With the initial wave of free agency having concluded over the past few days, the dust has settled for many teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to figure out how they can proceed and with what money over the next few weeks of the offseason. In the Bucs case, they are currently 32nd (or dead last) in the entire league with cap space remaining.
So, the question now becomes: how do they free up some money to perhaps sign another free agent or get ready to sign their draft class while being creative under the cap?
First, and obviously, the Buccaneers can choose to release another player who doesn’t have guaranteed money coming to them or salary cap repercussions.
They did that with defensive lineman Vinny Curry in February ridding themselves of his $9 million salary. They further freed up money just as free agency began by trading disgruntled veteran receiver DeSean Jackson and his $10 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles for a swap of draft picks.
Still, here are the Bucs realities:
One, quarterback Jameis Winston has the fifth year option of his rookie contract kicking in and is now making $20.9 million in a massive increase over his $3.7 million contract a year ago. The Bucs are only committed to Winston for this season to see how he performs under new coach Bruce Arians, and whether they’re going to give him a much more lucrative long-term contract after this year?
Tampa Bay’s next highest paid player is receiver Mike Evans, who is scheduled to make $20 million in the second year of his new massive deal he signed last off season. It’s unlikely the team would already rework that, as they will still have to pay him at least that much or more in 2019. And, they don’t have it under the cap, right now.
Next, the Buccaneers have several players that are scheduled to make significant money in 2019 that is not guaranteed.
While on the surface it looks like that another player or two could be released, it’s more likely Tampa Bay will try to rework their deal with either a new contract or a creative way to lower their cap number for a couple of players for this season.
Two such players are veteran defensive linemen.
One is Jason Pierre-Paul, who is slated to make $14.9 million, but is coming off a great first year in Tampa Bay where had 11.5 sacks and became a locker room leader. JPP may be willing to rework his deal for more guaranteed money this season, etc.
The Buccaneers could try to do the same thing with six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who is scheduled to make $13 million. Many have speculated that the Bucs would either outright release McCoy or force him to take a massive pay cut and let it be his decision. Neither have happened, yet.
Previously, Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer for the Tampa Bay Times, reported that the Buccaneers would be doing neither of those things and McCoy would make his full salary this year. We now we’re going to find out whether that reporting is accurate, as it relates to the 10-year veteran and former number 1 pick’s salary.
Another reality, the Bucs have the most expensive offensive line in the NFL. Having re-upped left tackle Donovan Smith last week with a new contract that will now pay him over $13 million this season, the Buccaneers now have 3 offensive lineman including guard Ali Marpet and Center Ryan Jensen who are making over $10 million dollars of season. Marpet just got his large extension late in last season and Jensen signed a four-year $42 million contract last March. His $10 million for this year is fully guaranteed, but the Bucs could opt out of Jensen’s contract after this season, at no cap penalty.
So therefore, there could be some negotiating room to give Jensen a different deal starting this year that lowers his cap number.
One more issue is the Buccaneers are very thin at linebacker after losing Kwon Alexander to the 49ers in free agency and also Adarius Taylor, who started much of last season departed for the Browns in free agency.
That leaves arguably the best linebacker in the NFL who gets almost no recognition league-wide or by the national media, Lavonte David. David (above) previously signed a five-year $50 million dollar contract extension in the 2015 season. David’s 2019 deal is completely guaranteed at $9.75 million.
However, much like the veterans mentioned above, at 29 years old, David would be a prime candidate for a lengthy extension and may be willing to rework his contract depending on more guaranteed money for this year and the next couple of years.
These are the issues facing GM Jason Licht, who has successfully navigated the Bucs cap to this point.
Still, the cap reality is the cap reality.
And the Bucs, have to find some more room, and quickly.
Bucs coach Arians again non-committal Tuesday on QB Winston
It’s become increasingly apparent, that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready to move on from potential free agent quarterback Jameis Winston. And Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, coach Bruce Arians gave the latest example that he and the Buccaneers front office will look at the other options available first.
Arians spoke at a podium on numerous subjects, but the most prominent is what Tampa Bay will do in the coming days with Winston?
— Charlie Clifford (@cliffWISH8) February 25, 2020
Arians was asked directly about potential for a franchise tag for his starter a year ago and what the Bucs might proceed to do? But, he refused to endorse that option on the former number one overall pick Winston. And, the Bucs coach maintained that the team will possibly us the franchise tag for defensive end Shaq Barrett.
