FAB 4. BUCS FREE AGENCY UPDATE
The 2017 NFL free agency period begins on Tuesday, March 7 when teams are allowed to enter into negotiations with agents of players who are set to become unrestricted free agents. As of 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 9, all 2016 contracts expire and teams must be under the league-mandated salary cap (top 51 players) in order to sign free agents to contracts.

Tampa Bay has 17 players set to become unrestricted free agents. Here’s the list.

BUCS’ 2017 UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
RT Gosder Cherilus
S Chris Conte
DE Will Gholston
QB Mike Glennon
C Joe Hawley
DT John Hughes
WR Vincent Jackson
S Bradley McDougald
TE Brandon Myers
CB Josh Robinson
RB Jacquizz Rodgers
WR Russell Shepard
WR Cecil Shorts
DT Sealver Siliga
RB Antone Smith
LB Daryl Smith
DT Akeem Spence

The Bucs have established a value system in place with a target number for each player based on the player’s worth as determined by the team. This is typically done through statistical analysis of a player’s stats with his age, previous contract and overall value to the team (leadership, work ethic, locker room character, age, etc.) factored in. Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg, who is the team’s capologist and contract negotiator along with Licht, will then find comparable contracts to similar NFL players to help determine the value.

Bucs G.M. Jason Licht enters free agency with at least $29.5 million worth of cap room – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Agents often start high and the team starts lower and a deal is often struck when either the two parties meet somewhere in the middle or the player accepts the team’s parameters. If a player is not willing to come off his price and exceeds the baseline that Licht and Greenberg have in place, that player won’t be re-signed and will hit free agency to see what the market will bear.

With less than three weeks until the start of free agency, here’s an update on what’s transpiring based on what we know from reaching out to players and their representatives.

Gholston is the team’s priority and both parties want to get a deal done before free agency starts and will continue to work towards that end at the NFL Scouting Combine later in the month. Because he is more of a run stuffer than a pass rusher, and pass rushing defensive ends are the ones that get the bigger paydays, Gholston will likely have to settle for a deal closer to $5 million – $6 million per season than what he originally asked for. A valid contract comparison for him is the deal Michael Johnson recently signed with Cincinnati for $5 million per year.

Rodgers can’t be re-signed until he hits free agency because he signed a Minimum Salary Benefit deal, which is a one-year contract, with the Buccaneers in 2016. That’s a technical rule in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Tampa Bay isn’t allowed to negotiate with Rodgers until March 7. Both sides want to get a deal done, so look for a cheap, multi-year contract to be signed within the first 72 hours of free agency.

The team values Spence more than Siliga, and that’s obvious based on the number of snaps each player played. Spence played 362 (34 percent) snaps compared to 67 (17 percent) from Siliga. I would suspect that Spence could be signed for a contract around $2 million per year, while the team wouldn’t mind having Siliga back for half that.

The team wants Hawley and Shepard back at the right price, which is likely around $1.5 million – $2 million per season for Shepard, which is the going rate for special teams players and part-time receivers that aren’t options in the return game. I don’t know what Hawley’s asking price is nor do I know what the Bucs are willing to budget for the center position, especially with some in-house options like Evan Smith, Ali Marpet and Kevin Pamphile.

Bucs QB Mike Glennon threw 2 costly INTs at Cleveland - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs QB Mike Glennon – Photo by: Getty Images

I’m not sure if the Bucs are interested in bringing back Myers, who will be 32 this September, and Hughes. What I do know is that Glennon isn’t expected to re-sign with the Bucs, instead opting for the chance to start elsewhere in free agency. Tampa Bay will get a 2018 compensatory pick – possibly a third-rounder – if he ends up signing a lucrative deal this offseason.

Several other Buccaneers could hit free agency so the team can better assess their market value. Those players include Hawley, McDougald, Conte and Robinson. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs also let players like Shepard, Spence, Siliga hit free agency, too.

But that doesn’t mean that they are unwanted in Tampa Bay. It could mean that the Bucs are letting the players test the market to find their actual worth and see how close – or far away – the Bucs’ value may be as a result. Just because a Buccaneer isn’t signed by March 9 doesn’t mean he won’t return at some point in free agency.

However, Shorts and Antone Smith are recovering from season-ending knee injuries and aren’t in Tampa Bay’s plans moving forward. Daryl Smith, Jackson and Cherlius are not expected to get new contracts, and could very well retire this offseason. So out of the team’s 17 unrestricted free agents, at least five are pretty much guaranteed not to return before free agency even starts.

