Over the past few weeks I’ve been asked about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ current salary cap situation, so as the Franchise Tag period begins, I figured it would be good to explain the reality of what some of the numbers that you’re reading really mean.

I’ll keep this one pretty simple, so let’s go into the big question: How much cap space do the Bucs have?

Base Salary Cap: $168,000,000

Team Cap Space # Team Salary Cap Active Cap Spending Dead Money
Browns $106,539,421 61 $218,123,269 $105,150,965 $6,432,883
49ers $78,688,264 54 $206,708,916 $126,612,348 $1,408,304
Titans $62,389,464 56 $192,046,522 $126,539,913 $3,117,145
Buccaneers $61,926,718 55 $173,330,779 $110,536,594 $867,467
Patriots $61,132,426 49 $173,292,335 $110,737,219 $1,422,690
Jaguars $59,769,709 64 $207,314,310 $147,151,328 $393,273
Redskins $58,881,921 62 $183,055,131 $115,426,386 $8,746,824
Colts $54,238,812 60 $174,614,106 $119,368,150 $1,007,144
Bears $51,632,252 55 $176,103,197 $123,775,382 $695,563
Panthers $47,405,761 60 $181,208,020 $133,489,169 $313,090
Bengals $43,220,339 57 $174,578,866 $131,000,997 $357,530
Packers $40,995,981 47 $175,984,687 $131,042,791 $3,945,915
Raiders $39,931,487 54 $176,000,000 $135,964,667 $103,846
Rams $37,438,280 62 $168,304,311 $130,829,694 $36,337
Steelers $36,763,733 57 $171,269,367 $132,110,412 $2,395,222
Lions $32,797,575 51 $172,725,644 $137,611,050 $2,317,019
Cardinals $32,106,989 54 $172,405,068 $139,832,950 $465,129
Broncos $31,904,799 56 $175,243,248 $143,227,662 $110,787
Giants $31,761,686 55 $169,800,000 $135,368,536 $2,669,778
Dolphins $29,915,292 52 $176,363,708 $145,851,495 $596,921
Saints $29,557,284 65 $173,754,000 $135,080,060 $9,116,656
Seahawks $27,501,374 58 $170,065,865 $141,710,574 $853,917
Texans $24,396,261 62 $172,935,924 $148,426,710 $112,953
Falcons $22,425,713 44 $168,926,541 $143,501,821 $2,999,007
Vikings $21,414,218 58 $168,400,184 $142,638,156 $4,347,810
Chargers $20,231,314 58 $168,113,693 $147,669,039 $213,340
Bills $19,880,833 49 $170,837,222 $149,479,443 $1,476,946
Ravens $15,387,844 53 $170,553,126 $149,748,875 $5,416,407
Eagles $9,842,349 67 $175,933,869 $159,035,589 $7,055,931
Chiefs $4,724,707 66 $173,002,168 $166,383,917 $1,893,544
Jets ($7,968,138) 74 $168,371,487 $170,015,978 $6,323,647
Cowboys ($12,933,063) 61 $170,401,553 $180,250,520 $3,084,096

The math on the big number is pretty easy to figure out. To get cap space we start off with each team’s current salary cap, subtract it by the active cap spending, then also subtract the dead money. Before that, to get the team’s salary cap, we take the current base salary cap plus any carry over then plus or minus any kind of adjustments.

So, as it stands right now, the Buccaneers have the fourth-most cap space in the NFL at $61.9 million. That bodes pretty well for the team heading into free agency. If the team chooses to go after an offensive playmaker like wide receivers Alshon Jeffery, Kenny Britt or DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay certainly has the money to do so.

But the team also has to keep in mind resigning their own guys first. Defensive end Williams Gholston will probably the biggest hit to the cap that the Bucs will realistically be resigning. For him, you’re looking at anywhere between $5 million – $6.5 million, depending on what kind of worth he can negotiate. Bucs reserve nose tackle Akeem Spence will likely cost between $1 million – $2 million per year to be re-signed, and fellow nose tackle Sealver Siliga would probably be in the $1 million per year range if he were to be re-signed.

