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Brace yourselves, Bucs fans. Another beloved Buc could be walking the plank shortly after the 2004 season ends.
That’s right. Despite receiving a contract extension earlier this year, fullback Mike Alstott, a six-time Pro Bowler, could be playing his final season in Tampa Bay.
Now, you’re probably thinking this might be a bit peculiar. After all, Alstott recently had his deal, which was scheduled to expire after the 2005 season, extended through the 2008 season by general manager Bruce Allen.
But after further review and a closer look at Alstott’s new deal, Pewter Report has determined that the “A-Train” could still be released in a salary-cap maneuver during the 2005 offseason.
One of Alstott’s representatives recently told Pewter Report that number 40 restructured his deal in an effort to help the Bucs create some salary cap room for this season. Alstott’s new contract called for his 2004 cap value to lower from approximately $2.2 million to $1.56 million, a savings of about $673,000. The Bucs didn’t wait long to put that money to use, signing safety Jermaine Phillips to a four-year extension a few weeks ago.
The way Alstott’s new deal is structured would make one think the 2005 season will be Alstott’s last in Tampa Bay since he’s scheduled to earn a $2 million base salary and $3 million roster bonus in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Alstott’s cap value for all three of those seasons would be over $5 million.
While the recent extension suggested that Alstott would likely be a Buc in 2005, his representative told Pewter Report that Alstott restructured his contract solely to help the Bucs create cap room this year and that the new deal had “absolutely no barring on 2005.”
That statement, along with the fact that Alstott did not receive a signing bonus by reworking his contract, means the “A-Train” more or less took a pay cut, and although he hopes to finish his career in Tampa Bay, his new contract doesn’t guarantee him that chance unless he opts to call it quits after this season.
In fact, the Bucs, who could pursue a veteran running back in free agency, including Indianapolis’ Edgerrin James, New Orleans’ Deuce McAllister or Seattle’s Shaun Alexander, will likely choose to release Alstott in an effort to create some much-needed cap room. That’s a move that would be unpopular amongst some Bucs fans, but would create about $2 million in cap space.
A six-time Pro Bowler, Alstott has been used in a limited capacity throughout most of his eight-year career, but his touches have really dropped off since Jon Gruden took over as head coach in 2002.
Although he’s rushed for 4,744 career yards, which ranks second-best in franchise history, and 48 touchdowns, which ranks first in franchise history, Alstott was averaging just seven touches per game before tearing his MCL in Week 7 against Chicago and just doesn’t appear to have much value in Gruden’s version of the West Coast offense.
That said, don’t be surprised to see Alstott, who turns 31 in December, follow in the footsteps of former Bucs safety John Lynch, who was released last March in a cap-related move. Perhaps Alstott’s only chance of finishing his career with the Bucs will be if he restructures his contract again during the offseason to somewhere around $750,000, which is the veteran league minimum. But even that may not be enough if the Bucs want to move in a different direction at fullback next year.
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