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Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.

SIKKEMA’S STAT OF THE WEEK

This week my stat of the week is more of a “numbers of the week.”

Following a very active opening weekend of free agency for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we’re going to breakdown the Bucs’ current salary cap post-signings, gives some numbers on each and discuss some of the possible moves the team could make moving forward.

After starting the free agency period with the fourth-most total cap space in the NFL, according to OverTheCap.com, the Bucs are currently sitting with $33.3 million left in the tank, the eighth-most in the league at this current time. The league average is currently $21.4 million, so the Bucs are at a healthy number above that line.

But this isn’t the first time the Buccaneers have had money to spend and spent it. Let’s look at each player’s contract – courtesy of OverTheCap.com – that they have signed so far, give a brief evaluation of it and take an educated guess at what could be done with the rest of it.

Free Agents Signings

WIDE RECEIVER DESEAN JACKSON

Jackson’s deal with the Bucs is obviously the biggest one on the books. In it, he’ll receive $20 million of his $33.5 million total as guaranteed money. He doesn’t get that all at once like a signing bonus, however, as you can see in the chart above that it’s divided between $12.5 million in the first year and $7.5 million in the second.

Jackson’s contract is also higher in the front, as you see most of the time with player who are above the ages of 27 or 28. The point here is to obviously be paying the most when you have the best chance to get the player you wanted to sign – though Jackson’s contract isn’t “front-loaded.” Another thing to note is that, during the third year of his deal, cutting Jackson wouldn’t cost the Buccaneers any sort of dead money. So, it’s essentially a three-year deal with a “get off here” exit after the second year, if the production doesn’t match the price. 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE CHRIS BAKER

Baker’s deal is much more well-rounded than Jackson’s is.

The $6 million guaranteed in Baker’s deal is paid all within the first year, that means that, if cut at any point after that, there isn’t any dead cap money for the Bucs. However, his $4.8 million cap hits in years two and three are very favorable to keep, if they choose to do so. Baker’s contract is pretty well structured for both sides. Take into account that Baker was one of the top 20 graded interior defensive linemen in 2016 and it’s fair to say that this was a good signing, not just form a roster standpoint, but from a budget standpoint as well.

STRONG SAFETY J.J. WILCOX

Wilcox, like Baker, has a pretty well-rounded contract. The 26-year old signed his two-year deal with exactly half of the total money he’s set to earn as guaranteed money. This, again, sets up a scenarios where, if he’s beat out for a starting safety spot, or just isn’t the right fit after 2017, the team came move on from him for nothing.

It does, however, set up pretty well for him. If Wilcox does perform well and earn a safety spot over the next two years, that means that he will still only be 28 years old when he signs the third contract of his career (which doesn’t happen often for players who are about to cash in on their biggest). Whether that contract will be with the Bucs or another team is what we’ll have to wait to find out.

Players Re-Signed

DEFENSIVE END WILLIAM GHOLSTON

Don’t worry, just because this chart is bigger doesn’t mean that Gholston was signed to something like and eight-year deal. This chart just contains his previous contract with the team, since it was a re-sign.

Gholston’s deal, like the others, contains all of his guaranteed $7 million up front in the first season – can you see how Bucs director of football administration and financial planner Mike Greenberg likes to set things up? The deal makes Gholston the 18th-highest paid 4-3 defensive end in the NFL, and also ties him for the fifth-highest cap contract on the team with running back Doug Martin.

Gholston’s contract is filled with sack incentives, of numbers and specific’s we’re not sure of, but notice the up and down of his base salary numbers. Players like security, and though teams want to have the best players on their roster, they also know that things can change very quickly in the game of football, so they like to have escape routes as well.

For Gholston, this deal is is heavy in payment for the first two seasons, then hits its lowest point during the third year. The reason for this, is because if Gholston isn’t hitting his incentives, that’s about the time the team will know. At that point, they could move on from him. However, if he is hitting his sack incentives and is getting better production as a pass rusher than expected, they still have him under contract for two better years after that.

RUNNING BACK JACQUIZZ RODGERS

I’m not sure why OverTheCap.com didn’t have Jacquizz Rodgers’ updated contract table with his new deal, but for whatever reason they did not.

Rodgers’ deal is for two years worth $3.3 million dollars. He’ll average out $1.65 million per season with a cap hit similar to the money he’ll earn each year at that base.

This is a good deal for the Bucs. For whatever reason, Rodgers’ market over the past few years has been spotty at best. Last year he got a chance to be a full-time back, and was plenty effective in that role (average more than 4.0 yards per carry) to warrant a deal to come back. The Bucs got him on the very cheap and should be very please he’s back at that number.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE SEALVER SILIGA

Initially, Siliga was looking for a contract that paid him nearly $2 million per year. That number proved to be about double what the market he settled on with tampa, but he wasn’t going to find a number like that anywhere else.