Bucs S Bradley McDougald – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Though the Buccaneers technically have enough money to re-sign Mike Glennon, his worth to them at anything over $5 million dollars per year would not be worth that number. Expect them to pass there.

After that, the safeties will probably be the next in line to cash in, both Bradley McDougald and Chris Conte could make anywhere form $1 million – $3 million per year against the cap depending on the size of the contract. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers should be in that $2 million – $3 million per year range as well.

But after the guys they have now, the team also has to include within that $61.9 number their incoming rookies who have yet to be drafted. Rookie salaries are somewhat varied in detail in relation to where they’re picked, but not much overall when it comes to their cap number. The Buccaneers own all seven of their original draft picks in this upcoming draft, but don’t have any extras at the moment. With that number in mind and the same CBA in place, here’s a look at the cap hit from all 32 teams in 2016 to sign their rookies.

Team Total Rookie Pool Picks Effective Cap Cost
Chargers $9,050,646 8 $5,450,646
Cowboys $9,420,455 9 $5,370,455
Rams $7,216,549 5 $4,966,549
Jaguars $8,553,238 8 $4,953,238
Eagles $7,902,348 7 $4,752,348
Ravens $8,740,775 9 $4,690,775
49ers $9,678,816 12 $4,278,816
Browns $9,621,392 12 $4,221,392
Titans $8,097,489 9 $4,047,489
Buccaneers $6,682,392 7 $3,532,392
Bears $7,403,017 9 $3,353,017
Giants $6,072,173 7 $2,922,173
Dolphins $6,488,578 8 $2,888,578
Raiders $6,373,906 8 $2,773,906
Saints $5,462,060 6 $2,762,060
Lions $7,059,411 10 $2,559,411
Bills $5,987,311 8 $2,387,311
Colts $5,000,459 6 $2,300,459
Falcons $4,505,605 5 $2,255,605
Texans $5,352,222 7 $2,202,222
Redskins $5,786,690 8 $2,186,690
Seahawks $6,204,195 9 $2,154,195
Jets $4,849,579 6 $2,149,579
Packers $6,197,778 9 $2,147,778
Vikings $5,718,994 8 $2,118,994
Bengals $5,192,198 7 $2,042,198
Steelers $5,093,622 7 $1,943,622
Broncos $6,415,563 10 $1,915,563
Chiefs $4,956,326 7 $1,806,326
Panthers $4,395,866 6 $1,695,866
Cardinals $4,228,834 6 $1,528,834
Patriots $5,996,410 10 $1,496,410

The Buccaneers had seven selections last year as well, and were even higher up in the draft, so you cam imagine their effective cap cost to be right around $4 million for their rookies this year.

Bucs CB Alterraun Verner – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

So for the sake of not wanting to go over budget, let’s aim high and say with the $61.9 million the Bucs have to spend now, they’ll spend $7 million on Gholston in 2017, $5 million total on McDougald and Conte, and $15 million – $18 million total on the rest of the fill-in players. Throw in the $4 million expected to sign the rookies and you’re looking at a tentative number of $25 million – $30 million to play with in free agency for new players – all of that is with the contracts of Doug Martin ($5.6875 million) and Alterraun Verner ($6.5 million) still active. Cutting those two would free up an additional $12.1875 million.

Now, another variable to factor in here is that the Buccaneers  might rather use that extra money they have to resign players they know are coming up while they have the space, most importantly, Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans. Evans’ contract is up after next season, but the team would like to get him locked up while they can and could start discussing an extension this summer.

If you figure Evans is going to get top wide receiver money whenever he does cash in, these are the numbers he’d be looking at in terms of the top 10 paid receivers.

