The Bucs find themselves in a potentially precarious position heading into this offseason. Tampa Bay has its work cut out with a slew of free agents to re-sign, as well as draft picks to sign and potential free agent to add. Due to Tom Brady’s retirement, the team has went from having nearly $16 million to just over $3 million, per OverTheCap.com. It’s going to take some magic by the front office trio of Jason Licht Mike Greenberg and Jacqueline Davidson, but if anyone can do it it’s them.

There are a few creative ways the Bucs can create some much-needed cap space and we’ll take a look at them here.

Restructure Barrett’s Contract

One easy way is to restructure outside linebacker Shaq Barrett’s contract from last offseason. The Pro Bowl linebacker is set to count for $19.75 million against the cap this season with the base salary of $16 million. When Barrett signed the deal the Bucs had already prorated $3.75 million through 2025, so any restructure turning base salary into a bonus would add to that number. But with Tampa Bay in a window where it believes it can win now, it’s one way to create more room.

The Bucs can create $6 million in cap space by cutting Barrett’s 2022 base salary to $8 million and turning the other $8 million into a bonus. That $8 million bonus would be divided up by adding $2 million to the four remaining years on his contract. Barrett’s cap hit would drop to $13.75 million this season, giving the Bucs $6 million in breathing room.

That move would bring Tampa Bay’s total cap space to just over $9 million.

Restructure Smith’s Contract

Bucs LT Donovan Smith

Bucs LT Donovan Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Much like Barrett, left tackle Donovan Smith could also be a candidate to restructure to create some cap space. It’s key to remember players usually don’t mind restructuring as they are getting money up front and not taking a pay cut. In Smith’s case, he’s set to count a whopping $18.4 million against the cap. Smith is only signed through 2023, but thanks to voidable years he has a $5.3 million dead cap hit in 2024 and $2.65 million in 2025. That dead money could essentially be absorbed in the future if Smith’s contract is extended either this year or next.

With potentially not as many high-priced free agents in 2023, the Bucs will be able to push more money down the line to gain flexibility this offseason. Simply restructuring Smith’s deal to pay him $6 million in a the form of a prorated bonus would bring his cap hit down to $13.9 million this season. His bonus would then be split into $1.5 million payments throughout the four years (including the voidable years in 2024-25) left on his deal. This would free up another $4.5 million this season.

Tampa Bay’s cap space would be approximately $13.5 million after these two moves.

Brate Takes A Pay Cut

While the Bucs could go the way of restructuring tight end Cam Brate, simply asking him to take a pay cut may be the better route for the team. Brate is set to count $7.285 million against the cap this season, but only has a dead cap hit of $1.9 million. Moving on from Brate, who has redone his deal the last two seasons, may be an option and would open up $5.345 million in breathing room.

Per The Athletic’s Greg Auman, it is a foregone conclusion that Brate’s contract will be restructured if he returns.

With that move the Bucs would then be at nearly $19 million in cap space after the three moves.

Extend Evans’ Contract

Bucs WR Mike Evans

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: USA Today

This one gets tricky when it comes to exact cap space and how much could be freed up. Wide receiver Mike Evans should be a Buc for life and his contract is set to expire after the 2023 season. However, he will have dead cap hits in 2024 and 2025. Even with re-signing Chris Godwin, locking up Evans long term helps the team open up valuable cap space in a year they need the room. As documented earlier, there are much less crucial decisions to be made in 2023 free agency, and creating cap space this year is a priority, especially with the cap rising in future years.

Evans is set to count for $20.622 million against the cap this season. An extension for the Pro Bowl wide receiver could open as much as half of that, at around $10.3 million. Of course Licht and co. will need to get creative with how many years to add to the 28-year old’s contract.

Combined with the other moves laid out, the Bucs would have over $29 million in cap space heading into free agency.

Restructure Brady’s Contract

There are multiple avenues for the Bucs to take here. As of now Tom Brady has a $20.27 million salary cap charge for the Bucs in 2022. If Tampa Bay was to flat out release the retired quarterback right now it would incur a $32 million cap charge. Unlikely to happen but if it did, without any of the moves laid out above, the Bucs would stand about $11.7 million over the cap.

The Bucs are expected to carry Brady on the roster till at least June 2 when they can place him on the retired list. As a post-June 1 roster move Tampa Bay could then lower his cap hit to $8 million in 2022 and push $24 million in dead cap space into 2024. That would create more cap space in June long after the major spending in free agency is over. Either way the Bucs are on the hook for $24 million in dead money cap hit in 2023.

The most likely scenario is as a final parting gift by Brady and he renegotiates his deal. By lowering Brady’s base salary and roster bonus from $10.4 million to $1.12 million and removing any incentives from the contract. His salary cap charge would lower from $20.27 million to $9.12 million. The purpose of doing this is that it immediately opens up around $11.2 million in cap space. The Bucs would still keep him on the roster until June 2 where the $8/$24 million dead cap split would still incur once placed on the retired list.