With Baker in the mix and Akeem Spence now in Detroit, Siliga was be the backup nose tackle to Baker, who will start in front of him. Clinton McDonald will mostly backup three-technique tackle Gerald McCoy, but can also play nose tackle where he was the starter the last two years. Siliga is a strong interior defender and played well against the Cowboys when he was brought in late in the season. He’s a nice backup player to have.

SAFETY CHRIS CONTE

Ah, the Conte deal. The one people have been waiting to hate.

Conte’s previous deal had him earning $1.5 million per season as a base with other roster bonus numbers that brought him up to average $3 million as total payout for those two seasons. Under his new deal, Conte will be paid the same amount he was paid in 2016 ($3 million), but will the drop to $2.25 million in the final year of his deal.

Essentially, the Bucs brought Conte back to stay somewhat consistent on the back end, and his contract reflected that with a consistent number of what he was being paid before. 

CORNERBACK JOSH ROBISON

It took a while to finally get Robinson back on the books, but the team is glad they did after losing Russell Shepard to the Carolina Panthers. Robinson’s deal is front-loaded with most of his total $5 million coming in the first year. It’s a contract that seems to have rewarded Robinson for “doing the dirty work” of special teams, and something like this keeps guys in that role happy to be doing what they do as they wait for their chance to get in on either side of the ball.

So that’s how the Buccaneers got to where they are now. Overall, they should be very pleased with the job Greenberg and general manager Jason Licht has done to get their guys back and even add new talent at the right prices. In years past, Licht has admitted they’ve had to overpay to get guys to come to Tampa. However, in this offseason more than ever, he said that being No. 1 on these players’ destinations has really helped when it comes to the budget.

On the horizon, look for the Buccaneers to sure up their young franchise players as opposed to being big spenders in free agency. Mike Evans is due to make a killing either this summer or sometime in the next calendar year, and the team has to keep the future contract of Jameis Winston in the back of their minds as well. Both of those players will likely be the highest paid players at their position in the entire league when they ink those new deals.

Regardless of what the numbers are, contracts are all about worth. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Buccaneers’ top free agent they brought in this season, and see how valuable Jackson’s $12.5 million dollar cap hit can be.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: trevor@pewterreport.com
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Naplesfan
4 years ago

Great cover 3, Trevor. The players we’ve signed, and the contracts that we negotiated, really speak extremely well of Jason Licht and his front office team. In their fourth season (Jason didn’t really have his own team in the first season), Jason and his guys really have it dialed in. As for commentary on free agency so far, I couldn’t be more pleased with what we’ve done so far … zero complaints. As for wishes, I hope we can make a deal for Willson, as we could sure use more talent in the TE crew. Willson is not someone who… Read more »

bEubanks11
Reply to  Naplesfan
4 years ago

+1 for Willson! Luke is underutilized here in Seattle but he can be a playmaker if given the opportunity. 6’5 guy who runs a 4.5. Take a shot on the cheap!

Camarobuc
4 years ago

I’m very happy with the players we’ve signed thus far, improving both the offense and defense.

I’m curious if the staff is possibly looking at EJ Manuel as a backup QB to Jameis. It seems like nobody is talking about him among available free agents so it stands to reason we could probably sign him at a fair price.

GoldsonAges
4 years ago

Another great article. I think free agency is going good. Baker, Djax, and Gholston were all great signings.

David DeLeon
4 years ago

Real good article Trevor, also happy with the signings that were made. I like the contacts even since Revis’s contact. I think it was like 5 one year contacts no dead money when he left.

Was hoping for Britt and Poe.

Horse
4 years ago

I’m happy you explained the salary gap wins by the way the contracts were done. What the” Pro Rated” Column; I missed it? Foles should have been a priority even if we had over paid because I don’t see any other QB in Free Agency who could still get us in the Playoffs if Winston went down in the last quarter of the season. Free Agency pick ups have been okay especially Jackson. It took a day to warm up to the deal, but I’m glad he is here; we still need to draft an up and coming WR in… Read more »

toofamiliar17
4 years ago

I’m hyped about the DJax signing. One thing that I think needs pointing out, though – there really weren’t many crossing concepts in our playbook last year, nor have there ever been in Koetter’s playbook. I’m really, really hoping that Dirk will adjust with the arrival of DJax, because you’re right – it’s something he’s REALLY good at, and passes like those create relatively easy opportunities for big plays against the right defensive alignments. If we keep those types of concepts out of the playbook, I think it will very much take away something that Jackson can do to justify… Read more »

mark2001
4 years ago

I’m really wondering how the atmosphere among the layers is regarding Martin? I’m wondering if we might offer Doug a “prove it” contract, if Koetter and Licht think he is generally a good team mate who got in over his head this one time, and if it would be a positive for the team cohesion to give him a second chance. What do you think the odds are of that? And of course if we did that, it would add more weight to drafting a TE in the first and drafting another RB in the second round or couple rounds… Read more »

mark2001
Reply to  mark2001
4 years ago

(p)layers of course in the first sentence.

jp414
Reply to  mark2001
4 years ago

mark, I don’t think it’s a good thing for GMs to get complicated about decisions like this. You could say that Manning was a huge leader and producer for the Colts, so why didn’t Indy give HIM the benefit of the doubt and extend him after his neck injury to send a message about how comitted mgmt is to players who produce? And Manning is one of the greats! GMs have to be all business, and not start counting on things like ‘player good will’ & ‘team cohesion’. They leave that to team leaders and coaches. GMs do what they… Read more »

magoobee
4 years ago

Only concern is DJax. Sports Injury Projector has him at 40%. Now, think about this Vincent Jackson injury percentage is 13%.

