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A decision on Cameron Brate will come sooner rather than later

Hopefully the Bucs’ tight end will return to the team in 2020.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cameron Brate is one of the more popular players in Tampa Bay.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After analyzing the Bucs’ roster over the last couple of months, everyone has their idea of what the they should do in regard to free agency.

And rightfully so. Hey, it’s America, after all.

One of said ideas is the discussion of what to do with Cameron Brate, the Bucs’ soon-to-be seventh-year tight end.

That’s right. Seven years. Time flies, right?

Sorry. Got distracted.

Brate’s due to make $6 million this year after signing a six-year/$41 million contract back in 2018. The contract came after two very strong 2016 and 2017 campaigns, but a myriad of obstacles have cropped up since signing the deal. The arrival of O.J. Howard, injuries, and a Bruce Arians offense that doesn’t consistently involve tight ends in the passing game have limited his production over the last two years.

He finished with a career-worst 8.6 yards per reception and played 38% of offensive snaps in 2019, which isn’t ideal for a tight end making that much money.

Or is it?

The $6 million salary makes Brate the 16th-highest paid tight end in the NFL. That may still seem like a lot on the surface, but when you look at the production of those around him, it’s not as bad.

Brate out-produced five of the 15 names in front of him in 2019. Tyler Kroft, Nick Boyle, Rhett Ellison, Vance McDonald, and Trey Burton are all set to make more than Brate in 2020 even though their stats didn’t match up. Evan Engram was the only one of the next ten tight ends after Brate - in terms of salary - who was better in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

Whether it’s the market, a bad contract, a year of bad luck, regression - whatever - the Bucs still have plenty of time to figure out what they want to do. NFL teams can carry 90 players on a roster until final cuts in August, so they can wait a while before having to make a decision, right?

You better check your sheet if you think so.

Per, $4 million of Brate’s salary is guaranteed on March 22.

That’s two Sundays from now, for those who are keeping score.

It’s pretty easy to read into this with an accurate lens. If Brate is on the roster come March 23, then he will be on the team in 2020. If not, well, I’m sure you can use your imagination.

The Bucs have plenty of cap room, but Bruce Arians has been adamant about wanting to keep the defense together. The thing is, there are a lot of defensive free agents - 11 unrestricted free agents to be exact - and most of them aren’t going to be cheap.

I’m just saying, $6 million could go a long way. Ya know?

A perfect world would see Brate restructure his deal and come back for less, but regardless of what happens, we will certainly know something sooner rather than later.