SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, Pewter Report publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place:

FAB 1. McDONALD IS THE TYPE OF FREE AGENT BUCS WANT FOR FOUNDATION
The Buccaneers made a big splash in free agency last year with new general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith at the helm. Tampa Bay received high marks from the media for the team’s aggressiveness in signing the top free agent quarterback in Josh McCown, the top free agent defensive end in Michael Johnson and one of the more sought-after offensive linemen in tackle Anthony Collins.

The deals for those Buccaneers totaled $83.75 million.

What a waste of money.

You can’t blame Smith and Licht for trying, after inheriting a 4-12 football team. Tired of losing, the Glazers gave them the green light in free agency and they tried their best to improve the team as quickly as they could.

Don’t expect that to happen again this year. Licht won’t chart that course for the Buccaneers again.

I really like Licht, who is indeed the bona fide personnel he was hired to be, and something the Bucs’ front office has missed for quite some time. There is something truly different about Licht that sets him apart from his predecessors, Mark Dominik and Bruce Allen. Licht is a quicker learner and he already realized the mistakes he made last year and likely won’t repeat them in 2015. Repeating mistakes in free agency is what doomed Dominik, Allen and the Buccaneers.

After wasting money on the likes of linemen Derrick Deese and Todd Steussie and running back Charlie Garner in 2004, Allen fared better in terms of value with some mid-level free agent signings like quarterback Jeff Garcia, center John Wade, wide receiver Antonio Bryant, defensive end Kevin Carter, nose tackle Chris Hovan, and linebacker Cato June, but those Bucs’ free agents didn’t make a huge impact on the field, as none of those players made the Pro Bowl in Tampa Bay.

Dominik’s best free agent deals were re-signing offensive linemen Donald Penn and Davin Joseph when both were still in their prime, and adding wide receiver Vincent Jackson. After overpaying and whiffing on wide receiver Michael Clayton and running back Derek Ward in 2009, Dominik kept missing and wasting money in free agency, evidenced by ridiculous contracts for cornerback Eric Wright and free safety Dashon Goldson – and to a degree, guard Carl Nicks, whose NFL career unfortunately succumbed to MRSA while in Tampa Bay.

After last year’s big splash in free agency in Tampa Bay, McCown is already gone. Collins will soon follow, and Johnson could be shown the door, too, if the Bucs find a better replacement with the likes of Trent Cole, who was recently released by Philadelphia in a salary cap move. Cole visited the Bucs on Wednesday and could be signed by Licht, who drafted him in Philadelphia.

Last year, Tampa Bay also spent a lot of money on tight end Brandon Myers, who underwhelmed, and cornerback Alterraun Verner, who didn’t have the season he and the Bucs expected he would have coming off the Pro Bowl with Tennessee, as he transitioned to playing in the Tampa 2.

So who was the Bucs’ best free agent signing in 2014? In terms of value and production it was clearly defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who was acquired from Super Bowl champion Seattle for a modest four-year, $12 million contract that included just $4.75 million in guaranteed money.

Yet he was the one free agent signing that left a lot of Bucs fans scratching their heads and asking, “Clinton McDonald? Who’s that guy?”

What type of production did the Bucs get for investing in McDonald? After beating out Akeem Spence for the starting nose tackle position, McDonald saw time there in addition to the three-technique defensive tackle spot subbing for an injured Gerald McCoy and generated 46 tackles, nine tackles for loss, five sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception.

McDonald’s 46 tackles were the most of any defensive lineman in Tampa Bay last year, and his two fumble recoveries tied Spence for the most on the team, while McDonald’s five sacks also ranked third on the Bucs. Aside from his sheer production, one of the big reasons why McDonald was signed in the offseason was to provide the Bucs with veteran leadership fresh from a Super Bowl program in Seattle.

“Clint is incredible just from being a vet more than anything,” McCoy said. “With his play and being a vet and how he comes to work each day, Clint sets the tone for how you are supposed to be a professional. I am who I am, but if you need an example of how to be a professional, go to Clinton McDonald. He was on a championship team and he showed us why this year.”

It’s rare for a nose tackle to be playmaker in a defense, as the featured position in the Tampa 2 is the three-technique spot. But McDonald caught fire at midseason after recording four tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception against Cleveland in Week 9. He recorded a sack in each of the next three games against Atlanta, Washington and Chicago, while also recovering a fumble against the Bears.

