How can the Bucs spend their remaining cap space?

According to ESPN, the Bucs still have nearly $15 million in cap space - and cap space that isn't spent this year will be useless in any future years. Spending that cap space would make sense for the Bucs, but with no expensive free agents left, who could the Bucs spend their money on? They have two options here: extensions and trades. 

Extensions

The Bucs would prefer to hand out money on extensions. They've made it a priority these past years to retain their own players, and have rewarded Donald Penn, Davin Joseph and Quincy Black with big contracts. Any such extension has to happen before the team's last regular season game of 2011 to count toward this year's salary cap.

Unfortunately, extending current player contracts could be problematic under the new CBA. Article 7, Section 3(k)(i) provides that Rookie Contracts of drafted players cannot be renegotiated, amended or altered in any way until after the final regular season game of a player's third regular season. For undrafted players this limit would be two years. Now, it's not entirely clear whether that's applicable to players drafted before 2011, although there is no language in the CBA to suggest otherwise. Given the fact all other rules seem to be applicable to existing player contracts, I have no real reason to think this would be different for pre-2011 draftees. And this represents a problem for the Bucs. 

Ira Kaufman suggested a great use of cap space on Twitter today: extend Josh Freeman's contract. He even claimed the Bucs want to do that as quickly as possible - but under the new CBA, it appears that they won't be allowed to do so, as Josh Freeman is just entering his third year in the league. Similarly, if they want to reward Mike Williams or Legarrette Blount, they won't be able to do so this years. In fact, most players the Bucs may want to extend are not eligible for an extension. 

There are a couple of exceptions, though: Geno Hayes, Jeremy Zuttah and Sean Jones. Geno Hayes has been a splashy linebacker these past two years, but also an inconsistent player. If he can put together a couple of solid games don't be surprised if the fourth-year player, who is in the final year of his contract, receives a mid-season contract extension. 

Sean Jones is in the final year of his contract and while he isn't a particularly rangy safety, he has been useful for the Bucs and they may want to keep him on the team for a longer time. Jeremy Zuttah isn't too dissimilar, although he is significantly younger. The fourth-year player is also entering his contract year, and proved to be a capable starting center last season. He has also filled in at both guard spots over the years, and while he didn't look like a great starter, he would be very valuable as a versatile backup who could play at multiple positions. 

Trades

In the past two years, the Bucs have traded for several players. The biggest trade came in 2009, when the Bucs gave the Cleveland Browns a second-round draft pick and a fifth-round draft pick for TE Kellen Winslow Jr. Let's just say that that trade worked out pretty well.

The year after that the Bucs also gave up a sixth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for WR Reggie Brown. Brown didn't make it to the regular season roster, so that trade was a lot less successful. The Bucs also gave up a fifth-round pick for a sixth-round pick and Chiefs DE Alex Magee during the 2010 season. While Magee showed some flashes late last year, he is now listed fourth on the depth chart at left defensive end and will have to really show up in preseason to hang on to a roster spot. Given the investment, neither result is entirely surprising. The Bucs used late-round picks on players who had some potential to grow, and it didn't happen. 

Don't expect the Bucs to give up a lot in trade for a player. But don't be surprised if they give up another late-round pick for a role-player with some potential like Magee or Brown, although I would be very surprised if they gave up anything more than a fifth-rounder for a player. 

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