Navigating the contract side of things in the NFL can be really tricky. There are all sorts of factors that are brought up when teams evaluate how much a player will cost in a given year.
One question I’ve pondered over the last few days is the idea of a different type of approach toward free agency for the Bucs in 2020. Usually, the team doesn’t like to do many deals where there could be a lot of dead money involved.
I mean, the Bucs are the last team in the NFL when it comes to dead money, according to spotrac.com. They currently have around $88,235 in wasted cap space. For the sake of context, the league average is $4,176,453 and the closest team to them - the Los Angeles Chargers - has $155,000 in dead cap, which is almost double the amount of the Bucs.
The Bucs averaged the 22nd-least amount of wasted cap space from 2015-2019 and that figure is weighed down by the fifth-highest mark in 2015. Since 2015, the Bucs are 26th, 25th, 27th, and 28th when it comes to cap figures, respectively.
So, you can see that they try to avoid deals that could come around and bite them in the you-know-where at the end of the day. That’s a smart, sound strategy to avoid cap issues on down the line. If you remember the 2019 offseason, the Bucs didn’t have much cap room, so they were pretty dormant in free agency. Even though the Bucs tried to avoid the exact scenario of “Salary Cap Hell”, a few bad deals essentially nuked the 2019 offseason.
With $84,989,175 in the bank, the Bucs currently own the third-most cap space in the NFL. That’s a good chunk of change, but when you look at the makeup of the current roster, you can see how a lot of that cheddar will disappear in a hurry.
Tampa Bay has 24 total pending free agents, which is tied for ninth-most in the league. There are 19 unrestricted free agents - meaning no limitations for either the player or any team - on the roster, which is tied for seventh-most in the NFL. The average number of total free agents on a NFL roster is 22.6 (23) and the average number of unrestricted free agents on a NFL roster is 15.6 (16).
As you can see, the Bucs have more decisions to make than two-thirds of the teams in the league when it comes to their roster.
And a lot of those names aren’t just backups or rotational players, either.
Names like Jameis Winston, Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Breshad Perriman, Carl Nassib, and others highlight the extensive list. Even though the Bucs were 7-9 in 2019, a lot of these guys made major contributions and showed that they can have success under Bruce Arians and co.
Arians has even expressed his desire to keep the defense together as much as possible. Obviously, the chances of that all depends on how much these guys will want and what their market dictates.
But if what if the Bucs helped themselves out in 2020 by taking a different approach to free agency in 2020? What if, instead of avoiding dead-money deals that involve prorating money over the life a contract, the Bucs decided to do the opposite in 2020?
Now I’m not saying do this for every single deal the Bucs get done during the offseason. That would set the team up for disaster in the later years and it would all be for naught if the team continues to be one of the bottom-feeders in the NFL. BUT, it may be a good idea to apply the strategy a bit more aggressively for the sake of 2020 and the near future.
The advantage is that it would allow the team to pay guys and pay them well, while taking the majority of the cap hit on down the road. Therefore, the Bucs would be able to retain certain guys like I mentioned earlier. Plus, it may allow them enough room to bring in another player from the outside.
And of course, the disadvantage is that it could - and likely - put the Bucs in a bad position roster management-wise in the future, like I mentioned earlier.
What do you think? Should the Bucs toss some more cash around in 2020? Or should they continue to go down the beaten path? Let us know in the comments below!!
Should the Bucs do more "dead money" deals in 2020?
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