Player Team Total
Value
Avg./Year Total
Guaranteed
Avg.
Guar./Year
% Guar. Free
Agency
AJ Green Bengals $60,000,000 $15,000,000 $26,750,000 $6,687,500 44.6% 2020 UFA
Alshon Jeffery Bears $14,599,000 $14,599,000 $14,599,000 $14,599,000 100.0% 2017 UFA
Julio Jones Falcons $71,250,000 $14,250,000 $35,500,000 $7,100,000 49.8% 2021 UFA
Demaryius Thomas Broncos $70,000,000 $14,000,000 $35,000,000 $7,000,000 50.0% 2020 UFA
Dez Bryant Cowboys $70,000,000 $14,000,000 $32,000,000 $6,400,000 45.7% 2020 UFA
TY Hilton Colts $65,000,000 $13,000,000 $11,000,000 $2,200,000 16.9% 2021 UFA
Doug Baldwin Seahawks $46,000,000 $11,500,000 $12,000,000 $3,000,000 26.1% 2021 UFA
Keenan Allen Chargers $45,000,000 $11,250,000 $20,656,000 $5,164,000 45.9% 2021 UFA
Vincent Jackson Buccaneers $55,555,555 $11,111,111 $26,000,000 $5,200,000 46.8% 2017 UFA
Larry Fitzgerald Cardinals $11,000,000 $11,000,000 $0 $0 0.0% 2018 Void

In the end, you have to figure Evans will get a deal that is near or right at the top. With his age, reliability and production, Evans stands to make anything between $14 million – $16 million a year which would make him either a Top 5 paid receiver, or even the top paid receiver in the NFL.

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But here’s the important thing to remember: Even though the Buccaneers would like to lock up Evans as their franchise pass catcher as soon as it makes sense, they don’t have to right now. It’s most likely that a deal for Evans would not be done until training camp, which obviously means free agency and the draft will have come and gone. But Tampa Bay will need to have that amount of cap space reserved for Evans’ deal, in addition to another $5 million or so in case a rash of injuries hit and the team needs to add replacement players during the season.

Watch how the Buccaneers choose to spend their money in free agency, and that should tell you how much they really want to sign Evans before the 2017 season begins. If the team is still floating around $20 million in cap space after the draft, an Evans deal could be coming. But if the team instead becomes big players in this free agency, particularly in acquiring offensive talent, they may just take their time and leave Evans to be the No. 1 priority next offseason.

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Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]

21 COMMENTS

  1. The cap with what teams are projected franchise tag figures at is roughly $165.1M – every team could see an additional windfall of roughly $4.9M should the cap actually escalate to the projected $170M as some have speculated.

    Problem with spending freely for 2017, is that its a short sighted look into only this year and accounts for nothing in the future – over the course of the next three years: Evans either way of the course of the next year or so will command that money, Jamies Winston has an option the team has to decide on in two years – After this season Pamphile is slated to be an unrestricted free, Cameron Brate, Adam Humphries, Donavon Smith and Ali Marpet – and Winston – the team needs to ensure it is prudent with how and where they spend – as there are some tough decisions that will have to be made. Personally, I would rather those decisions be made due to play on the field and not because the team can’t fit the money in due to being free spenders in 2017.

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    • You have the right idea. The crazy thing that the amount of money they have to use is probably much less when you consider some of our rising stars.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the team didn’t have projected cap space for the next 4 years. That’s why two year contracts for bridge players are popular. Thanks to the rookie salary cap that makes drafting less stressful. But we know most rookie contracts are typically four years except for the 1st rounders.

      I’ve always wanted to see a five year breakdown of potential salary cap figures and contracts. You’ll always need to have some leftover salary cap so you can take care of your players. That’s why some of the better teams doesnt typically have a lot of cap space because they understand the need to spread around the cash constantly. Which make Drafting so crucial.

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  2. Well, I think both Verner and Martins contracts are both gone before TC, so that’s going to free up that $12M to the cap. Even if they decide to resign Martin, it will be at a much lower rate so effectively we have some $~71-72M to really play with for this season. I’m pretty sure we will see Evans get his new contract this season, next season it will just cost more.

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  3. Wow those Cowboys! Glad Tampa is not in that situation. Pass on the less than sexy free agents and bring as much money forward to wrap up Winston and Evans. Other than that, try as best to imitate the Patriots.

