FAB 4. Are Bucs’ Cheaper Gambles Working?

Tampa Bay’s front office made several calculated gambles this offseason with the Bucs’ roster and salary cap. How have those moves panned out thus far? Let’s take a look.

The Bucs’ first roster move of the offseason saw general manager Jason Licht and new head coach Bruce Arians cut aging defensive end Vinny Curry, who was scheduled to make $8 million this year, and replaced him with pass rusher Shaquil Barrett, who signed a one-year deal worth $4 million. That move saved cap-strapped Tampa Bay $4 million.

Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians
Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Then Licht and Arians traded disgruntled wide receiver DeSean Jackson to Philadelphia to clear his $11 million salary off the books, and replaced Jackson with speed receiver Breshad Perriman, who signed a one-year, $4 million deal. Jackson signed a three-year, $27.9 million deal with the Eagles that included a $7,170,000 signing bonus and $15 million in guaranteed money.

Tampa Bay then opted not to re-sign middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, who landed a lucrative, four-year, $54 million deal with San Francisco despite coming off a knee injury. Alexander’s deal came with a $4 million signing bonus, $25.5 million in guaranteed money and he’ll count $11,531,250 against the 49ers’ salary cap this year.

To replace Alexander, the Bucs spent the fifth overall pick in the 2019 draft on inside linebacker Devin White, who will make $5,333,148 during his rookie year, and save the Bucs nearly $6 million this season.

Tampa Bay decided against re-signing slot receiver Adam Humphries, who signed a four-year, $36 million contract with Tennessee, including a $10 million signing bonus, with a $500,000 roster bonus and $19 million in guaranteed money. The Bucs replaced Humphries by moving Chris Godwin to the slot. Godwin is in the third year of his rookie deal and will count $875,041 towards the cap this year. He’s a significantly cheaper option for the Bucs that saves the team millions.

And finally, Licht and Arians cut nine-year veteran Gerald McCoy, who was scheduled to make $13 million in 2019. McCoy refused a pay cut and wound up in Carolina making $8 million this year, while the Bucs signed Ndamukong Suh to replace him at $9.25 million, which saved Tampa Bay $3.75 million in salary cap space.

Bucs director of football administration Mike Greenberg
Bucs director of football administration Mike Greenberg – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Licht, Arians and director of football administration Mike Greenberg, the team’s capologist, saved nearly $30 million by making these roster moves. How have they paid off as we approach the quarter mark of the 2019 season?

Curry re-signed with Philadelphia and has just two tackles as a reserve defense, while Barrett leads the NFL with eight sacks to go along with his 16 tackles and two forced fumbles. This is an obviously huge win for the Bucs.

Jackson had eight catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns to lead Philadelphia back from a 17-0 deficit to beat Washington on opening day, 32-27. However, Jackson pulled a hamstring shortly thereafter and has missed the last three games.

Yet his one game production trumps that of Perriman, who has disappointed with just three catches for 16 yards to go along with a 13-yard run on an end around, so Tampa Bay loses on this transaction. Jackson is a much better receiver, and always has been.

Yet he and Jameis Winston rarely connected on deep balls, so it’s impossible to suggest he would have that level of production in Tampa Bay this year had the Bucs kept him. And would Jackson, who turns 33 in December, have stayed healthy in Tampa Bay this year? Who knows?

Humphries has struggled to find a rhythm with Marcus Mariota as he has just nine catches for 97 yards in three games with the bulk of that production coming in Tennessee’s 20-7 loss at Jacksonville. Humphries started the season catching three passes for four yards in the Titans’ first two contests. That’s not great production for a guy averaging $9 million per season.

Godwin has been much more productive with 15 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns, while averaging 15.3 yards per catch. Godwin’s expected emergence was a big reason why the Bucs let Humphries walk in free agency, and they made the right move.

Bucs WR Chris Godwin
Bucs WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Alexander has 16 tackles and one interception through three games, including seven in last week’s 24-20 win against Pittsburgh. But through the first two games he had nine tackles, and Alexander missed the final three quarters of the season opener against the Bucs following a targeting call on a helmet-to-helmet hit on quarterback Jameis Winston. So he really had nine tackles and one interception in five quarters of action.