I would have rather have seen us sign Kenny Brit $4 mil cheaper, 2 years younger and injury risk percent at 8%.

Looks like we need to draft a top WR.

Naplesfan
Reply to  magoobee
4 years ago

Last four seasons of production: VJax – 196 passes caught; 2,9442 yards received; 46 games started DJax – 224 passes caught; 4,034 yards received; 53 games started. The comparison is much more in favor of DJax if limited to just the last two seasons: VJax – 48 passes caught; 716 yards received; 14 games started DJax – 86 passes caught; 1,533 yards received; 24 games started For last year alone, the numbers are VJax @-- 15 passes caught; 173 yards received; and 5 games started vs. DJax @-- 56 passes caught; 1,005 yards received; 15 games started VJax is effectively… Read more »

magoobee
Reply to  Naplesfan
4 years ago

I do not think Sports Injury Projector is saying Vjax is better than Djax. They could be figuring the Vjax will be a back-up. My point was Kenny Brit has more value than Djax, especially on a risk/reward basis. If Djax plays healthy for 16 games, he will be well worth the contract he signed. I just doubt he will remain healthy. I said the same thing about Doug Martin last year. I would not mind Vjax coming back as a back-up for the veteran minimum but I’m sure with injuries in preseason he will be able parley a contract… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  magoobee
4 years ago

Magoobee – The data I provided indicate not just how good the two players are/were, but also shows their availability due to injury, as indicated by number of games started, over three different timeframes.

VJax was fairly productive two seasons ago (2015) when he was on the field, but he was only available 9 of 16 games that year due to injury. Then last season, not only was his availability all the way down to 5 of 16 games, but his production per game slipped even more, again, mostly due to being injured even when he could start.

SaskBucs
4 years ago

Love the DJax and Baker signings, I like the Wilcox signing because obviously we need S depth. Hopefully he can be better than McDougald but I was fine resigning him to as the Bucs still need to address that position in the draft. I have no problem with the money given out, we cannot be scared of future extensions and look what happened in Indianapolis! The Bucs are still doing well cap wise and need to spend while our stars are cheap. It has become clear there is no interest in Mangold and I am not one of the fans… Read more »

MudManVA
4 years ago

Trevor- To piggy on magoobee above my concern is that I see our “current” WR corps. as weaker than last year. I think the DJAX signing was great don’t get me wrong, but look at the total corps currently versus last year. Injury should be a concern since we have had WR injuries plague the BUCS for the last 2 years with 2016 being devastating. I don’t see DJAX, Evans, or Humphries making it through 2017 without missing games (except for Evans recent history shows that will happen). Then what? We are dealing with limited weapons putting pressure on Winston… Read more »

magoobee
Reply to  MudManVA
4 years ago

And we had ASJ at the beginning of last season.

That is why I would have gotten Kenny Brit for $8m and and kept Shepard for $3.3 instead of Djax.

PHI got Alshon Jeffery for $9.5 mil …. that sounds like good value.

macabee
4 years ago

Breaking news! C Jeremy Zuttah is back on the market as a free agent. As I suggested in a post a while back Zuttah who is 30 years old is a major upgrade at center and could serve as a two year bridge to develop a younger replacement. Zuttah is a cap casualty. Was in pro bowl last year. Not injured. Bucs should pounce! #JMO

e
e
Reply to  macabee
4 years ago

You’ve got Ozzie’s home number! I’d like to see this as well as C Ethan Pocic on the roster to develop.

stlbucsfan
Reply to  macabee
4 years ago

Agreed, let’s go get Zuttah!

Buc 1976
Reply to  macabee
4 years ago

Zuttah SHOULD STILL BE A BUC he was best interior line man we HAD!! So yes bring him back. I really have ??? Marks about Sweezy!!!

magoobee
Reply to  macabee
4 years ago

Zuttah must have some sort of injury situation. His contract was for $3.5 for 2017. Releasing him caused a $2.214 cap hit. Something does not smell right.

macabee
Reply to  magoobee
4 years ago

Zuttah is a cap casualty at the Ravens – a team with the oldest roster in the NFL. Zuttah is not injured or starting to decline. They simply want to get younger and acquire needed cap space.

Zuttah had a strong season in 2016, getting named to the Pro Bowl and grading out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 14 center out of 37 qualifiers. He received extremely strong marks for his run blocking.

Doesn’t matter now, Bucs have re-signed C Joe Hawley to a new 2 year deal. Pretty sure you’ll be happy with him!

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