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.
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: email@example.com
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