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The Buccaneers’ salary cap strategy garners praise

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NFL: Super Bowl LI-NFL Honors Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have spent the past half-decade applying a very successful strategy to their contracts and salary cap management: minimal signing bonuses, a mostly flat salary structure, and keeping annual salary cap hits very close to a player’s actual annual compensation.

Andrew Brandt, a former vice president of the Green Bay Packers and current analyst for The MMQB, likes this approach. A lot.

The free-agent contracts for DeSean Jackson and Chris Baker match cap and cash evenly—Jackson has $12.5 million this year in both categories, Baker has $6 million— and no (zero) proration. If they are “one and done,” before nonguaranteed salaries in 2018 and 2019, they will leave behind a no (zero) cap charge (by comparison, Tony Romo will leave behind $19 million on the Cowboys’ cap). Bravo to the Bucs; “pay as you go” keeps teams ahead of the curve in NFL cap management.

Perhaps particularly impressive has been the Bucs’ ability to be competitive in free agency, while maintaining a contract and salary structure that gives players relatively little up-front money, and less long-term security than they generally would get.

While this approach does limit the team’s ability to sign top free agents, the Bucs haven’t been willing to target those players under Jason Licht anyway. The Bucs’ main problem will be re-signing their own prime free agents. Can they get players like Mike Evans and Jameis Winston to agree to contract structures that aren’t overly favorable for players? Or will they be forced to bend their strict approach to salary cap management?

Regardless of what they do, though, the Bucs aren’t about to get into unexpected salary cap issues. And even when they do need more cap space, it’ll be easy to get that space by cutting a few players — their approach allows them to simply cut players with no real dead money. So if Evans and Winston do demand large signing bonuses, the Bucs are equipped to hand them out.