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GM for a Day: Navigating the Bucs’ roster during the 2020 offseason

This is all for fun.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

This is going to be a super-wordy, lengthy post, so I’m not going to waste time with some cutesy lede.

Here’s the gist: Using spotrac.com’s Roster Management Tool, I’m essentially going to play Jason Licht/Bruce Arians and do what I think is best for Tampa Bay’s roster in 2020.

This is all just on-the-surface stuff. Dead money and all that jazz will be accounted for, but there could little ticks in certain contracts that would change these numbers a little bit. Those ticks won’t be included for obvious reasons. This is just for fun, but it will be grounded in reality.

This is also for the 2020 season, only. Future ramifications will be kept in mind, but won’t be weighted too heavily. And of course, there will be other ways to attack the offseason, but for the sake of this exercise, we’re going to act like everything is going to go according to plan.

For the audio version, be sure to check out the latest episode of the North & South Podcast!

From the start

We can’t figure out where we are going if we don’t know where to start, right? Let’s take a look at the basics when it comes to Tampa Bay’s roster and cap space:

1. According to spotrac.com, the Bucs have $84,989,175 in cap space at the time of publish.

2. There are currently 51 players on the “active roster”.

3. Remember, we will have to deduct some money off of the top for the draft class and for injury money during the season. Those numbers will be arbitrary, but they will also be realistic.

4. We need to get Tampa Bay’s roster to 53 players while staying under the salary cap. We will use last year’s initial final 53-man roster in order to help determine how players will be carried at each position.

It’s time to cook. Let’s go.

Roster Cuts

Keep in mind that the Bucs will be able to keep up to 90 players on the roster until final cuts in August, so we won’t know who is really gone unless there are roster bonuses, workout bonuses, etc that are paid out beforehand.

This part sucks.

  • TE Cameron Brate: For starters, $4 million of Brate’s $6 million salary is guaranteed on March 22. If I’m GM, I’m trying to get him to restructure his salary to about $3 million for 2020. We’ve seen players take pay cuts by allocating funds to the back ends of their contracts and in other ways before. Maybe that could happen with Brate and the Bucs. He’s a good player and still has a ton of value in this offense.

But for the sake of this scenario, let’s say a deal can’t be worked out and Brate has to be let go. The move saves Tampa Bay $6 million.

  • S Justin Evans: You can’t rely on Evans after the injuries. That’s not a knock on him, at all, it’s just reality. We won’t even know if he has the same range/explosiveness/speed if or when he resumes playing. Tampa Bay saves $1,173,995 by removing him from the roster.
  • QB Ryan Griffin: He finally saw playing time in 2019! If I’m Licht, I’m dropping Griffin and using the extra $1,645,000 to bring in an affordable veteran.
  • CB M.J. Stewart - The poor guy just can’t find his niche on the field. The money saved will pretty much wash since the Bucs will have to find another corner, but at least they have a $497,898 head start.
  • LB Kendell Beckwith - It hurts to write this, but there’s no surprise, here. I’m sure some of the $758,000 savings will be returned in some form of an injury settlement, but the Bucs will still save six figures by releasing Beckwith.
  • RB Dare Ogunbowale - He was a great camp story, but with T.J. Logan sticking around as a returner, the Bucs will look to upgrade their third running back position in some fashion. The Bucs save $585k with this move.
NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs need an upgrade over Ogunbowale.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The following players either signed futures contracts, were late-season additions, etc.:

CB Deiondre Hall - $735k
TE Jordan Leggett - $735k
T Anthony Fabiano - $660k
WR Jaydon Mickens - $660k
DL Pat O’Connor - $660k
G Aaron Stinnie - $660k
DL Kahzin Daniels - $585k
LB Noah Dawkins - $585k
DL Jeremiah Ledbetter - $585k
CB Mazzi Wilkins - $585k
LB Quinton Bell - $510k
CB John Franklin - $510k
WR Cyril Grayson - $510k
TE Cody McElroy - $510k
S Herb Miller - $510k
WR Spencer Schnell - $510k
T Brad Seaton - $510k
RB Aca’Cedric Ware - $510k

There’s certainly a chance some of those guys could have a great preseason and end up making the final roster, but I don’t see it right now.

Bradley Pinion, D’cota Dixon, and T.J. Logan barley survived the cut. Pinoin underwhelmed in 2019 while carrying the seventh-highest cap hit in the NFL. He places seventh again in 2020, so he’s not going to be cheap. The Bucs would save a little over $1.7 million if they cut Pinion, but they’d have to sign another punter, so it wouldn’t be too much of savings in the end. I’m willing to roll with Pinion’s talent for one more season. As with Logan, I thought he improved as the year went on and he’s cheap enough to give it another go in 2020. Dixon looked good in camp, but is ultimately a wildcard at the end of the day.

