FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• Despite the NFL increasing the 2018 salary cap to $178 million, there are three teams already over the cap for this coming season and will need to do some restructuring of contracts or some cutting to be in compliance with the cap by March.
Chiefs $7,889,812 – 51 players signed
Eagles $7,287,692 – 54 players signed
Steelers $3,062,475 – 39 players signed
The Chiefs don’t have many potential cap casualties that would fit the Bucs’ needs, but keep an eye on the Eagles and Steelers. Philadelphia defensive end Vinny Curry, who has 22 career sacks, could be released due to the fact that Brandon Graham and 2017 first-round draft pick Derek Barnett are the starters. Curry is scheduled to make $11 million in 2018 and the Eagles would save $5 million if he were to be released.
The Steelers may have a hard time keeping veteran safety Mike Mitchell and his $5 million salary next year. The 30-year old Mitchell has 41 pass breakups, 10 career interceptions, seven sacks, seven forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries in his nine-year NFL career.
• Speaking of salary cap casualties, former Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib could be forced out in Denver. Talib, who turns 32 in February, is still a very good cover corner and has a $12 million cap charge in 2018. The Broncos can free up $11 million by trading or releasing him. The Broncos could also part ways with running back C.J. Anderson, who topped 1,000 yards this season. Cutting Anderson could free up $4.5 million worth of cap room in Denver.
Baltimore is also in a struggle with the salary cap and two big-name veterans could become cap casualties. Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has a $6.95 million cap charge this year and the Ravens could save $4 million by releasing or trading him. The 35-year old Suggs had 11 sacks in 2017, which was the seventh time in his career that he has notched double-digit sacks in a season. Suggs, a future Hall of Famer with 125.5 career sacks and 34 forced fumbles, can play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.
Veteran safety Eric Weddle is in the same boat. He has a $8.25 million cap charge in 2018 thanks to a $6.5 million base salary. The Ravens can release or trade Weddle and save $4.75 million. The 33-year old Weddle has 10 interceptions, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in the past two years in Baltimore.
And finally, another big name pass rusher could be released this offseason. Green Bay Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews is in the last year of his contract at age 31 and has a $10.4 million base salary with a $468,750 roster bonus, plus a $500,000 workout bonus. The Packers can save $11,368,750 by releasing him or trading him. Like Suggs, Matthews has the size and skill set to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.
Matthews has been banged up over the last two years, but has still produced 13 sacks, including 8.5 this year, along with two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Matthews has 81 career sacks and 14 forced fumbles in his nine-year NFL career with the Packers.
With very few options in free agency at defensive end outside of Dallas’ Demarcus Lawrence, who is expected to receive the franchise tag, and Detroit’s Ziggy Ansah, the Bucs may have to take a chance on an older, cap casualty victim to provide an immediate boost to the team’s pass rush.
• The PewterReport.com staff returned to the Pewter Nation Podcast this week to kick off our Bucs offseason coverage. We weigh in on whether Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter could kick Saints head coach Sean Peyton’s ass, discuss Tampa Bay’s running game(or lack thereof) and look ahead to the 2018 opponents. Here is a link to that Pewter Nation Podcast – Episode 57: The Buccaneers Are Behind
If you haven’t listened to this week’s podcasts yet, it’s the perfect way to enjoy your lunch on a Friday afternoon or battle rush hour traffic on your way home from work. In addition to listening to the Pewter Nation Podcasts on PewterReport.com you can also subscribe to the free podcasts at PodBean by clicking here and on SoundCloud by clicking here.
• It’s 2018 and that means that six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is no longer Tampa Bay’s highest-paid player. That distinction belongs to wide receiver Mike Evans, who is set to make $13.258 million this year thanks to the Bucs picking up his fifth-year option.
The Bucs have been trying to get Evans’ contract extended for the past year, but negotiations have been moving at a snail’s pace. Expect talks to heat up this offseason as the team would like to have Evans signed to a long-term deal by training camp.
• Did I hear correctly that Baylor coach Matt Rhule, who went 1-11 in his debut season with the Bears, interviewed for the Indianapolis head coaching job? Okay. Didn’t realize the Colts were that desperate.
• If you aren’t one of our 29,400 Twitter followers on our @PewterReport Twitter account what are you waiting for? Join the rest of Pewter Nation and get the latest Bucs news and observations from the PewterReport.com staff, reports from Bucs press conferences and notifications of the latest PewterReport.com stories, join the masses who follow @PewterReport and help us continue to grow our following on Twitter. And if you are on Facebook, please follow our Facebook page by clicking here.
• I respect Pro Football Focus and their way of analyzing pro and college football players. They put a lot of time and effort into it. I certainly don’t take their word as the gospel on players and have to take it with a grain of salt, but I have an appreciation for what PFF does. However, it is things like PFF’s first-round rookie rankings that came out this week that make me shake my head in disbelief.
PFF had Bucs rookie tight end O.J. Howard ranked as the lowest-graded first-rounder with a 41.9 grade out of 100. Keep in mind that Howard caught 26 passes for 432 yards and six touchdowns, which was tied for the team lead in Tampa Bay.
It’s one thing for PFF to grade Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, who had a passer rating of 103 and threw 19 touchdowns before his knee injury, with a 75.1 grade. But PFF loses all credibility by giving Chiefs backup quarterback Patrick Mahomes a 79.9 grade despite completing 22-of-35 passes for 284 yards with one interception and zero touchdowns.
Surely Howard deserved to be ranked higher than Mahomes, right? Of course he does. And what makes Howard’s PFF ranking absolutely laughable is that Cincinnati’s first-round pick, wide receiver John Ross, has a higher grade – 45.9 – despite not catching a pass in 2017, having one carry, which he fumbled, and only saw action on 17 snaps before being placed on injured reserve, according to Tampa Bay Times’ Greg Auman.
• Be sure to visit PewterReport.com over the weekend and next week as we preview and report on the East-West Shrine Game practices live from St. Petersburg, Fla. and Trevor Sikkema comes out with his first NFL First-Round Mock Draft on Monday.