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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: [email protected]
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yuccaneers

Scott – I am guessing, the team has fully boughten into, Tyler Oberly, the team’s Manager of Analytics, Elitics Model, that uses his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) index to help determine a price point for each of the teams free agents based on, the following snippet from you Fab 5 column……. “This is typically done through statistical analysis of a player’s stats with his age, previous contract and overall value to the team (leadership, work ethic, locker room character, age, etc.) factored in.” – in essences, it gives the team a singular grade or point scale – which is then… Read more »

macabee

I get It, you get it! But we got some work to do at home with poppa Koetter. You know he’s the boss! lol.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2588754-dirk-koetter-says-he-doesnt-trust-buccaneers-analytics-department

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JasonOfthetower

Been a fan of McCaffrey for a while now. He’s my draft crush. I’d love to see him in Pewter and Red, but I don’t know if they pull the trigger at 19.

Personally, I don’t think he makes it out of the first round.

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Bucnut2

Totally agree

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cgmaster27

Loving this RB centric Fab 5. I for one am in for cook if he falls to us of course, which would be a small miracle. It all depends on free agency at this point. I am not for trading up too far to get him either as we need picks. If he’s still there like two spots ahead of us, make a move and get him. As for McCaffrey, I’m not a big fan. I wouldn’t mind getting him if we traded back, but not at 19. He’s too small for my liking. He’ll end up going to New… Read more »

jongruden

CG- saying ” I want Cook” doesn’t surprise me since this would be 3rd yr in a row you wanted a Nole in the first round ha I will have to watch FSU Games next yr to see who you want for us in first round next yr, lol Mark Cook will have a whole article dedicated to this as well, I rather get wr Corey Davis who is a beast and is a do it all wr. or I can be on board with OJ Howard as well

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cgmaster27

Jon good to see you take a break from the Arizona team site to pay us folk at pewter report a visit. Haha As for wanting Jalen Ramsey last year, look at any sites rankings and he was the best rookie DB taken last year. Look at Jameis’ rookie season, it speaks for itself. As for cook, there’s a reason he’s number one back in some boards ahead of Fournette. If he’s there at 19 it would be complete stupid not to take him. I’ve stated a couple times I would take Corey Davis all day if he’s there. But… Read more »

scubog

JonnyG: The FSU players we would like to see in red and pewter is because they are good, not because they wore garnet and gold. Maybe if you observed the aforementioned trio during their college careers you too would have trumpeted their virtues. There once was this little LB who some saw as a Safety. He was a “tweener”. Those of us fortunate enough to watch #10 play knew whichever position he was given he’d be a star. He settled at LB, was given #55 and was pretty good. Sometimes, even though you live in the desert, you come off… Read more »

jongruden

FSU Fans are bias to their fore mentioned players forget about the other rb’s like Fournette and McCaffery get FSU Back Cook. I have see countless articles written By FSU Fan Mark Cook for campaigning for his Nole Players in the past like that’s the only school in the country, just calling it like I see “You Can’t handle the truth”- A few good men So I’m a New Yorker now? Ha ok, whatever Scu very few so called fans on this web site or in Tampa know as much of the Bucs as I do and you know this.… Read more »

Bucnut2

SR another GREAT fab 5. thank you. I love MacCaffrey and would not be upset if we take him at 10 even though that might be a reach. The guy can flat out play. I like hunt as well and agree with your comment on Jones. Thanks again Scott.

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Brandonges

I feel like McCaffrey is going to be overdrafted. He should be a nifty utility player, but I don’t see him as an NFL bell cow back (despite the number of college carries listed in the article). Unless Dalvin Cook or Fournette fall (they won’t), I don’t think there is a back worthy of taking at 19. I read an extended piece on Obi Melifonwu recently and this kid is intriguing. Incredible size/speed and good production. I think if Mike Williams and Corey Davis are off the board and an elite DE doesn’t fall, this guy should be the pick.… Read more »

surferdudes

With talent at R.B. deep in this draft, seems no doubt we will up grade an area of need. Why not McCaffery in the first, Hunt in the third? That would be a young cheep dynamic duo moving forward. You could even play them together, moving McCaff all over the field. Draft a good receiver in the second, and we got some fire power.

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Naplesfan

I think the Bucs would be crazy to take any running back in the first round, the position simply doesn’t merit a first round pick. In this particular draft which is heavy on talent at several offensive positions, including running backs, I’d prefer to see the Bucs wait til Day 3 to take any RB. I know that PR writers and quite a few commenters here seem to be seriously intent on digging Martin’s grave, but I am still not convinced the Bucs are going to just cut him. His NFL career is not over til it’s over, he’s still… Read more »

thewbacca

I agree. Keep Martin at a fair contract based on incentive. I think McCaffrey is more at his ceiling than OJ Howard and Corey Davis, they have way more upside.

