The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are many things, but it’s hard to accuse them of being cheap. At least when it comes to the way they spend on players. Of course, they could still be cheap in other areas — but there are few reasons to believe that’s the case.
Last season, they spent all but $6 million of their cap space. The year before, they spent all but $7.5 million. That’s how much cap space the team carried over into the next year. They could have saved a lot of money by, say, cutting Alterraun Verner and Evan Smith — backups who played very little throughout the year, but had multi-million dollar salaries. Instead they kept them on the roster, preferring to keep some expensive quality over inexpensive but inferior backups.
That’s notable in part because the Bucs had very little dead money on their roster. The team, in other words, spent their money during the season, on players actually on the roster. In fact, according to Over The Cap, just five teams had a higher active cap spend than the Bucs did in 2016.
All of that fits what Lovie Smith promised when he came into the job in 2014: to spend the cap space that they had, and not save it for later seasons — or save it for never. That’s continued under Dirk Koetter, with general manager Jason Licht still holding the reigns in the front office.
We can expect a similar pattern this year. The Bucs have over $65 million in cap space and could easily create more space, and they’ll want to spend that money on their own players, and in free agency. Mike Evans is likely to receive a very expensive contract extension, and the team could re-sign a few players who are set to leave.
But to spend all of that money, and the past few years suggest they absolutely will do so, the Bucs will need to go out and sign a few new players in free agency. It’ll be interesting to see who they target, but a wide receiver, a defensive tackle, a safety or a center would make a lot of sense.