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Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers release kicker Martin Gramatica during the 2005 offseason?

Most people believe the Bucs will decide to release Gramatica, their 1999 third-round draft pick out of Kansas State. He has, after all, been inconsistent, and at times unreliable, over the past two seasons.

Last year, Gramatica, who was battling back from hernia surgery, made just 61.5 percent of his field goal attempts, which was down drastically from his career kicking percentage (81.5 percent) coming into the 2003 season.

The Bucs were hoping Gramatica’s woeful 2003 season was a fluke and not a sign of things to come from the 2001 Pro Bowl selection. Instead, Gramatica has continued to be unreliable, making just 11-of-16 (68 percent) of his attempts, including 1-of-4 from the 40-49-yard range.

In fact, over the past two seasons, Gramatica is just 4-of-13 from the 40-49-yard range. That means he’s been successful on just 30.7 percent of those attempts. Even in 2002, a year in which Gramatica made a career-high 82.1 percent of his field goal tries, he was just 6-of-10 (60 percent) from the 40-49-yard range.

It will be difficult to justify Gramatica’s $1.150 million base salary next season when he’s posted these types of mediocre statistics.

But before you assume that Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Jon Gruden will simply cut Gramatica loose during the offseason, you might want to take a closer look at the rest of his contract.

After coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2001, Gramatica was signed to a seven-year contract by former Bucs general manager Rich McKay. That deal was believed to have included a $1.75 million signing bonus.

Gramatica is signed through the 2008 season, so by releasing him during the 2005 offseason, the Bucs would have to absorb approximately $2 million of Gramatica’s guaranteed money (a combination of the money remaining on both his rookie deal and his new deal).

Not only would that translate into approximately a $2 million salary cap hit, but Gramatica’s ’05 cap value is only $1.724 million, which means it would actually be cheaper to keep Gramatica on the roster than it would be to cut him.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Gramatica won’t be released during the offseason. In fact, he probably will if the Bucs find a better kicker in free agency or in the draft, but releasing him doesn’t appear to make as much business sense as one would have probably assumed before looking at his current contract.

Even if he and his current contract manage to stay around for one more season, 2005 will likely be Gramatica’s last one in Tampa Bay since his cap value shoots up to over $2 million over the final three years of his contract.


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