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Naplesfan

By the way, I saw a report today on si.com by Alan Schechter that Roy Cummings was told by the Bucs they intend to hold on to Martin for the foreseeable future. They are not required to make any decisions on him until he completes the third suspended game of the 2017 season … they can void his contract at any point until then and he won’t count against the cap. So basically, they can have him practice and play in the pre-season, no matter whom they draft of pick up in free agency, wait and see who’s actually performing… Read more »

plopes808

That’s great news! I still hope we keep him and he makes a comeback though.

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scubog

That is exactly what I’ve said the Bucs will do with Doug Martin. No need to break up with your girlfriend until you’ve secured another date to the Prom.

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thewbacca

Scott you really make me wish Tampa would draft every player you feature on the Fab 5. I still think Corey Davis will be a gem in the NFL but will be unavailable when the Bucs pick. I think the best mix would be: OJ Howard, Budda Baker, and Kareem Hunt.

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plopes808

IF Cook is there at 19, I’d be for taking him. But I’m torn between that option and trading back, getting McCaffrey AND an extra pick. Lucky for us, the Cook option will likely be off the table by the time we pick. I could also see us grabbing a DE, but with the depth of this draft BPA seems like our best route either way. We have enough holes right now that just about any position we hit will fill a need. Licht will get us some good pieces again this year and push us closer to being consistent… Read more »

drdneast

I agree with you 100 percent about Martin, Naplesfan. I am so tired of the media and fans screaming for the team to cut a valuable resource every time a player does something worse than get a traffic ticket in public. Generally it is the same people who whine and cry about Buc management letting the player go and calling them stupid when the player returns to his All Pro level of a play less than a year later. Martin is doing all the right things to return to the Bucs including checking into a rehab facility. If ASJ had… Read more »

scubog

I don’t disagree with your point about retaining Doug Martin through Training Camp and then making an evaluation of him just like any other hopeful trying to make the roster. I know this much, a repeat of his poor 2016 season this August would be disastrous if Licht doesn’t have a viable replacement to be the lead back.

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kram0789

I don’t think RB is one of our top 3 needs on offense. WR, OL and TE in that order. WR is the obviouse no.1 need. OL is second because we have to protect Winston and we have to open holes for the RB’s. Last year our line was exposed as mediocre. Especially in our losses we were unable to run block and pass protect adequately. No matter how good the skill players are, if we can’t run block and pass protect the offense is going to be inconsistent at best. I think that describes the 2016 Bucs offense. Tight… Read more »

surferdudes

Don’t get the love for Druggie Martin. Even if they kept him, he wouldn’t be able to play until week four. Then he would need time to get into playing shape. This draft is loaded with young cheap legs, the Bucs will draft at least one back, resign Rodgers, and have Barber compete with at least one undrafted walk on. Guy’s like a lost love, let Martin go.

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chetthevette

Good Fab 5 as usual. Why do people think that a new running back will suddenly turn the running game into the juggernaut we fielded 2 years ago. What the difference was and still is one player. Logan Mankins. If Sweezy is as good of run blocker as advertised all our current players can gain big yardage. I can’t see McCaffery lasting more than a couple of years as the bell cow back. NFL linebackers and safeties will make mincemeat out of him. Our #1 pick should be a slam dunk, not some “I hope this works” pick. I’m now… Read more »

GoldsonAges

RB’s are a dime a dozen. I would draft 1 or even 2 and move on from the aging injury prone Martin and Sims. We need to get some young blood in here at rb

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drdneast

You are spot on about the loss of Makin’s resulting in our porous offensive line last year. Surferdudes is the exact type of “fan” I was talking about. He will be the first to call Bucs management stupid if they cut him and he goes on to excel elsewhere. Don’t think for a minute Martin is going to take a huge pay cut from the Bucs in order to run behind an offensive line like last year. He has his pride. Would you take $3 million from the Bucs to run behind last years offensive line or $3 million to… Read more »

scubog

I agree with you that holding onto Doug Martin, albeit with some renegotiated contract terms through his three game suspension, is the smart thing to do. At that point it will be like the hotel commercial “Should he stay or should he go?” I don’t think there are many teams out there who would see Doug Martin’s 2.9 yds/carry, frequent injuries, unnamed drug use, hefty salary and be too eager to sign him in hopes that he can play like he did in 2015. He probably knows his best chance is here. When a guy off the street (Rodgers) who… Read more »

Glen Davies

Aloha from Big Island, Hawaii. A point that’s been bugging me for decades is this…so much of sports injuries are unavoidable. That is, dumb bad luck. It doesn’t get near the coverage that the player is/has become “unreliable” Jameis could be labeled that in any offensive play, @ any time (ask Bo Jackson or Joe Theisman). Bret Favre started > 210 consecutive games. Barry Sanders was the only Detroit offensive threat, yet Kiffin couldn’t stop him. Barry was smaller, as this column points out, and very talented, and lucky. As quarterback, all Jameis can do is rotate his shoulder when… Read more »