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  4. What’s impressive is the team after us, Patriots. How impressive to be such a constant winner in the NFL and have the salary cap the way they do.

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    • Dbuc63 – yes, and those are not unrelated. The Pats and Belichick in particular is great at finding value, and not overpaying anyone just to keep them on the roster … he is very quick to cut someone who’s not providing good value, and finding replacements who aren’t highly celebrated yet still provide very good value.

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      • I read an article about how it all starts with Tom Brady. He took less than he could have made and they use that in every negotiation. If he is willing to put the team first then everybody is expected to do the same. Which is the exact opposite of players like Kirk Cousins or Joe Flacco. They put their ego ahead of winning a Super Bowl. Which is stupid considering how many endorsement deals they get when do win a Super Bowl.

        I really hope that Jameis has the same attitude. That money is not more important than winning. Especially when he is making more money than any normal person can possibly imagine. As much as we have all been impressed with his off the field attitude, will he continue that attitude when it comes time to extend his contract. I sure hope so.

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        • That’s true, the NE system works extremely well to serve the purpose of being competitive every year. Can’t really speculate at this point about Cousins, since he’s not currently under contract, but Flacco is slated to make about $10m more against the salary cap in 2017 than Brady, so your point is well taken.

          But, isn’t this easier for Brady than for most other QBs? Assuming, of course, that most of them would give up salary for more Super Bowl rings. (Flacco already has one, but why wouldn’t he want another?) This is where the NE system really shows its’ brilliance and advantage. The Ravens are 41-39 in last 5 seasons, barely above .500, and only made playoffs once (2014, losing to NE) since their Super Bowl in 2012. NE is 62-18 in the same period. Seems to me it’s much easier to sacrifice the cash for wins when you play for a team that already has a system in place that gives you the best chance to win every year, and build your collection of SB rings.

          If Brady were to leave NE as a free agent (whaaaat?) and sign with the 49ers or the Bengals or the Chiefs, don’t you think he would demand a whole LOT more in salary than he gets in NE? The NE system works because they keep winning, and part of the reason they keep winning is because their top players take less to win more. It feeds itself. But until the system is in place and has developed a history of winning, it’s hard to sell top players on giving up cash in their prime with the idea that the system you are building will win a lot of games in the future.

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          • Cousins had to be franchise tagged because he wouldn’t accept a top tier long term offer, but he isn’t a top tier QB.
            Flacco would have a better team if his contract wasn’t eating up a good portion of their cap.
            Yes it is easier for Brady than other QBs but I believe Jameis is capable of reaching that level. Especially when you see how much of a high character player he is. It might not seem like much but if Jameis takes even a few percentage points less than he is capable of and several other players do that allows you to get an extra playmaker on your team. So much of today’s NFL is about getting the most under the cap.

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  5. I really, really hope we wait on Mike’s new deal. There’s no reason for us to rush into making him the highest paid or nearly highest paid WR in the game. That’s a market value contract, which makes 0 sense to give a guy when he’s still got two full years until he hits free agency. If you’re going to sign him early, it has to be at something of a discount, or else it just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for the team to do. If he wants to sign right now for something like $60M over 5 years with $25-30M in guarantees, then let’s get it done. If he’s seeking to get the most he can, though, then we can always do that deal just as well later as we can now.

    I really hope we’re players in this free agency period. I’m aware that we’re probably not going to be landing guys like Eric Berry or Dontari Poe, but we should be active in that second tier of free agents, i.e. Tony Jefferson, one of several receivers, a few different offensive guards.

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    • The reason you do it sooner than later is 3 fold if you ask me. 1 with salaries continuing to rise, in 2 years it may cost 18 million a year instead of 15. 2 you know exactly what you’ll have on the books for him moving forward. Lots of upcoming contracts to be done. 3. It further shows our guys that if we draft you, and you perform, you’ll get paid.

      Keep in mind that any deal he gets will be an extension not a new contract. The fifth year option would be voided I’d have to believe, but we wouldn’t lose next year, his 4th, and technically, last year of his deal. It’ll come down to IF they pick up the 5th year option as to when they do the deal, I think, which I believe has to be made clear before games kick off again for regular season.