A hamstring injury against caused him to miss the next three games before returning against Green Bay wherNew Orleans Saints  v Tampa Bay Buccaneerse he recovered a fumble and recorded six tackles. In his final game of the season, McDonald notched his fifth sack of the year with great flair, body-slamming New Orleans’ Drew Brees to the ground.

“He gets rid of the ball quickly and he’s a future Hall of Famer,” McDonald said about sacking Brees in the 2014 season finale. “It was a great sack, but we didn’t come out of that game doing what we wanted to do on defense. We got some pressure and some sacks, and we got some picks, but we didn’t get a score on defense. We have to build on that loss as we go into 2015.”

While the Bucs may flirt with the idea of making a run at All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the team knows it has a reliable playmaker in McDonald if it misses out the prized free agent, and is anxious to see what he can do when he is healthy for an entire 16-game schedule. Suh or not, McDonald is a key part of Tampa Bay’s foundation moving forward.

And McDonald is the type of free agent the Bucs want to attract going forward. Tampa Bay wants more blue-collar, hard-working, value-type talents. It was those kind of players that helped the franchise win its first and only Super Bowl. It was free agent additions like Joe Jurevicius, Ken Dilger, Kerry Jenkins and Greg Spires that meshed so well with the bona fide Bucs stars like Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Mike Alstott, Ronde Barber, Simeon Rice and John Lynch that allowed 2002 to become the year of the Buccaneers.

With a few more McDonalds – players like Cole come to mind – in free agency and a no more Collinses and Johnsons, Tampa Bay’s ship will turn around in no time. Licht has made it known that he’s learned his lesson after last year’s free agent failures. Licht is going back to his professional roots in New England and bringing some of the Patriots way to Tampa Bay.

New England and Green Bay are two teams that never dive deep into the free agent pool and attempt to “win free agency” the way Washington tries to every year. Instead, those teams build through the draft, re-sign their own stars and add role players that more of the value variety than the top shelf free agents.

The teams that typically make the biggest splashes in the spring and “win free agency” – and the Bucs have been one of those teams in recent years – usually don’t win big in the fall when football season rolls around.

Missing on so many free agent players last year has stymied the Bucs’ growth and slowed the laying of their foundation – to a degree. After his misses in March, Licht recovered nicely in a couple of ways last year from a personnel standpoint. Consider some of these under-the-radar hits that were procured after the initial wave of free agency was over.

Kicker Patrick Murray was signed after the 2013 season and wasn’t treated like training camp fodder. Instead, Murray was given the opportunity to win the starting job in Tampa Bay, which he took away from veteran Connor Barth in the preseason.

Defensive end Jacquies Smith was another great addition acquired off waivers from Buffalo. He took the starting left end job away from Will Gholston and finished second on the team with 6.5 sacks.

Licht also traded away former first-round pick Mark Barron to allow strong safety Bradley McDougald, a young, hidden gem on the roster, to get playing time and experience. Injuries forced the team to sign young free agent linebackers like Orie Lemon and Jason Williams. Both of which contributed on special teams and defense and should compete for playing time in 2015, although Williams will have to be re-signed.

Those players, a good rookie class in 2014, and McDonald, helped lay the foundation for Licht and Smith’s roster in Tampa Bay last year. After a disappointing 2-14 season, which was caused in part by some of the wrong signings in free agency, the Bucs will cut bait with some of those mistakes and continue to build their foundation with another round of McDonald-like free agents this year.

Some players may not be household names like McDonald. The Bucs won’t hang around too long in a bidding war for Suh, nor will they pursue another $8 million safety in New England’s Devin McCourty. Don’t expect the Bucs to jump on an overhyped right tackle that will be overpaid at $7 million or more per season, nor will Licht shell out over $8 million for a guard like San Francisco’s Mike Iupati.

Laying the right foundation takes time, and if it isn’t done properly with the right players, the whole house caves in – like it did last year in Tampa Bay.

“Going 2-14 didn’t sit well with me,” McDonald said at the end of the season. “To be honest, it doesn’t sit well with the guys that are 8-8, and it doesn’t sit well with the guys that are 7-9. If you don’t win a Super Bowl, it doesn’t sit well with you. This is what we’re here for. Every team is trying to win the Super Bowl.

