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NFL Salary cap space 2013: Buccaneers third in the league, but 2014 outlook less rosy

J. Meric

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the third-most cap space in the NFL, per They have $26,888,270 in cap space this year, despite handing out one of the richest contract in free agency to safety Dashon Goldson. This is alittle misleading: the Bucs actually have the most cap space in the NFL in practice, given the fact that they really have no intention of paying Eric Wright his scheduled $7.75 million. They're trying to trade him, and if they can't find a trade partner they'll either force him to take a pay cut or release him. That could leave them with as much as $34 million in cap space, $6 million more than the next closest team.

Part of the reason for this ridiculous amount of cap space is the fact that the Bucs moved a big part of Vincent Jackson's and Carl NIcks's cap hits into last season and most notably the future. Combined, those two players account for just $6.5 million in cap hits this season, but average some $22 million per season over the next three years.

The buildup of this cap space is also interesting.

Team Current contracts Previous year carryover Adjustments Adjusted cap Team cap Cap room
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 50 $8,527,866 $3,193,856 $134,721,722 $107,833,452 $26,888,270

The adjustments are presumably for incentives that were deemed likely to be earned that weren't earned last season, and hence can be stricken off the cap. There's also a $1.6M adjustment the Bucs (and every other NFL team) received for the salary cap manipulation that got the Cowboys and Redskins in trouble last season. The Bucs do need to keep around $5.6 million reserved for rookie signings, per Over The Cap, but that's relative peanuts.

So, the Bucs have plenty of money to spend. On Darrelle Revis, because that's the only player they could realistically spend a lot of money on this season. But they can also carry over a bunch of this cap room to next season, which is something they really do need to do. Despite Josh Freeman coming off the books in 2014 (for now), the Bucs already have some $97 million in cap hits committed to 2014. That does include a $7.25 million cap hit for Eric Wright, but does not yet include a cap hit for Revis -- if he is indeed traded to the Bucs.

Assuming Wright is cut and Revis is traded for and given a $14 million per year deal, the Bucs would have some $103 million committed to the 2014 season. With an increased cap hit due to Revis' addition and the signing of rookies, the Bucs would carry over around $14 million. Those rookie contracts are likely to take up around $6.5 million next season, which would then leave the Bucs with a 2014 commitment of around $109.5 million. The salary cap was $123 million this season, and with some slow growth it is likely to come in at $125 million next season. Add the $14 million in carryover, and the Bucs would have a healthy $30.5 million in cap space next season.

But that's before they've added any 2014 rookies, with just 29 players under contract. We can start to see the makings of a potential salary cap squeeze, especially so if Josh Freeman is given a large contract extension, which will likely come in at around $18 million per season or more if they want to continue with the strong-armed cornerback after the coming season. Yes, that would mean just $12 million in cap space for an additional 24 players, and that's not even counting the practice squad players and 2014 rookies.

For the record: $12 million is barely enough to sign 24 players to rookie minimum salaries. So, that's going to be fun next season. Who's going to get the axe, or who will be asked to reduce his salary? Will it be Davin Joseph, or Donald Penn, or Michael Koenen? What about Jeremy Zuttah, or Gerald McCoy and his massive $15 million cap hit? Don't expect the Bucs to be active in free agency next season. Because this is the sort of thing that happens when you spend the big bucks several years in a row.