FAB 3. Bucs’ Free Agents-To-Be Are Striking Out
Not only will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cost head coach Dirk Koetter and his coaching staff their jobs next year if the losing continues this season, the team’s free agents-to-be are also costing themselves and leaving a lot of money out there on the field by stinking up the joint week after week.
With the 2-6 Bucs playing lousy on both sides of the ball, this is not the ideal time to be in a contract year in Tampa Bay. The Bucs’ 2018 roster will look radically different than it does this season, and not just because the team will naturally add players through the draft and free agency. There will be plenty of free agents-to-be that are playing their way out of Tampa Bay unless their play dramatically improves over the second half of the season.
Before we identify those players, let’s take a look at their age in 2018 and how much they were paid in 2017.
Bucs’ 2018 Unrestricted Free Agents
CB Brent Grimes – 35 – $6,750,000
SS T.J. Ward – 32 – $4,000,000
C Evan Smith – 32 – $3,562,500
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – 36 – $3,000,000
DT Clinton McDonald – 31 – $3,000,000
TE Luke Stocker – 30 – $1,750,000
DT Sealver Siliga – 28 – $1,100,000
DE Darryl Tapp – 34 – $1,000,000
FS Keith Tandy – 29 – $925,000
LS Garrison Sanborn – 33 – $900,000
CB Robert McClain – 30 – $775,000
RB Charles Sims – 28 – $768,330
DE Will Clarke – 27 – $690,000
G Kevin Pamphile – 28 – $604,625
There are plenty of other Tampa Bay players that can be released after 2017 with little or no salary cap penalty, including running back Doug Martin ($6.75 million base), reserve running back Jacquizz Rodgers ($1.6 million base), defensive tackle Chris Baker ($4.875 million), safety Chris Conte ($2.25 million base, $125,000 option bonus) and reserve center Joe Hawley ($2.5 million base, $125,000 cap hit) among others. But discussing potential roster cuts is a story for another day as I focus on Tampa Bay’s 2018 free agent class.
The Bucs picked up the fifth-year option for wide receiver Mike Evans, who was the team’s first-round pick in 2014, so he won’t be a free agent next March. Tampa Bay continues to have dialogue with his agent about a long-term contract extension, but talks have progressed at a snail’s pace thus far.
Which Bucs should stay and which ones should go based on their play thus far? Which Bucs need to pick up their play down the stretch to have a chance to stay? Let’s take a look.
WHO SHOULD STAY?
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Unless the Bears decide to cut Mike Glennon, why not bring Fitzpatrick back for one more year as Jameis Winston’s backup? He performed well in Arizona when Winston went down with a shoulder injury and certainly has more experience than Ryan Griffin. Fitzpatrick got more playing time last week in New Orleans and didn’t fare as well. Now he’ll get the start for the next two weeks to show what he can do.
DT Clinton McDonald
McDonald will turn 31 next season and he’s worth at least a one-year deal because of three things: leadership, professionalism and production. While Chris Baker is making twice what McDonald is, McDonald is outperforming him on the field and is a starter. McDonald deserves to stay – even for depth.
TE Luke Stocker
Fans see a big, slow tight end that isn’t a factor in the passing game – outside of his touchdown catch at New Orleans. But Stocker, who turns 30 next year, brings value as a blocker and for his leadership in the locker room and on the field. Ask the coaches and they’ll tell you he’s been instrumental in the development of Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. He’s worth at least a one-year deal.
SS Keith Tandy
Tandy made a bunch of clutch, impact plays on defense at the end of last year, but has seen injuries and the addition of T.J. Ward take away some playing time. Tandy will be 29 next year and is valuable from a depth and special teams standpoint, but does he want the chance for more playing time elsewhere? He’s worth keeping around if he wants to stay.
LS Garrison Sanborn
So far so good for Sanborn, who has had clean snaps on punts, field goals and extra points, so why not bring him back? Good long snappers are hard to find and his age really isn’t a concern at that position. A one-year deal wouldn’t hurt for the Tampa native.
OL Kevin Pamphile
Pamphile has had a disappointing season thus far. He isn’t even a full-time starter at left guard like he was last year. Pamphile’s versatility is what the Bucs like, and he might get a chance to play left tackle this week if Donovan Smith can’t go. Perhaps he can boost his chances for a payday in free agency with a good showing outside. The Bucs should attempt to re-sign Pamphile, but not break the bank for him because he failed to beat out Evan Smith for the full-time starting job.
WHO SHOULD GO?
RB Charles Sims
Sims has been a major disappointment over the last two years. After rushing for 149 yards and one touchdown in seven games last year, Sims has just 31 yards rushing in eight games and has been relegated to third-down back duties. But after catching 24 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown in 2016, Sims has 17 catches for 117 yards, but a career-low 6.9 average. Sims is too one-dimensional and doesn’t make enough plays to stay.
SS T.J. Ward
Ward is a good player, but hasn’t had the chance to really show it because the Bucs have him rotating with Chris Conte and Tandy for some reason. Ward likely won’t want to stick around past this dismal season and I can’t blame him.
G Evan Smith
Smith has had a fine year and has some intriguing versatility, but he’ll be 32 next year, and the Bucs should be looking for better and younger talent along the offensive line. While Smith has played well enough to earn some playing time with the starters, he hasn’t played well enough to be the full-time starter at left guard.
DT Sealver Siliga
The Bucs wanted to get bigger at defensive tackle to help stop the run, but Siliga is too one-dimensional and has been inactive more than he’s been active this year. With Tampa Bay needing help rushing the passer all across the defensive line, it’s doubtful that Siliga will return next year.
DE Darryl Tapp
Tapp is just a stopgap defensive end signed for depth this year. At age 32, the Bucs will want to get younger and more athletic along the defensive line next season. Tampa Bay needs pass rushers and Tapp is more of a run stopper.
CB Robert McClain
McClain has been a solid addition at cornerback, but he’ll turn 30 next year and the Bucs need to get younger and add more talented players in the secondary. With McClain in the twilight of his career, he may want to explore around next year and find a team that has a better chance of winning.
DE Will Clarke
Clarke has been a serviceable defensive end in Tampa Bay, but hasn’t shown much pass rush ability. He hasn’t even been as productive as Ryan Russell and he needs to pick it up over the last eight games if he even wants to be in consideration to return.