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  6. Tampa is in very good shape, getting good bang for the buck with our draft and free agent acquisitions. We can handle the second contracts for the upcoming several years. Salary cap is absolutely not a factor hindering our team’s performance, as so many other teams have had to face.

    I don’t see Jason going on any FA spending sprees, or rushing to increase Mike Evans’ pay before we need to. He’s not going anywhere.

    When all’s said and done, we’ll probably still have considerable cap room even after training camp starts.

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  7. Dbuc63, one of the reasons the Patriots are in such good shape is because Brady is like the 12th highest QB paid in the NFL because this is what he wanted.
    He knew if the team paid him what he is worth, which is about twice the amount he is paid, there would be less money to go around to get quality players like Chris Hogan, who was a steal at $3 million a season, to surround himself with.
    As much as a capitalist as Brady thinks he is, he is actually practicing socialism by his thinking due to his pursuit for as many Super Bowls as he can achieve while an active QB.
    Pretty smart guy keeping his salary cap low for the betterment of the team. Talk about a true team leader.
    I hope Winston thinks about that when and if he re-signs.

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    • That’s exactly it. As much as I hate Tom Brady and his smugness, and he’s earned it, he has always kept his cap numbers low for the benefit of the team. I read an article a few months ago about all the renegotiations and restructures he’s done to help his team keep talent around him by freeing up money. It’s insane. He’s never actually lost any money doing it either, they’ve just always moved it around in different guarantees and bonuses with his extensions. He’s the ultimate team first guy like that and we can only hope that Winstons the same. He seems like it so far from everything I’ve seen and heard…..I love that there’s even just talk of Winston and Brady in the same sentence. The future look bright for us boys.

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    • drd – socialism has nothing to do with Brady’s willingness to work for less. He is a super competitor who is determined to do what it takes to produce a consistent winner … obviously it’s helped his own career a great deal, but I don’t think personal success is what drives him. In his actions and his words I can detect no narcissistic tendencies whatsoever. He is just the super competitor amongst all his peers.

      Besides, Brady has more than enough money, between his earnings and his wife’s earnings. He does not measure his stature by dollars in accounts, but in championships won.

      And, it’s way, way too simplistic to put it all on Brady. No team is a one-man team, ever. Belichick has done a fantastic job putting both offenses and defenses together with a miserly touch, never attempts to “buy” championships, but to earn them the hard way with planning, coaching, hard work, and high standards.

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  8. Perhaps Brady has a side “don’t pay me now, pay me later” deal with Robert Kraft.

    One thing that got my attention was the negative cap space for the Jets and the Cowboys. Guess old Jerry “Facelift” Jones will have little choice than to trade or release Tony Romo. The other thing that caught my eye was the “Dead Money” of which our old friend Bruce Allen’s Redskins and nemesis, the Saints have in excess.

    There’s Dr.D again subtly weaving his political views into a football conversation. Next time you get your paycheck or when you get your tax refund (I always end up paying even more); why not follow Tom Brady’s lead, head down to Williams Park in St. Petersburg and share your good fortune directly with those more deserving of your endeavors than you?

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    • I have thought that too about Brady in that I hope he has a side deal. Looks like Tim Duncan’s loyalty is paying off now with the Spurs placing him in a special advisor role to work on projects that interest him. Can’t think of a better (or more vague) job. I noticed the trail of Bruce Allen too … so glad he is gone!

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  9. If there are any good defensive tackles out there ( Short Panthers ) in FA I would love to see the Bucs go after them hard. DL seems to be a little under the radar as need but I put it way up there if we are to become contenders. Can’t have enough GOOD D tackles in this league.

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    • Donteri Poe. He is the real deal.
      GO BUCS

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      • I AGREE

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  10. Brady doesnt need the money because Kraft set him up with super rich Gisele Bundchen. Not many QB’s get that kind of perk with their job. Its the Patriot way. BEND-ing the rules

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