These moves (24 players released) leaves me with 27 players on the “active roster”. I saved $21,189,893 in cap room, which now brings the total amount to $106,179,068.

So now we have over $106 million in cap. What’s the current roster outlook?

This is important because we will need to know where to allocate our funds. Here is the 27-man roster:

Quarterback: (0)
Running back: Ronald Jones II, T.J. Logan (2)
Wide receiver: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Justin Watson, Scotty Miller (4)
Tight end: O.J. Howard (1)
Tackle: Donovan Smith (1)
Guard: Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa, Zack Bailey (3)
Center: Ryan Jensen (1)
Defensive line: Vita Vea, William Gholston (2)
Outside linebacker: Anthony Nelson (1)
Inside linebacker: Devin White, Lavonte David, Jack Cichy (3)
Cornerback: Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting (3)
Safety: Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, D’Cota Dixon (3)
Long-snapper: Zach Triner (1)
Punter: Bradley Pinion (1)
Kicker: Matt Gay (1)

It’s time to re-sign some guys

We’ll start with the Bucs’ own free agents, since that will determine a lot of subsequent moves with outsiders in free agency and then later on in the draft.

Remember: we have $106,179,068 in cap room and 27 players on the roster. We need 53.

  • QB Jameis Winston - I’m sure this will make a lot of people happy and a lot of people upset. Winston is the top option in 2020 due to talent, scheme familiarity, rapport with the skill players, and price. Regardless, it’s what I’d do. Franchise tag. $26,895,000.
  • OLB Shaquil Barrett - Reports are becoming more and more frequent concerning Barrett and the tag. Screw that. Sign the man to a four-year deal. I’d pay him $16,250,000 in 2020, which is about $500k over his market value.
  • OLB Jason Pierre-Paul - He played so well last year. And in 2018. He needs to return, but the Bucs can’t break the bank, here. $9,000,000 is ideal, but I’d settle for an additional $1.5 in some sort of incentives. That’s it, though!
  • TE Antony Auclair: He HAS to come back. Arians even specifically mentioned so during the combine. Easily the best blocking tight end and is a good special teams player. Since Auclair is a RFA, he will likely be tendered at $2,114,000.
  • DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches - He flashed and played well in the rotation. I have a feeling there may be some competition for his services, so I feel like a slight raise to $950,000 will keep Nacho around.
  • T Josh Wells - There were some rough times, but he got better as the year went on. He’ll be cheap. And the Bucs need depth. $950k.
  • T Demar Dotson - He could provide valuable depth and probably still has a few starts left up his sleeve. Dotson has made a little over $21 million in 11 years, so a one-year/$2 million deal sounds pretty good.
  • DT Beau Allen - Allen was decent when he played. I wouldn’t mind him back in a rotational role. He played 16% of snaps in 2019. $1.75 million sounds fair.
  • CB Ryan Smith - Arians mentioned his special teams presence and Smith demonstrated his skill multiple times in 2019. He can provide emergency depth at cornerback if he’s ever needed. $1.8 million is a good salary for a good special teams player.
  • G Earl Watford - The Bucs need depth and competition all over the offensive line. Watford was pretty good in 2019, but the best part is the fact that he was cheap. Another year of $870,000 bring him back to the Bay.
NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I’m rolling with Jameis if I’m managing the Bucs’ roster.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ndamukong Suh, Breshad Perriman, Carl Nassib, and Peyton Barber don’t return.

I’ll elaborate on Suh later. Barber is a valuable player and I love the dude, but I’m relying on RoJo in 2020. I wanted to keep Nassib so bad and I tried to keep him, but it just couldn’t work for the price he’ll likely command ($6+ million). Spotrac currently has Perriman at $8.7 million, so you can pretty much forget about that.

