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
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 – 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.
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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