“At the same time, this is foundation we’re laying. If you look at any kind of construction job, any kind of demolition and new build … the foundation is the messiest thing there is. It’s messy digging up the ground and clearing it out. The foundation we laid this past year will hopefully be a stronger foundation for us in 2015.”

Don’t expect a big splash from Tampa Bay in free agency next week. There may be a modest McDonald-type signing or two out of the gate, and Cole, who is visiting One Buccaneer Place on Friday, could be one of those free agent additions. Otherwise, Licht will likely let the market settle after the first wave of free agency and get some solid players at a better value, rather than overpaying premium dollars for a solid player at the onset of free agency, especially along the offensive line where the talent is mediocre this year.

Licht quickly learned his lesson from last year and will be more methodical and patient when signing free agents this year. He’ll look for the kind of role players that New England and Green Bay add each year, and the kind of free agents the Bucs signed in 2002 on their way to the Super Bowl. He’ll be looking for next McDonald.

FAB 2. COMPETITION FROM McDONALD HELPED SPENCE GROW INTO A FORCE ON DEFENSE
Shortly after the Buccaneers hired head coach Lovie Smith last offseason, nose tackle Akeem Spence, the team’s fourth-round pick, was arrested on misdemeanor marijuana charges. When Tampa Bay signed veteran nose tackle Clinton McDonald to a four-year, $12 million contract in March, the future looked bleak for Spence, who had a modest rookie season with 29 tackles, four tackles for loss and one sack while starting 14 games.

But instead of backing down from the tall odds, the 6-foot-1, 307-pound Spence stood tall and faced the challenge head on. He battled McDonald well enough to earn some considerable playing time in the defensive line rotation. Despite just five starts last year, Spence notched 39 tackles, four tackles for loss, had three sacks and recovered two fumbles – all career highs.

Spence’s competitiveness and talent impressed McDonald from the beginning.

“Just like the scripture says, iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” McDonald said. “When I got here I wasn’t sure how he and I were going to gel and bond. But I’ll tell you one thing right now – Akeem Spence is a fighter. He’s a warrior. He wants to get better at this game.

“It’s hard to find guys these days that really love this game. I came in with the old CBA where you had two-a-day practices. Akeem would have fit right in with that because he’s that type of guy. He’s one of those guys that when the going gets tough he’s not going to fold.”

One of the reasons why McDonald was sought after in free agency was due to his pass rush ability. During Seattle’s Super Bowl run in 2013, McDonald notched a career-high 5.5 sacks while sharing time at nose tackle with Brandon Mebane.

“He matured mentally and he matured in knowing how to set things up,” Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “Seriously, Coach [Joe] Cullen and Coach [Mike] Phair, just the different things they showed him, taking his tools and using them – he’s extremely explosive. He just has to know how to use it. He’s kind of out of control sometimes. He’s studied the game and that’s what has made him better.”

Tripling his sack output and recording seven QB pressures, which ranked fourth on the team and was just one behind starters like McDonald and defensive end Michael Johnson, who had eight, is a huge improvement as Spence heads into his third season. He also ended the 2014 season on a high note and has plenty of momentum heading into 2015.

NFL: DEC 28 Saints at BuccaneersSpence totaled 20 tackles, three tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in the last five games of the year. To put that in perspective, the Illinois product notched 19 stops, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss and a fumble recovery in Tampa Bay’s first 11 games of the 2014 campaign. And in his final game of the year, Spence sacked New Orleans’ Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees.

“I finally got to Drew!” Spence said. “I’ve been chasing him for two years now. He’s a prized trophy. You have your Tom Bradys, your Matt Ryans, your Peyton Mannings and you’ve got Drew Brees, too. Those are the guys you really want to get on the ground because they are so hard to sack. My first one in the NFL was against Tom Brady [in 2013], so this one [against] Brees is huge, too.”

Following the Bucs’ 23-20 loss to the Saints in Week 17, Spence was visibly upset with how the team threw the game in the second half to secure a 2-14 record and the first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by removing the majority of starters after building a 20-7 halftime lead.