Let’s take a look at the updated roster outlook after re-signing players:

Quarterback: Jameis Winston (1)
Running back: Ronald Jones II, T.J. Logan (2)
Wide receiver: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Justin Watson, Scotty Miller (4)
Tight end: O.J. Howard, Antony Auclair (2)
Tackle: Donovan Smith, Demar Dotson, Josh Wells (3)
Guard: Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa, Zack Bailey, Earl Watford (4)
Center: Ryan Jensen (1)
Defensive line: Vita Vea, William Gholston, Beau Allen, Rakeem Nunez-Roches (5)
Outside linebacker: Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Anthony Nelson (3)
Inside linebacker: Devin White, Lavonte David, Jack Cichy (3)
Cornerback: Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ryan Smith (4)
Safety: Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, D’Cota Dixon (3)
Long-snapper: Zach Triner (1)
Punter: Bradley Pinion (1)
Kicker: Matt Gay (1)

The roster is now up to 37 players and there is $43,350,068 in cap room. We should go ahead and deduct $8 million for the draft class (it will likely be a bit less, but better to be on the high side) and $5 million for injury money.

We now have $30,350,068 left in the bank. Based off the current roster, who do we bring in?

  • S Tony Jefferson - This is easy. He’s familiar with the system and is still young at 28-years-old. $5 million sounds extremely reasonable for a guy who can come in and solidify the safety position.
  • QB Case Keenum - How about this for irony? Bucs fans know this guy all too well. I think he still has a year or two left, and for around $3.25 million, I’d be fine with it.
  • CB Mackensie Alexander - This would be the big signing of my offseason. Spotrac has Alexander at $8.4 million, which is a good price for a good, young slot corner.
  • TE MyCole Pruitt - He’s a versatile player and would be a great complementary piece for the offense. An $890,000 salary should be sufficient enough.
  • RB Chris Thompson - You have to worry about the injury history, but Akers and Jones should take enough snaps to where Thompson is limited in that regard. He’d be the perfect third wheel in this backfield for $3,200,000.
  • ILB Daren Bates - Another great addition for the special teams unit, but he won’t be cheap. Bates will likely go for around $2,200,000.
  • DL Christian Covington - The young defensive lineman could be a decent rotational guy for an affordable price of something like $1.9 million.
  • OLB Aaron Lynch: Lynch could provide a spot of pass rush here and there at a valuable price. I’m sure he would sign up for around $2.1 million.
  • WR Chris Moore: He’s a tall, lanky kid who can go up and catch the ball. Maybe he can add some competition the receivers room and some depth on special teams for around $1.3 million.
  • TE Blake Jarwin: This guy could be a major under-the-radar signing. The Cowboys have 31 free agents they have to re-sign, so Jarwin could easily be lost in the mix. He has 50+ catches over the last two years and is a capable blocker. A $925,000 salary in 2020 sounds about right.

After re-signing players and brining in outside help, this is the remaining roster outlook:

Quarterback: Jameis Winston, Case Keenum (2)
Running back: Ronald Jones II, Chris Thompson, T.J. Logan (3)
Wide receiver: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Justin Watson, Scotty Miller, Chris Moore (5)
Tight end: O.J. Howard, Antony Auclair, Mycole Pruitt, Darren Fells (4)
Tackle: Donovan Smith, Demar Dotson, Josh Wells (3)
Guard: Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa, Zack Bailey, Earl Watford (4)
Center: Ryan Jensen (1)
Defensive line: Vita Vea, William Gholston, Beau Allen, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Christian Covington (5)
Outside linebacker: Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Anthony Nelson,
Aaron Lynch (4)
Inside linebacker: Devin White, Lavonte David, Jack Cichy, Daren Bates (4)
Cornerback: Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Mackensie Alexander, Ryan Smith (5)
Safety: Tony Jefferson, Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, D’Cota Dixon (4)
Long-snapper: Zach Triner (1)
Punter: Bradley Pinion (1)
Kicker: Matt Gay (1)

There are 47 players on the roster. We need six more (that we’ll fill out with our draft picks) and we have a little over $13 million in cap room. Remember, $8 million of that remaining money will be used to sign the draft class, so we will have about $5 million (probably a little more) reserved for injury money.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens
Tony Jefferson would be a solid addition for the Bucs’ safety group.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The priorities on the roster have obviously changed. What’s now the most important position?

Defensive line: The Bucs are currently down a starter for their 3-4 defense. This needs to be filled ASAP.

Offensive tackle: Dotson is hanging on by a thread and Tampa Bay needs another foundational piece to go with Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith.

Outside linebacker: Barrett and JPP are great, but the Bucs need more pass rush. Nelson is able, but won’t provide enough on the other side. Plus, depth.

Running back: We know how volatile this position can be. Plus, RoJo needs a quality backup and some competition to keep him running hot in camp.

Wide receiver: Can Watson and Miller step up and become a WR3 in this offense? Tampa Bay needs to keep its options open, considering

Inside linebacker: This team carried 10 linebackers on the roster heading into the 2019 season. Cichy, while healthy, is still a question mark and Bates is primarily a special teamer.

