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
Table of Contents
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.
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.
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: email@example.com