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Salary Cap Issues will Haunt the Buccaneers this Off-Season

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This will be the most challenging off-season yet for Jason Licht as he tries to manage the salary cap and improve the team at the same time.

The salary cap value increased from $177 million to  $188.2 million this season and, on the surface, that amount looks significant.

The Bucs have had a lot of room to maneuver the last couple of off-seasons and bring in free agents to try to help improve the team. That will not be the case this year as the Bucs are right up against the cap for 2019.

After the signing of Donovan Smith to his three-year, $41 million contract which will count towards $12.5 million against the cap, the Bucs are roughly $1.7 million under the cap. The team will need to commit $9.179 million to the draft class of 2019, which will put them over the cap by $7.46 million.

All of these salary cap numbers and projected cap amounts are via Spotrac.

If you are Jason Licht, what do you do?

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How do you improve the team?

I am going to offer Jason Licht some suggestions in helping him get this roster to be competitive in 2019 while managing the cap.

The team needs to part ways with wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who is due $10 million. Next, a couple members of the defensive line need to go, including Mitch Unrein and William Gohlston. These three moves would put the Bucs $16.4 million under the cap.

After the Smith signing, the Bucs now have three guys on the offensive line averaging over $10 million per year: Smith, Ali Marpet, and Ryan Jensen.

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This unit was one of the worst in the NFL.

To get the offense to the next level, the offensive line has to improve, and that will be a tall order for head coach Bruce Arians and offensive line coach Joe Gilbert the offensive.

The Buccaneers need to prioritize signing free agent linebacker Kwon Alexander before looking to sign anyone else. Alexander’s market value is in the $10 million range, as he is a key player for this defense.

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The defensive backfield is also a huge area of concern for the Bucs, as this unit was at the bottom of the NFL in 2018. Unfortunately, the marquee free agent defensive backs that are available are out of the Bucs’ price range.

Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Lamarcus Joyner and Earl Thomas will all command salaries in the $8 million to $10 million range (per year).

Tampa Bay will have to go defense early and often in the upcoming draft as they just don’t have the cap space to bring in a marquee free agent or two.

Gerald McCoy’s contract for 2019, at $13 million, will haunt the Bucs, as this will not allow them to make the moves that need to made to improve this defense. Of course, McCoy’s contract could still be re-negotiated for 2019 to create some breathing room under the cap.

In 2019, quarterback Jameis Winston will make $20.9 million. Mike Evans gets $20 million, while Jason Pierre-Paul will be subject to $14.7 million and Donavan Smith is due $12.5 million. The salaries’ of just those four players exceed $68 million, or 36 percent of the cap. That does not include McCoy’s contract or the $10 million contracts of Marpet and Jensen.

The Bucs are challenged by the salary cap. Jason Licht is going to have to make some painful decisions.

And he has to get it right.

There is no room for error.

The clock is ticking on the Licht regime in Tampa and if the right decisions are not made the next two weeks, Jason Licht will be looking for work in 2020.

 

 

 

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