“It didn’t sit well with me,” Spence said. “I’ll just be honest, but it wasn’t my decision to make. It was a decision that came down from up top. I’m going to play with the guys that are out there. The coaches obviously had the confidence in the guys they played and wanted to see what they had in them. It’s tough when you don’t have Lavonte David and Michael Johnson in there, but at the same time, this is the NFL. It’s all about that next guy up mentality. Those guys have to come in and make the plays, but it’s definitely a game we should have won.”

Spence was one of those guys that came in and made plays in 2014 and the team is excited to see how much more he can grow with another year of competing with McDonald and being taught by one of the league’s best defensive line coaches in Cullen.

“It’s come pretty far and I thank Coach Cullen and Coach Smith for giving me the opportunity,” Spence said. “I work hard on my pass rush at practice. I’ve been working at it since training camp and they believe in me and have given me opportunities. When the opportunity came against Brees, I made the most of it. I’m a young player that plans on growing every year.”

Last year, the Bucs thought about replacing Spence. After a promising second season with the Bucs, the trio of Spence, McDonald and McCoy has made the defensive tackle position one of the deepest and most talented in Tampa Bay. And it’s a position they can choose to ignore in free agency or the draft unless the right player comes available that fits their value system.

FAB 3. BUCS ARE CONFINDENT MANKINS WILL HAVE A BETTER SEASON IN 2015
The Buccaneers would admit that left guard Logan Mankins didn’t play his best football in 2014, but there were several factors that contributed to that. The first was that Mankins was acquired in a trade one week prior to the start of the season. Having gone without the benefit of practicing in the Florida heat and humidity during mini-camps, OTAs or training camp, Mankins struggled to get used to the sweltering conditions in Tampa during the months of September and October.

What complicated matters was a knee sprain he suffered in Tampa Bay’s season opener against Carolina. He returned to play the next week against St. Louis, but he struggled with the lingering effects of that injured knee throughout the season was never close to 100 percent.

The team feels that an offseason’s worth of rest and acclimation to Florida’s weather this spring and summer during OTAs, mini-camps and training camp will do wonders for the 32-year old Mankins, who has only played football in the cooler offseason climates at Fresno State in college and in New England in the pros. And he’ll have the entire offseason to get used to playing in between center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle Demar Dotson.

Last year, Mankins had to try to forge some instant chemistry with Dietrich-Smith and left tackle Anthony Collins on the fly without the benefit of training camp or any preseason games. When Collins got injured and was ultimately benched, Mankins had to adjust to playing next to Oniel Cousins, rookie Kevin Pamphile and Dotson down the stretch, which didn’t help.

NFL: SEP 07 Panthers at Buccaneers

To his credit, Mankins didn’t complain once or make any excuses, which exhibited the level of professionalism that he is known for. While Mankins had to grimace a bit watching the Patriots win the Super Bowl as the Bucs finished with the worst record in the NFL last year, he appears committed to finishing his career in Tampa Bay.

“On a 2-14 team I thought Logan did a good job,” Smith said. “He played consistent ball for us throughout. He was great in the locker room, the culture that we’re changing – we’re talking about when you have a guy that’s been through it like Logan has, I thought he was outstanding doing that.

“As we go forward, he’s one of the reasons too that we talk about here to there and making that move. But against a tough situation for him – a guy that has won his entire time in the league pretty much – to have to go through this, he did, and I thought it was good for our football team to see how a real pro handles a situation like this.”

The team is committed to having Mankins as its starting left guard in 2015 – even at his full $6.75 million base salary. In addition to a $250,000 workout bonus, Mankins will be a $7 million cap hit for the Bucs this year. Mankins will turn 33 this year and may have a hard time living up to his payday, as his play isn’t what it used to be in his Pro Bowl heyday in New England. But after a contract squabble with the Patriots a few years ago, the Bucs didn’t want to rock the boat and suggest a pay cut this year. The team can afford his salary, and needs as many able bodies protecting the quarterback – likely rookie Jamie Winston – in 2015 after giving up 52 sacks last year.

After this season, Mankins will have one year remaining on his contract that will also feature the same pay structure and $7 million cap charge in 2016. While a younger guard may emerge to beat him out after the upcoming campaign, perhaps Kadeem Edwards or a player the Bucs draft this year, Tampa Bay isn’t opposed to keeping Mankins around for the final year of his contract, especially when he could very well have a bounce back in 2015.