Final Thoughts

Bucs QB Tom Brady and HC Bruce Arians

Bucs QB Tom Brady and HC Bruce Arians – Photo by: USA Today

While there are other factors that could go into a Brady renegotiation, that is the gist of it. There are also other moves the Bucs can make including extending linebackers Devin White or Lavonte David to free up more space. As well as approaching Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet about another restructure.

The team could also elect to move on from punter and kickoff specialist Bradley Pinion which would save them another $2.9 million. Or even cutting kicker Ryan Succop, which would save $2.5 million. Though the latter is unlikely until Tampa Bay knows what it has in Jose Borregales.

Combined with a Brady renegotiation and the other moves laid out, the Bucs could potentially open up about $40 million in cap space. That freed up money would go a long way to retaining Chris Godwin, Carlton Davis III, Ryan Jensen and Jordan Whitehead, or making a move to bring in a quarterback whether through trade or free agency. Look for the Bucs to start getting active with salary cap moves as the new league year begins in a few weeks.

Share On Socials

About the Author: J.C. Allen

J.C. Allen is one of PewterReport.com’s newest beat writers. As a New England transplant, he has closely followed Tom Brady’s entire career and first fell in love with the game during the Patriots 1996 Super Bowl run. J.C. is in his second year covering the team after spending a year with Bucs Report as a writer, producer and show host. Some of his other interests include barbecuing, being outdoors, and spending time with family and friends. His favorite Buccaneer of all time is Simeon Rice and believes he deserves a spot in Canton. Follow J.C. Allen on Twitter @JCAllenNFL.
Subscribe
Notify of
10 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Horse
Horse
4 months ago

This really bothers me, because we are repeating the early 2000’s cap space hell for years to come. Why are we praising them because it’s the easy way out and they may not be here to deal with it. This type of thinking is not good folks for any business. It’s using other peoples money concept or robbing Peter to pay Paul, Bite the bullet now and we’ll be back again in a couple years healthy again in cap space.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  Horse
4 months ago

I would be down for kicking the cap hit can down the road if Brady was still here. Without an elite QB, making WIN TODAY moves like this makes no sense. Which isn’t to say that we should be punting the 2022 season right now, but treating it like the top priority is shortsighted and counterproductive for this franchise and where it is right now, today. We need to tighten our belts a bit this offseason, let vets on the wrong side of their aging curves (Jensen, Suh, Fournette, and JPP come to mind) walk, avoid overpaying for a good… Read more »

Spitfire
Spitfire
4 months ago

Damn, this whole time I was under the impression that Bradys salary wasn’t guaranteed and they only had like $4mil in dead money to pay over the next few years. I think that is the decision maker in that we should just start Trask and see what we have in him. Unless Gabbert is gonna be the second coming and it’s worth it to restructure everyone and make a run, I’d almost rather see them just resign Godwin, and Davis, cut Brate, and just Draft and sign some bargain rising Star backups from other teams like Barrett was, swallow as… Read more »

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  Spitfire
4 months ago

When you’re right, you’re right. This is the solid gameplan this year – make some tough decisions, let aging vets walk, don’t overpay to keep our own mid-tier guys even if we want to keep them in a vacuum, swallow the tough cap hit pills as much as possible this season, take a shot with low-cost, likely not great, but high-upside QB options this year, and focus on regrouping and hitting the ground running with a high draft position and a good amount of cash available to spend next offseason.

Pete Wood
Pete Wood
4 months ago

The Bucs are going to be fine. They’ll make the playoffs and they’ll survive this cap situation, because Jason is a genius at manipulating the cap and at finding low priced gems in the draft and free agency.

Brandonges
Brandonges
4 months ago

Sorry to say, but baring some miracle at QB, the super bowl window closed when Brady retired. No need to do cap gymnastics anymore. Take the dead money hits, start a cheap QB (Trask/Gabbert), and flush as much dead money as possible so this team is set up well for the future. With already $30M in dead cap in 2023 for Brady/David, we don’t need to make the problem worse just so we can maybe go one-and-done in the playoffs this year winning a crappy NFC South. Hopefully this team can do a quick one year reset to get the… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  Brandonges
4 months ago

Could not agree more on this. Ride a cheap QB and see what Trask has this season. There is zero chance we go to the bowl unless some miracle happens so let’s not cash strap ourselves like the Aints do every year.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  Brandonges
4 months ago

Bingo. If anything, you can argue we should be looking to accelerate those dead hits into THIS offseason is it’s possible to do that. Not going the other way and pushing cap hits into future seasons when we might actually be able to contend again if other things go well.

scubog
scubog
4 months ago

I pay absolutely zero attention to, and waste zero time, trying to cipher out a team’s salary cap situation. Funny how every year folks talked about the Saints’ and others’ having to make sacrifices to get under the cap, yet they kept winning. From reading this, apparently the “cash-strapped by Manchester United, cheap-ass baby Glazers” have shelled out a lot of money for this winning team with not one player held out or departed in a salary dispute. These types of woulda, coulda, shoulda scenarios by anyone or any website, who has no real insight to the monetary make-up of… Read more »

GIJoeWasThere
GIJoeWasThere
4 months ago

This should be a complete rebuild, this should be the time where guys like Devin White are either traded or let play out the contract and move on.