After five free agent classes under Bucs general manager Jason Licht, and less than stellar results, don’t expect Tampa Bay to be very active in free agency this year – and with good reason.

First of all, the Bucs are more cap-strapped this year than they have been in recent years, so Tampa Bay won’t have much to spend on new players.

Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell - Photo by Getty Images

Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell – Photo by Getty Images

This means no Le’Veon Bell in Tampa Bay.

Seriously, he won’t be a Buccaneer.

Bell wants $14 million per year and held out all of last year. He’ll have to find it elsewhere due to the team’s salary cap situation.

The Bucs have just $16 million worth of salary cap space and will spend most of their salary cap room attempting to re-sign their own players, as left tackle Donovan Smith, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander and wide receiver Adam Humphries are all pending unrestricted free agents, and running back Peyton Barber is a restricted free agent, who will likely receive a second-rounder tender offer worth approximately $3 million.

Secondly, the Bucs will be looking to add more bargain basement-type free agents after splurging on high-priced players in the past, such as cornerback Brent Grimes, defensive end Robert Ayers, Jr., wide receiver DeSean Jackson, guard J.R. Sweezy, defensive end Vinny Curry, defensive tackle Beau Allen and center Ryan Jensen in free agency over the last couple of years and having mixed results at best. Licht’s plan is to continue to build through the draft and re-sign the team’s key players and supplementing with trades and minor free acquisitions moving forward.

That means players who are expecting to cash in during free agency, such as linebackers C.J. Mosley and Anthony Barr; cornerbacks like Ronald Darby, Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan; and safeties Landon Collins, Earl Thomas and perhaps Tyrann Mathieu will have to get paid elsewhere.

Two less expensive free agents to keep an eye on at the guard spot are Pittsburgh’s Ramon Foster and former Arizona guard Mike Iupati.

The 33-year old Foster continued to play at a high level with the Steelers, ranking as the No. 16 guard in the NFL last year by Pro Football Focus. Foster played for both Bruce Arians and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin back in their Steelers days when Arians was the offensive coordinator and Goodwin was the offensive line coach. Foster could be a good stop-gap veteran while Alex Cappa, last year’s third-round pick, continues to develop and make the transition from Humboldt State to the NFL.

Foster signed a 3-year, $9.6 million contract with the Steelers that included a $2.75 million signing bonus. He would be hard pressed to receive another contract worth more than $3 million per year given his age.

Ex-Cardinals G Mike Iupati

Ex-Cardinals G Mike Iupati – Photo by: Getty Images

Iupati is a four-time Pro Bowler that has battled injuries over the last couple of seasons. He was the No. 31 ranked guard by Pro Football Focus last year and had the final year of his contract voided by Arizona this offseason, thus making him a free agent.

Last year, Iupati took a pay cut from $7.75 million to $5 million in exchange for having the 2019 season be voidable. Iupati, who turns 31 this year, could be had for a one-year deal worth less than $3 million to serve as a veteran presence along the offensive line and a placeholder for Cappa at right guard.

The Bucs are still high on Cappa, who will get a shot at playing at right guard and at right tackle this year, while the plan is to move Caleb Benenoch exclusively to right tackle after a disastrous season as the team’s starting right guard. Demar Dotson turns 34 this year, but he is expected to return for one more season to compete for the right to continue as the Bucs’ starting right tackle.

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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 Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for 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:
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2 years ago

Dont really care who they bring in. Just bring in the right guys. Something they have really struggled with in FA.

2 years ago

Not really surprised by this news.

It makes sense. The offense is a guard away if you believe in Peyton Barber.

The defensive front seven needs the most pieces, but the Bucs can solve that problem in the draft.

2 years ago

Hoping for guys like Quinton Spain or AJ Cann. But I’m sure they would both be out of our price range.

Andy Ely
2 years ago

They can show Demar Dotson the door and use that $4 million elsewhere

2 years ago

I’m not sure why they still want to keep Benenoch or Dotson for that matter? Benenoch was terrible and should be easily replaced at not much expense. Dotson, while productive and solid for the Bucs in years past is almost done with knee and back issues. I would cut Gholston as well… when was the last time u ever heard his name on a tackle?! I know u have to keep some worker bees and can’t field a team of studs but let’s be done with the dead wood already! WR Jackson needs to go as well! Brate creates a… Read more »

2 years ago

Agree with most, would much rather see the money earmarked for Dotson go towards bringing in additional FA’s like Mathieu, etc.. Do like the Foster/Iupati idea, as believe a vet to replace Dotson and actually lead the OL room is a needed dimension that’s been lacking since Mankins left. Dot is a nice guy, just doesn’t appear to be the leader the OL room needs to hold everyone accountable for doing their jobs and playing up to their abilities. He kind of said as much last year. Would draft another OL to compete with Benenoch and Cappa for the RT… Read more »

2 years ago

Pretty much in agreement with you Bucballer as far as Brate is concerned but I wouldn’t give him away for a 5. He is a definite third round trade. If Dot can make the team great, his salary is still low for a starting RT. He isn’t paid to be the leader of the OL, that role should belong to either Jensen or Marpet. The Bucs have always been one LG away from having a good offensive line and Licht has done everything but draft or sign a FA to replace the sorely missed Mankins. If the Bucs had kept… Read more »

Reply to  drdneast
2 years ago

Don’t think leadership is based on simply who the highest paid guy in the OL room is at the time. Dotson is a 10-year vet, and while he isn’t the most talented guy in the room, he’s been working in the trenches longer than either Marpet and Jensen. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be anyone in the current OL room that can take the throne Mankins vacated. Maybe Foster or Iupati has the cojones to take it.

Reply to  FLBoy84
2 years ago

That’s it, I’m officially changing my profile name to “CojonesGris”! ….. Not really