FAB 4. SOURCES FOR BUCS NEWS CAN END UP COMING FROM EVERYWHERE
To celebrate my 20 years of covering the Buccaneers I’m going to share with you some of the behind-the-scenes encounters I’ve had over the last two decades. These stories will appear in the first 20 SR’s Fab 5 columns of 2015, which encompasses much of the offseason.

PewterReport.com has broken its fair share of Bucs stories over the years, and I was fortunate to break the news of Raheem Morris leaving Tampa Bay in 2006 to become the defensive coordinator at Kansas State University and his return to the Bucs in 2007. I’ve always had a great relationship with Morris since his days as a young assistant defensive backs coach when he was Mike Tomlin’s understudy in Tampa Bay.

As a K-State alum, I visit GoPowercat.com, which is a PewterReport.com-type website for the Wildcats, and know the publisher and writers quite well having gone to school with them. They are extremely well connected within the KSU program and notified me when new head coach Ron Prince had lured Morris to K-State to run the defense and coach the defensive backs at the ripe old age of 29.

I remember calling Morris on his cell phone from The Home Depot I was at and playfully scolded him for not telling me he was going to my alma mater. Morris couldn’t believe I found out so quickly and told me that the deal had literally gone done a few hours prior after Ruffin McNeill turned down the opportunity and decided to stay at Texas Tech.

When he got to K-State, I continued to stay in touch with him via e-mail and he invited me to come out to the Texas game in November and hooked me up with some tickets. I met Morris at the team hotel and we spent some time catching up. He introduced me to the Wildcats offensive coordinator, James Franklin, who is now Penn State’s head coach, and wide receiver Jordy Nelson, and gave me the tickets to Saturday’s game.

Morris asked how the Bucs were doing and I told him that they missed he and Tomlin terribly, as Greg Burns was a terrible defensive backs coach and Tampa Bay’s pass defense was dreadful.

MORRISKSUAfter watching Josh Freeman score three touchdowns in K-State’s nationally televised 45-42 upset over No. 4 Texas, I visited with Morris one last time before returning to Tampa. Morris reveled in the fact that his Wildcats defense knocked Colt McCoy out of the game on the first drive, and then introduced me to Freeman, who at age 18 was already 6-foot-5, 245 pounds. Little did I know that I would be covering Freeman professionally less than three years later.

Less than two months later, Morris would be back on his way to Tampa Bay, replacing Burns, who was fired. I had sent e-mails to general manager Bruce Allen during the 2006 season, giving him some good-natured ribbing about letting Morris leave the Bucs at the same time Tomlin did when he departed for the Minnesota defensive coordinator gig.

I broke the story about Morris being signed by the Bucs, but that scoop didn’t come from Allen or Morris. It came from my compatriots at GoPowercat.com, who got the word that he was leaving K-State first and gave me the tip to break into the Tampa Bay fan base. I called Morris and asked if he had indeed returned to Tampa and he was stunned again that I heard about it so quickly.

“Scott, how did you find out so fast?” Morris said. “I’m sitting in Doug Williams’ office right now signing my contract.”

Upon his return, Morris was nicknamed “Brinks” around One Buccaneer Place because Allen made him the highest paid assistant coach in the NFL. Allen desperately needed Morris back to fix the Bucs’ pass defense and essentially loaded up a Brinks truck worth of money to bring him back from Manhattan, Kan. after being gone just one year.

In my 20 years of covering the Bucs, I’ve learned that tips and scoop can sometimes come from the most unlikely sources out of left field, and this was one of those instances thanks to my friends at GoPowercat.com. Unfortunately, karma would come back around on me at the conclusion of Morris’ return to the Bucs.

Remember all those playful jabs to Allen that I told you I sent during the 2006 season? Well, as fate would have it, Morris returned to the Bucs … and Burns replaced him at Kansas State as the Wildcats defensive backs coach.

Later in 2007, Freeman and the Wildcats would get annihilated at Nebraska by the score of 73-31. Some unknown quarterback named Joe Ganz would complete 30-of-40 passes for a Nebraska-record 510 yards and seven touchdowns against Burns’ hapless secondary.

