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Bucs face tough decisions on upcoming contracts

Who will stay and who will go?

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

There is no question that Tampa Bay has had a very good offseason up to this point. The excitement for the 2018 season is starting to build as September 9th approaches. Not only did Tampa Bay have a very good draft, but they also were active during the free agency period and were able to re-sign some of their key players for the future.

Although they did re-sign guys like Mike Evans and Cameron Brate, who are key pieces to the young core, they still have to re-sign Kwon Alexander, Jameis Winston, Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith. With the current cap situation, the Buccaneers will have to make some tough decisions after this upcoming season.

According to, as it stands right now, Tampa only has an estimated $10.1-million to spend next offseason. Of course, the league salary cap will increase likely by approximately $10-million, so that would put the Buccaneers at around $20.1-million. You obviously can’t sign four key players for all under $20 million, so below we will look at all the possibilities the team has to create more cap space.

1. I think one of the most obvious moves will be to cut DeSean Jackson. Jackson is due $10 million dollars next season, but the Buccaneers can cut him with no dead money. I think that the emergence of Chris Godwin will make this move a lot easier for the team, especially if Godwin takes full control of his opportunity to start opposite of Mike Evans. If Jackson does however have an unbelievable season, it will be a tough decision. In the end, I expect Licht to move on and secure one of Marpet, Smith, or Alexander with Jackson’s freed up money.

2. The second move I expect Tampa to make, will be to part ways with William Gholston. Gholston was a huge disappointment last year after he signed a 5 year $37-million dollar extension last off season. He failed to record a single sack and only had 21 tackles. He is due $3.75-million in 2019, but once again, Tampa Bay can move on with no dead money. Unless Brentson Buckner completely turns around Gholston, this is a no brainer.

3. The third move that should come once the 2018 league year ends is cutting Demar Dotson and J.R. Sweezy. Dotson is turning 33 years old this season and is starting to become more fragile as his career progresses, which is understandable. Dotson has been with Tampa since 2009, but has only played in 30 games the last three seasons. Tampa Bay will save $4.725-million by moving on from Dotson. The team would also save $3.875 million by cutting Sweezy. Ever since arriving, Sweezy has been a disappointment. He missed his first season with a back injury and his play on the field in his second year was less than impressive. The team seems to be grooming both of their replacements, as they have Caleb Benenoch and Alex Cappa waiting in the wings. If those four players mentioned above are in fact cut, the team would save $22.35-million, which would put them at an estimated $43-million in cap space. Still, that isn’t enough to sign everyone.

4. This is where things start to get interesting and the decisions will become extremely tough if Tampa wants to keep all four players. The Buccaneers still have plenty of players that they can cut without accumulating any dead money. Jason Licht is going to have to decide what to do with Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul is due $14.5-million, while McCoy is due $13-million. I think before either player would get cut, Licht would approach both about a possible pay cut, or a restructure of their contract. At this stage of their careers, I don’t think either player is worth what their contract says next year. There is also simply no way that Tampa can afford the extensions if both of these contracts stay the same. For the purpose of this article, I would cut McCoy and save $13-million dollars. McCoy has shown some signs of slowing down and he has taken so much punishment over the years. This isn’t a jab at the veteran defensive tackle, but the team did just draft his replacement in Vita Vea and unless Noah Spence has a breakout year, moving on from Pierre-Paul would mean they don’t have any pass rushers besides 29-year-old Vinny Curry. After this move, Tampa would have approximately $55.45-million in cap space.

You can certainly afford Marpet, Smith, Alexander and the 2019 draft picks with that $55.45-million, so that is where I would start. However, you still can’t fit Winston in. Winston is already due $20.9-million in 2019 because the team picked up his fifth-year option, so they don’t necessarily need to do his extension next offseason.

If Licht and Co. wanted to address Winston’s contract, you could see Mitch Unrein cut ($3.75 million in savings), Vinny Curry ($8 Million), Cameron Brate ($7 Million), or Lavonte David ($9.75 Million).

It will certainly be interesting to see what direction the team wants to go, but if I was playing general manager, those first four moves are where I would start. Those four moves would help secure Marpet, Smith and Alexander. I would then move on from Unrein and Curry and save another $11.75-million. All together, my moves would save the team about $47-million. Add the $20-million that is already there and you have $67.2-million.

Is that enough to re-sign all four guys and draft picks? We shall see. It’ll be close.