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The NFL finalized the 2015 salary cap on Monday, setting the figure at $143.28 million. However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have a little extra cap room thanks to $1,063,033 worth of unused cap room in 2014, plus an additional $566,856 in LTBE (likely to be earned) incentives that weren’t earned by players last year that have been credited back to the team.

Those credits push Tampa Bay’s salary cap to $144,909,889 in 2015.

 Jacksonville has the highest salary cap in 2015 with $168,486,107 – largely due to a league-high $21,768,205 worth of unused cap space in 2014, in addition to a credit of $3,437,902 in refunded LTBE incentive credit.

A previous version of this story had the Buccaneers’ top 51 salaries counting towards $115,408,370 worth of the 2015 cap space, according to Spotrac.com. However, Spotrac.com figured the projected salaries of Tampa Bay’s first-, second-, third- and fourth-round picks into it’s top 51 salaries, but those figures won’t count until this summer after the rookies sign their respective contracts. Take away that $6,242,736 in projected draft pick salaries and the Bucs’ salary cap number climbs well north of the $29.5 million PewterReport.com reported earlier from Spotrac.com

That means that general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith will head into free agency with approximately $35,744,255 worth of salary cap room, which ranks inside top 10 in the NFL.

The Bucs created $5.25 million in salary cap room – which is reflected in the $35.7 million figure – by releasing starting quarterback Josh McCown two weeks ago. However, Licht can free up more salary cap space if necessary, by releasing the following players, who had disappointing seasons in 2014:

FS Dashon Goldson – $4 million in cap savings
Goldson hasn’t been worth the five-year, $41.25-million contract he signed in 2013, and is on the books for $7.5 million this season, in addition to a $500,000 workout bonus. Cutting Goldson would count $4 million against the cap in dead money, but would also free up $4 million in cap savings.

P Michael Koenen – $3.25 million in cap savings
Koenen was injured last year, but had his worst season punting the ball in Tampa Bay last year, averaging just 40.4 yards per punt with a net of 37.1 – his lowest in stats in four years. Koenen does bring value as a kickoff specialist and the team’s holder for field goals and PATs, but he’s overpaid at $3.25 million.

OT Anthony Collins – $3 million in cap savings
Collins, who was benched at the end of the season after signing a five-year, $30-million deal last offseason, is being shopped on the trading block right now. He’s scheduled to earn a $6 million base salary in 2015, of which half is guaranteed. That means the Bucs would have $3 million in dead cap space instead of carrying his $6 million base, but would also clear $3 million to sign a replacement.

DE Michael Johnson – $2 million in cap savings
Johnson was Tampa Bay’s prized free agent signing a year ago, inking a five-year, $43.75-million deal in 2014. After an injury-filled campaign in which he underwhelmed, the Bucs are considering moving on and trying to find a cheaper, more productive player than Johnson, who notched just four sacks. Cutting Johnson would hit the Bucs’ cap for $7 million, but would net $2 million in savings as his cap value totals $9 million. The key date is March 13, which is when he is due a $4 million roster bonus. The team can avoid paying that and saving the $2 million by releasing Johnson prior to that date.

That’s an additional $12.25 million worth of salary cap room that would give the Bucs approximately $48,244,255 to use this offseason. That cap space can be used this year in free agency, to sign linebacker Lavonte David to a contract extension or stored to help sign Tampa Bay’s draft picks this year.

Due to the Bucs having the first pick of the draft, either quarterback Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota will have a fixed salary cap value of just over $4 million alone in 2015, while Tampa Bay’s second-round selection will count for just over $1 million worth of cap space this year. The Bucs’ 2015 draft pool is expected to be $8,112,982, according to Spotrac.com.

Between free agency and the draft, the Bucs have several holes on the roster to fill, including starters at quarterback, middle linebacker, offensive tackle, guard, defensive end, nickel cornerback, and perhaps safety and punter if Goldson and Koenen are released.

