm of one year contracts after this. If they continue to perform I’d expect the Buccaneers to be in the market to retain them, if not for the shear sake of eliminating the void year money issue that waits.

Again, converting base salary to bonus with the required veteran minimum model, Mason’s cap hit could drop around $4.75 million and Jensen’s $8.5 million. That’s a savings of $13.25 million.

Running Savings: $73.09 Million

Cap: $17.693 million under

Carlton Davis

As of right now Carlton Davis has two years left on contract with $14 million due in base salary and some more in signing and roster bonuses each year. His total cap hit in 2023 will be $18.215 million. A hefty sum. Moving his base salary to a bonus in the other examples will provide the Buccaneers some relief but maybe this team will want to get ahead of the problem and lock him in for another three years on a diminishing contract. Something to the tune of $13 million in 2025, $12 in 2026, and $11 in 2027. The front office would have to explain to him aging corners and provide incentive based bonuses to make it enticing. But for now moving his base salary to a bonus could save the Buccaneers another $6.71 million.

Running Savings: $79.8 Million

Cap: $24.403 million under

Donovan Smith

Donovan Smith’s play this year fell off quit a bit. At times he even seemed to be lost. So it begs the question, do the Buccaneers even want him back? There are two options here. One I am for, the other I am against.

First idea is to trade Smith: His value has gone done after this season but he is still a serviceable tackle. But even if the Buccaneers accept a fourth or fifth round pick for him it removes the current $17.9 million he’s owed this year and the $5.3 million in dead money owed next year on his void year.

The issue with this though is it creates a pressing need at left tackle. The team could bring in talent via free agency but there isn’t that much there. Orlando Brown Jr will be expensive. Kelvin Beachum is a viable option with good pass blocking and would be far cheaper than even Smith. Plus I doubt he’ll want to be in Arizona going through a rebuild if the Buccaneers are taking one more shot at a title with Brady. Then the team will have two drafts to get a left tackle. Other players include Eric Fisher, who would be cheap but is coming off an injury, and Jason Peters.

The second option is to just cut him. This would save the team $9.95 million. But if you can get even a seventh round pick for him why would you cut him. Plenty of teams need a left tackle.

I honestly don’t think the Buccaneers will do either. He may just play as is this season. The problem is the 2021 season that earned him his new contract is seeming more and more like an outlier in his career. So we will take a wait and see on this one. But for the sake of this money saving experiment we will say the Buccaneers cut him saving another $9.95 million.

Running Savings: $89.75 Million

Cap: $34.353 million under

Cap Casualties

Speaking of cuts there are a few players that could go and save this team money. We already know Todd Bowles wants to be able to kick farther on field goals and cutting Ryan Succop would save $3.75 million.

The team could also move on from Leonard Fournette and save another $3.47 million. Though I would not do this and want to see him in a new scheme. Also, the team doesn’t need to elevate yet another position on its offseason priority list if it has capable players on it already. Drafting a running back later in the draft would still be on my priority list though.

Lastly cutting Cameron Brate would save $2.03 million. Again, like Fournette I’m not to keen on doing this and I doubt the front office is either.

So for the sake of the problem the team saves another  $3.75 million cutting Succop.

Running Savings: $93.5 Million

Cap: $38.103 million under

Final Thought

Much of this hinges on Tom Brady. If he doesn’t return then the Buccaneers are left holding a huge bag. So assuming he doesn’t and the rest of the money movements takes place then the Buccaneers would still be very close to the cap with a draft class and free agents to sign. That’s not good.

But I still maintain that there are only two places Brady is going to play, New England or Tampa, and I fully believe he’ll be back in Tampa next season. So ignore all those false hope reports. Brady finally dons the creamsicle uniform and plays one last one in Tampa.

The biggest issue is yet to come though. All that moving the money to the future will eventually hurt and hinder the Buccaneers from being big players in free agency upon Brady’s departure. I’ve never been a fan of voidable years when it comes to players I wouldn’t sign again or whom I feel will not return. It adds far to much dead money and often it’s all due in a year when the team needs to be players in the offseason. I’m still a huge fan of front loading contracts and reducing future cap impacts. If the Buccaneers can get back to that it would alleviate any issues like the ones we are seeing now.

The Aftermath with AJ & Slick

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