The NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to many amendments to the Collective Bargaining Agreement on Friday night to allow the start of 2020 training camps to proceed with COVID-19 testing procedures among them. But the league and the players association also agreed to a very important amendment that affects all teams in 2020 and 2021.
The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a salary cap floor of $175 million in 2021 with the league expecting to take major losses in stadium revenue (ticket sales, merchandise sales, concession sales and parking) due to reduced capacity at most NFL stadiums this fall. Some NFL teams, such as the New York Jets, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles currently have said that no fans will be in attendance for their home games due to local health regulations.
Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
If losses incurred during the 2020 season aren’t as bad as expected the league and the players association can agree to raise the 2021 salary cap, but it won’t go below $175 million next year.
As it stands right now, the Bucs had just $4,873,799 million in salary cap room before signing the team’s draft class, but were able to fit all of those signings under the cap because half of those players’ salaries in 2020 are below the Top 51 salaries and don’t count against the $198.2 million salary cap until September when roster cut-downs occur.
Let’s take a look at where the Bucs stand with their salary cap compliance in 2021 with the league cap floor of $175 million.
That would leave $23,117,413 left to not only sign draft picks in 2021, but also add free agents and re-sign some of the team’s pending free agents for 2021. Of course more money can be created by releasing players and/or restructuring the contracts of high-priced veterans and/or having high-priced veterans take pay cuts.
Here is a list of the Top 10 highest paid Buccaneers under contract in 2021:
QB Tom Brady – $25,000,000 WR Mike Evans – $13,450,000 LT Donovan Smith – $14,250,000 OLB Jason Pierre-Paul – $12,500,000 LG Ali Marpet – $10,650,000 C Ryan Jensen – $10,000,000 ILB Devin White – $8,170,223 TE Cameron Brate – $6,500,000 DE Will Gholston – $5,500,000 DT Vita Vea – $4,716,803
The contracts for Smith, Jensen, Brate and Gholston total $35,450,000 and the good news is that they could be released without any dead salary cap room for Tampa Bay if the team wanted to go that route to create more cap room in 2021. But in doing so, the Bucs would then have to find a new starting left tackle, a new starting center and a starting defensive end, in addition to trying to re-sign the likes of outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, wide receiver Chris Godwin, outside linebacker Lavonte David and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Keep in mind that the Bucs’ $151,882,587 cap figure in 2021 does not include several important starters, such as Barrett, David, Godwin, Gronkowski and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, in addition to some key reserves, such as offensive linemen Joe Haeg and Josh Wells, defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches, tight end Antony Auclair, linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback and special teams ace Ryan Smith, backup quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin and safeties Andrew Adams and Justin Evans.
Those players are not under contract in 2021.
Bucs WR Chris Godwin – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
Knowing what the salary cap floor will be in 2021 allows general manager Jason Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg the ability to work on contract extensions for players like David and Godwin for this year to keep them off the free agent market in 2021, as well as making some considerations for Barrett, the team’s franchise player, and perhaps Gronkowski if he wants to play another season next year.
Gronkowski retired during the 2019 and decided he wanted to play in 2020 when the Bucs signed quarterback Tom Brady in free agency. Once he made his intentions known, Licht traded with New England for his rights. The 31-year old Gronkowski has one year left on his contract that will pay him $9.25 million.
Godwin is scheduled to earn $2,331,041 this year, while David is slated to make $10.75 million in 2020. David could take a reduced salary, perhaps down to $8.75 million this year to help Licht and Greenberg create some more cap room in 2020, in exchange for more guaranteed money in the future in his contract extension to make up for that $2 million in rearranged money.
While the Bucs are better situated for the 2021 salary cap than other teams with their $23,117,413 in cap space, they will have to make some moves to squeeze in players like Godwin, who fair market value is between $14.5 million and $15 million per season; and David, whose fair market value is between $13.5 million and $14.25 million per season.
Bucs director of football administration Mike Greenberg – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Additionally, Licht and Greenberg will be working on a contract extension for Barrett to keep him out of free agency next March. But because the deadline for contract extensions has passed for players that have the franchise tag designation, Barrett and the Bucs can’t sign an extension until the offseason.
Barrett recently signed his franchise tag tender of $15.828 million, which was the franchise tag amount or linebackers, but also filed a grievance with the league, suggesting he should have been tagged at the defensive end amount of $17.788 million.
Baltimore’s Matt Judon, who is an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, but played more snaps as a 4-3 defensive end, filed a similar grievance with the league and settled for the median amount of $16.808 million. Expect the same result for Barrett, which would be an increase of nearly $1 million to his pay in 2020, followed by a salary that averages around $17 million per year beginning in 2021 should he and Tampa Bay agree on a contract extension in the offseason.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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