As we hopefully inch towards a new CBA and the end of the lockout, there is significant talk of free agency and how it affects the Buccaneers. This is true of both the team's own free agents as well as those players available around the league. But before we go all wild about signing this guy or that guy or resigning our own, I think it's best to understand a couple things that may affect our team's decisions.
We all know the team has a ridiculous amount of room under the proposed new salary cap that they will need to spend, which leads many to think we'll have to sign several big name free agents or at the very least resign our own. But, something to consider here is that the team isn't simply looking at the current league year of spending. Rather, they're taking into consideration future years and how the team will be affected by salaries then as well. If we sign Barrett Ruud to a long term deal (probably the only way he'd resign with the Bucs), we have to consider that he will take a decent chunk of cap room in future years when we're looking to lock up some of the young guys like Freeman, GMC, Blount, Williams, etc. to contract extensions. We must make sure room is available in a few years to lock up those young guys that are deserving. Guys like Asomugha will not take a killer 1 year deal over a great 6 year deal.
This, of course, leads people to say, "Let's just extend all our young guys to bigger deals now". Guys like Blount and Williams, guys who are playing for 4th round or undrafted player money. They're worth it, look what they did. Not so fast. First off, let's remember they've only had success one year. The Bucs will likely want to see that continue before extending their contracts. But, beyond that, there may be an issue with extending the contracts of many of our young players. It seems there may be a restriction for NFL teams against restructuring or extending contracts of players without a certain number of years in the league. I've heard both 2 years and 3 years as minimum service in the league before a team can restructure or extend a contract. I'm inclined to believe that it's 2 years, as Chris Johnson of the Titans had his contract reworked last year after only 2 years in the league. Regardless, that would mean that guys like Blount and Williams will have to wait until next year before getting a deal redone anyway.
So, we can't rework contracts of the really young guys, and we don't want to sign long term deals with high dollar players. What's that leave? Well, it's hard to say, but I would believe that the team will still resign a good number of their own players. Probably the biggest deal will be Davin Joseph, as the team showed last year by signing Penn that protecting Freeman is a priority. Barrett Ruud (like him or not) will probably not be back. Quincy Black is much more likely, as he'll not be able to demand the dollars or the length of contract that Ruud would. Caddy is also a possibility to return, as his value is much less now that he's considered a "third down back" rather than an every down guy. The rest may or may not be retained based on whether depth is needed at the position or not.
As for the rest of the guys out there? Don't look for "First Tier" free agents. It's not because ownership is cheap, it's because they don't want the salary near the cap in two or three years when we need to be locking up our own young guys to long term deals. We won't see Asomugha here, but possibly Jonathon Joseph. So, forget all the top name guys, and start looking "Second level", and that's where you'll find the guys the team will look to pull from. Guys they can sign for 2 or 3 years and a decent contract, then cut loose if the young guys step up by then. Yeah, I know, we'll still have to put up with all the "Glazers are cheap" talk for another year or so, but it's a model that works in the NFL. Don't pay top dollar and long term deals for free agents unless you want to be in cap hell when it comes time to resign your own.
So, considering all this, who do you think the Bucs will resign of their own? Do you still think they'll bring in a "First Tier" free agent? What "Second Level" free agents could you see them getting for a year or two (remember though, if a guy is leaving his current team, it's usually for a long term, large contract)?