Allen saw that box score shortly after K-State’s loss and knew what an awful coach Burns was. He sent me an e-mail telling me that I should have been careful for what I asked for when suggesting the Bucs try to bring Morris back. Allen undoubtedly got a big laugh out of seeing Burns’ K-State secondary get shredded at my expense, after watching the same thing happen to Tampa Bay’s pass defense in 2006.

In case you forgot, with Morris at the helm, the Bucs’ pass defense ranked first in the league in 2007 and helped get Tampa Bay to the playoffs.

FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• Speaking of Kansas State, the Bucs are fond of Wildcats receiver and return specialist Tyler Lockett, and I found something interesting that I wanted to share with you from CBSSports.com’s Pat Kirwan. Not only are NFL teams studying draft prospects’ catches in college, they are also closing examining the players’ drops, too.

“More and more, teams use drop ratios when analyzing wide receivers. Alabama’s Amari Cooper led the nation with 124 receptions and 16 touchdowns and is the No. 1 WR. After Cooper, East Carolina’s Justin Hardy was No. 2 in receptions (121), dropping one of every 35 passes. West Virginia’s Kevin White was No. 3 in receptions (109), and dropped one of every 33. Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett was No. 4 (106), dropping one of every 26, while Washington State’s Vince Mayle also had 106 receptions but his drop rate was one of every 13 balls. The best drop rate I’ve seen is Florida State’s Rashad Greene, who dropped only one of every 74. One of the worst? Auburn’s Sammie Coates at one of every nine.”

Interesting stuff. Lockett, Hardy and Greene are all in contention to be drafted in the third round as a slot receiver this year by the Bucs.

• Bucs defensive tackles Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence are two of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and class acts on and off the field. Both were very upset at the end of the season, losing to New Orleans at home in Week 17, 23-20 after having a 20-7 lead at halftime. I caught up with both players in the locker room following the defeat that would send Tampa Bay to 2-14 at the conclusion of the 2014 campaign, including a dubious 0-8 record at home.

“It’s very unfortunate that we weren’t able win at home,” Spence said. “Your home is what you are supposed to protect. It’s where you are supposed to bring your ‘A’ game. You don’t want anybody coming in and winning on your home turf. That’s one thing we have to work in in 2015 – protecting the Bay. I know our defense has to play better at home and bring our ‘A’ game every week.”

McDonald was even more dejected than Spence as he felt for the long-suffering Bucs fan base.

“Man, I think the most frustrating thing for us was not to win for our home fans,” McDonald said. “I think it was even harder on them than it was on us. These are ordinary people believing in what this team is doing. They believe in us so much that they buy season tickets with their hard-earned money. They believe in us so much that they come to every game in the heat or the rain. These are true, diehard Bucs fans. It’s more frustrating for us not to win at home for them than it is for ourselves. I really feel for them. Things are going to change next year. That’s for sure.”

• Speaking of the defensive tackle position one name to keep an eye on is Clemson’s Grady Jarrett. The 6-foot-1, 304-pound Jarrett is incredibly quick and built like Tampa Bay nose tackle Clinton McDonald. He had a good showing at his pro day recently, improving his 40-yard dash time to 5.03 and his bench press to 33 reps of 225 pounds.

Jarrett really stood out at the Senior Bowl and finished his Tigers career with 207 tackles, 37 quarterback pressures, 29.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. With Akeem Spence heading into his third year, drafting a nose tackle like Jarrett in the fourth round this to eventually replace him might be a good idea. (Warning: the following highlight video contains profanity)

• I’m hearing whispers around the NFL that the market will be so strong for free agent All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh that he could wind up making an average of more than $17 million per season. To put that in perspective, the Bucs re-signed Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a six-year, $95.2 million contract extension that averages $15.8 million per season.

The market will drive Suh to make approximately $10 million more than McCoy over the length of his new deal. Credit Bucs general manager Jason Licht for locking up McCoy prior to free agency with a deal that will look like a bargain by the time Suh cashes in on free agency.

Bucs director of football administration Mike Greenberg also gets credit for structuring McCoy’s deal in such a way that made his salary cap hit last year top $21 million to use a good deal of Tampa Bay’s existing cap space in 2014. McCoy only counts $14.595 million against the cap this year, and his cap number drops to a more manageable $13 million average from 2016-21.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

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: sr@pewterreport.com