Further, Arians gave a pointed specific answer on Winston’s poor play last December as the team finished 7-9 and that has the team looking at other options,
Arians on Winston and why it’s still uncertain: “December wasn’t what I wanted to see.”
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) February 25, 2020
Arians has consistently refused back Winston since the off-season began. This included at an NFL coaching seminar earlier this month in Tampa. He said to the media at that time:
“Really nothing has changed,” Arians said. “What’s Door No. 2? You know? Can we make the one we have better? All those things you go through right now.”
“You’re just sitting there waiting to see is there someone available? … Is he a better option?
The Buccaneers faltered in the middle of the season to drop to 3-7 and then, Winston and Co. blew its final two games to finish 7 – 9 with Winston throwing a career-high 30 interceptions.
After their final loss at home to Atlanta in overtime, where Winston threw the game losing “pick six,” Arians was candid after the final game by saying about Winston’s play that it would have to be evaluated pass by pass and game by game in the off-season. Further, he told the media then, that there “was some great and some terrible…. and you have to decide, if the great outweighs the terrible.”
While Winston did throw for a career-high 5000 + yards in 2019, his interceptions and total turnovers continued to be his downfall throughout the season. The Buccaneers finished 1 – 6 in games against teams with winning records and Winston had 17 total turnovers in those seven games. He finished with the 30 picks that included 10 of them in the Bucs final four games.
Tampa Bay obviously will have the opportunity to go after a free agent quarterback or two, as there is much speculation about the likes of Tom Brady with the Patriots. Plus, Philip Rivers will not be re-signed by the Chargers and is available come March. And, now that Drew Brees has announced he wants to play at least one more year for the Saints, their backup Teddy Bridgewater will be in demand on the market.
The Bucs are also continuing the evaluating the QB class for the Draft the next few days in Indy, which could have some interesting names still available in the second and third rounds and beyond.
Bucs confirmed Monday they will have new uniforms in 2020
On Monday, the Bucs confirmed what they have been hinting at, they will have new uniforms in 2020. But the real question is: what does “new” mean in this instance?
We heard you!
New uniforms coming April 2020. pic.twitter.com/e7qNUsNWZb
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) February 24, 2020
The Bucs also released a statement through their website confirming that April will be the unveiling of the new uniforms, as well as, potential new color scheme, logo, etc. and had these comments from co – owner, Ed Glazer:
“We have heard the feedback from our fans loud and clear and have been working with the NFL and our league partners at Nike to usher in a new look as we enter this next decade of Buccaneers football. We look forward to revealing more details in the near future about our official unveiling event which will take place later this spring.”
As we wrote earlier this month, the Buccaneers have been hinting at trying to enhance their uniforms and there is some belief there will be more orange, the original color of the franchise. There is also educated speculation that the team may go back to a white helmet, which will enable them to have “throwback uniform games” that they’ve not been able to have for the last seven seasons.
This is because under league concussion protocol, players must have the same helmet all season and the Bucs primary one has been pewter in color since their chance in colors and logo in 1997,
The Bucs last altered their uniforms in 2014 by brightening the color red and slightly changing the logo and making it bigger on their pewter helmet. Teammates Ryan Jensen and Mike Evans are shown in the current color scheme, etc. above.
NFL teams have to submit changes in their colors and logos a year in advance. So obviously, this has been in the works for the Glazer family that owns the team for some time.
It should be noted that the Buccaneers NFC South Rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, have already made mention that they are changing their uniforms and color scheme. And, it’s believed that they will go back in 2020 to their original base color of red including possibly red helmets and potentially, primarily gray pants that they wore for over twenty years.
The Falcons have had black helmets for the better part of 30 years going back to Jerry Glanville changing the color scheme to primarily black jerseys in his days at the Falcons coach in the early 1990s.
Back to the Bucs. There is no other team in the NFL that has orange as their primary jersey color. The Bengals Broncos and Browns have occasionally worn orange “alternate jerseys” but not full time.
So, if the Glazers are again embracing a change to mostly orange jerseys, it will be unique. The video Monday showed a red jersey on a sewing machine, which could be a clue or could be misdirection of what the team actually intends to unveil in April.