While Mark Dominik talked about re-signing his own free agents, he neglected to mention how he plans to reach the cash spending floor of some $120 million. The Bucs have a cash commitment somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million less and have to spend a lot to reach the salary floor. They can do so by re-signing a couple of their own free agents, most notably Davin Joseph, but they will struggle to meet that floor without at least one big free agent signing. Let me explain why.
The Bucs have to spend, that's obvious. They could spend all that money on re-signing their own players, but unless they very heavily frontload those contracts they will not make it to the salary floor. Some have suggested that the Bucs could give established players extensions. This could work, and it would give them some extra time as they don't need to reach the cap floor until the end of the season.
But there's one problem: they're not allowed to renegotiate the rookie contracts of drafted players with fewer than three years in the league and undrafted players with fewer than two years in the league. The contracts they signed are final. There's one caveat: it's possible, though unlikely, that this rule does not apply to players drafted before 2011. So the Bucs can't renegotiate those contracts, but they can give others an extension, right? Sure, but here's the list of players who are eligible for renegotiations and deserving of an extension:
- No one
That's right, no one. There is not a single player on this team's roster who is eligible for renegotations who deserves a new contract. They either already have long-term deals (Donald Penn, Kellen Winslow), or aren't good enough to warrant a deal that will actually help the Bucs get to the salary floor.
At the same time, Dominik is very aware of the salary cap. He made it clear in his press conference yesterday that he wants to keep the Bucs' stars for the long term, but he does not want to go over the cap in the short or long term. This was a problem for the Bucs after the 2003 season, when they had to let a number of stars go for salary cap reasons. The Bucs don't want to say goodbye to their stars because they've overburdened their cap with free agent acquisitions, as they did then.
But the Bucs do have to get at least one starter in free agency. That's why they pursued Doug Free. They missed out on Free, but they will have to get someone out there.