Which brings us to the draft

As I mentioned in the beginning, this is all for fun. So, this would be my strategy for the draft:

Round 1, Pick 14: DL Javon Kinlaw

Unfortunately, as of now, I think the “big four” will be off the board by now.

This kid would be the perfect replacement for Suh. Not only would he be a good replacement, but he’d be cheaper, too. Scott Reynolds of Pewter Report reported Suh would come back for $7.25 million - which is a good number, however, the salary for the 14th pick is currently slated for a little over $2.7 million. At 14, he’s the perfect combination of best player available and position of need.

Round 2, Pick 45: OT Isaiah Wilson

Wilson would be a good pick in the second round, but I wouldn’t mind using the 45th overall, the assumed extra fourth-round pick, and a 2021 pick to move back into the first round and select a player like Josh Jones, the tackle out of Houston. But, just to keep it simple, we will stay in the second round.

A rookie right tackle would compete with Dotson for the starting spot. At worst, Dotson can either start until the rookie is ready, become excellent depth, or get cut if he’s beaten out in camp by the rookie and Wells. Regardless, drafting a quality offensive lineman with this pick will give the Bucs excellent depth and competition all over the offensive line.

Round 3, Pick 76: RB Cam Akers

This is a no-brainer and will give the Bucs an excellent 1-2 punch in the backfield. And just so y’all don’t think I’m crazy, Dane Brugler has Akers going 70th overall to the Miami Dolphins in his latest mock.

Round 4, Pick 117: EDGE Darrell Taylor

I promise, this isn’t because I’m a UT fan. But it certainly doesn’t hurt anything.

Taylor has the traits and tools to become an elite pass-rusher in the NFL, he’s just really streaky. If the Bucs can erase the inconsistency, then this will become one of the best picks of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Round 4, Pick ?? (compensatory): QB Jalen Hurts*

As I said, if this pick comes through, then I’m using it to move up in the second or back end of the first. But if I don’t move up, I’m using this pick on a quarterback to develop over the next few years. Hurts has all the physical/mental tools, he just needs time to put it all together.

*this pick will not be reflected in the final 53 due to the uncertainty of the actual pick itself

Round 5, Pick 162: ILB Shaquille Quarterman

An old school “thumper” who excels at playing the position with a downhill, physical nature, Quarterman would be the perfect early-, run-down backer and a great addition to special teams. Think Kevin Minter, David Long of the Tennessee Titans, etc. when it comes to this guy. He would also provide good depth in case Cichy can’t return to full form.

Round 6, Pick 194: WR Dezmon Patton

The Bucs will need someone to compete with Watson and Miller for the WR4/5 spot. Patton will not only provide said competition, but he could be valuable on special teams, too.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at South Carolina
Javon Kinlaw would be a perfect fit in Tampa Bay’s defense.
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve now filled out our 53-man roster. Let’s take a look at the composition:

Quarterback: Jameis Winston, Case Keenum (2)
Running back: Ronald Jones II, Chris Thompson, Cam Akers T.J. Logan (4)
Wide receiver: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Justin Watson, Scotty Miller, Chris Moore, Dezmon Patterson (6)
Tight end: O.J. Howard, Antony Auclair, Mycole Pruitt, Darren Fells (4)
Tackle: Donovan Smith, Demar Dotson, Josh Wells, Isaiah Wilson (4)
Guard: Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa, Zack Bailey, Earl Watford (4)
Center: Ryan Jensen (1)
Defensive line: Vita Vea, William Gholston, Javon Kinlaw, Beau Allen, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Christian Covington (6)
Outside linebacker: Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Anthony Nelson,
Nigel Bradham, Darrell Taylor (5)
Inside linebacker: Devin White, Lavonte David, Jack Cichy, Daren Bates, Shaquille Quarterman (5)
Cornerback: Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Mackensie Alexander, Ryan Smith (5)
Safety: Tony Jefferson, Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, D’Cota Dixon (4)
Long-snapper: Zach Triner (1)
Punter: Bradley Pinion (1)
Kicker: Matt Gay (1)


There it is. The battle plan.

This would get the Bucs to a 53-man roster and would follow the same 53-man blueprint as last year, except the team would not carry three quarterbacks into the regular season. There’s a good chance there would be a little extra money left over from signing the draft class, but as it stands, the Bucs would head into the regular season with a minimum of $5 million in salary cap.

Click here to check out spotrac’s Roster Management Tool.

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