PewterReport.com has previously reported that the Bucs will not re-sign starting middle linebacker Mason Foster, starting left defensive end Adrian Clayborn, the team’s first-round pick in 2011, and reserve defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, Tampa Bay’s second-round pick in 2011.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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DreadNaught
DreadNaught
6 years ago

I don’t think Johnson gets cut, we’ve bought the ticket to ride this train for atleast one more season. Just have to hope for the best since the savings isn’t worth releasing him outright imo.

halifaxbucsfan
halifaxbucsfan
6 years ago

I was reading on another Bucs site that before any further cuts, Tampa had $33 in cap space for this year, with another $10m + by cutting Collins, Koening & Goldson. I agree on Johnson. The savings don’t justify the potential output in season #2. If he doesn’t perform this year, then he’s gone. Also, if we can pick up Kendricks or Perryman in the 2nd rd, I wouldn’t be opposed to bring Foster back to play SLB. I think he can be that 2 or 3 down thumper and occasional blitzer from the strong side. Just has to be… Read more »

pinkstob
pinkstob
6 years ago

I agree with you two about Johnson. I also want to say while I agree with the idea of cutting Koenen and Collins (I’m on the fence with Goldson since he seemed to be putting it together near the end of the year) I don’t like this trend we’re getting into of creating dead cap space. It’s been a long time since we were in the salary cap hell and I don’t want to get back into it. That’s when you end up bringing in guys like J. Stinchcomb, D. Deese and C. Garner as your starters.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  pinkstob
6 years ago

I hear ya Pinkstob…but sadly, right now Stinchcomb, Deese and Garner would all be upgrades…maybe even at their current ages…LOL

Horse
Horse
6 years ago

I say pay the players who performed and especially if we got them cheaply; which means to create some new contracts for some of the young guys. The under performer’s that didn’t have injuries, I say take a pay cut for 2015 or move on.

cremdonado
cremdonado
6 years ago

I agree that the first three are about as good as gone.Didnt someone say that the Bengals have interest in getting Johnson back? if so,is there a chance we trade him for a late round pick which would save us $$$ as well as give us another pick to deal or what have you? Goldson is a risk to keep as he was often penalized and could lead to more suspension time… Dumping Clayborn and Bowers also increases our need for Dline meat,but I doubt we are even going to be in the running for Suh since he is looking… Read more »

cbrady2k
cbrady2k
6 years ago

I’m pretty sure Johnson will stick around – you can’t get a replacement for $2-million and they can just hope when healthy he plays better. If not then they can cut him offseason and get his full salary off the books with no penalty according to OverTheCap.

georgehicks
georgehicks
6 years ago

I’d think that Tampa will have to do what ever they need too to be a better team-Go Bucs

funkdoc19
funkdoc19
6 years ago

goldson lives in my neighborhood, paying him only nets him another bently, he isn’t worth the investment. Nice guy but he would rather invest his time and money in california and not tampa. I would sing a different tune if he had been more active in the community despite his weak play. For example, Vjax may not be worth 10mil next year, but at least he gives back and has a positive role in tampa as well as mentoring evans.

plopes808
plopes808
6 years ago

Yeah, keep Johnson and cut the rest. Johnson was plagued with injuries so there’s still a chance he can do much better this year. Plus, we can’t find a decent replacement for $2 mil.

With an OC and new QB/OL our offense will improve and give the defense some rest. That should result in better play across the board and hopefully less games given away in the 2nd half.

mjmoody
mjmoody
6 years ago

So, why exactly wouldn’t Tampa look at DE Hardy to replace Johnson? A coach can only say so much about stupid penalties. At some point a Nickerson like Enforcer has to emerge in the locker room. That isn’t Gerald. We’re talking Suh, why aren’t we talking Hardy? Just asking.

jongruden
jongruden
6 years ago

All these guys suck and should be cut, why isn’t Stocker on this list?

mjmoody
mjmoody
Reply to  jongruden
6 years ago

An excellent question in a day & age where teams are reporting 6 OL to the field on short yardage. A blocking TE with bad hands? How retro.

spartan
spartan
6 years ago

I dont see Johnson being cut. yes we save $2 million but we would spend more than that on his replacement

Redwave
Redwave
6 years ago

This idea of saving is silly. In Johnsons case, the 7M doesn’t go away & he’d still need to be replaced. The question is, can they upgrade the position for 2M? Financialy, the Bucs already lost on him. So… can he be at least average & be a known quantity in this years rotation w/ a possible upside? That’s how I’d look at it. Will putting him on the field again help this team?

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