White had six tackles in Week 1 and two tackles in the first quarter before a knee injury in Week 2 sidelined him for the rest of that game and also last week’s contest against New York. So in the first five quarters of action this year before his injury, Alexander had just one more tackle and one interception than White did, despite making nearly $6 million more.

Combine White’s production with that of his replacement, veteran Kevin Minter, who has had 11 tackles in the past two games during White’s absence, and they have produced 17 tackles. And Minter had an interception of Cam Newton in Week 2 called back due to a penalty, too.

White’s injury is unfortunate, and he could be out a couple more weeks, but early on this was an even exchange for the Bucs from a production standpoint, and a win due to the salary cap savings.

Finally, Suh and McCoy have played about even at the start of the 2019 campaign. McCoy has seven tackles and is currently dealing with a knee injury that may keep him out of Sunday’s game. Suh has five tackles and one fumble recovery through three games, and is coming off his worst game of the year in Sunday’s loss to New York where he recorded just one tackle. He’ll look to rebound as he faces his former team out in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Bucs DT Ndamukong Suh
Bucs DT Ndamukong Suh – Photo by: Getty Images

Suh was added for his run-stopping presence, and so far that’s paying dividends. Tampa Bay’s run defense is ranked sixth in the league, allowing just 69.7 yards per game, which is a huge improvement from a year ago. Last season with McCoy, Tampa Bay had the league’s 24th-rated run defense, allowing an average of 123.9 yards per game.

The Bucs may be slightly better off with Suh than McCoy, but to be fair, McCoy is helping Carolina’s defense, which ranks fourth overall (295.3 ypg), compared to Tampa Bay’s unit, which ranks 14th in the league (330.7 ypg.) in total defense.

It will be interesting to track the performances of these players throughout the year to see if the salary cap maneuvers that Licht, Arians and Greenberg made this offseason continue to pay off.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

27 COMMENTS

  1. Well we stopped Barkley, and the Giants running game last week, and still gave up 35 points to a rookie QB getting his first start. I think it’s getting old saying we have to shut down the run every week when the NFL has become a passing league. I said last weeks game would come down to what the QB’s did, not just stopping Barkley, and it did. Spin Jameis’s numbers all you want, but he was completely out played by Jones in the second half last week. In the home opener he handed the 49ers the game with two pick six’s. He did enough to win at Carolina, but more importantly he didn’t give the game away with picks, or fumbles. Last week as I said he had an impressive first half, but sure didn’t do enough in the second half to secure the win. Don’t hate me, I don’t hate Jameis, but he hasn’t shown me so far he’s the man we should give 30 plus million a year to. Now to this game. Yeah Gurley needs to be held in check, but the game will come down to which QB does better. There’s a reason QB’s are paid the most, and every team want’s ( that guy). So will Jameis tear it up, and not be the reason we lose, or will Goff do it. Most weeks that’s what it comes down to. Which QB puts his team in the best position to get the win.

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    • Which qb puts their team in postion to win you say? So having a fg from about 27 yards to win the game isnt putting your team in position? Spin it how you want dude ,but you just made your own comments look stupid.

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      • A quarterback who scored no TDs in the second half, but throws it to the other team in the second half, completely negates any possible effect of any kicker.

        If you are depending upon kickers to win games, you have a losing team. Period.

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        • A qb that throws for 380 yards and 3 tds is more than enough naples. It was a chip shot fg to win the game, spin it how you want. But that is a fact. And how is jameis supposed to do anything when he passed the ball 1 time in the 4th quarter? I know i know, its hard for you to grasp, but again youre making zero point here as usual. Fg was a chip shot to win, jameis put us in position to win. You cant change that to fit whatever narrative you want.

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    • Agreed CG. Surfer, I used to enjoy your posts. They were always informative. Now you sound like a kid who got his ball taken away from him. Jameis doesn’t call the plays, jameis didn’t give up 35 points to a rookie, jameis didn’t miss two extra points and a field goal. Take the hate elsewhere because your credibility is about as high as BAB and that’s not a good thing

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    • You know nothing about football so please watch more games so you can learn thank you

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  2. Hoping Jensen, Godwin, and Vea all get to play Sunday. They’ve all made their presence known so far this season. I like the idea of locking up Barrett and Nassib long term. JPP prefers to play in a 4-3 anyway. Glad we’re likely to have that extra 13 million in cap space next season.

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  3. So the Bucs will have close to $79 mill next offseason? Winston, Barrett and Nassib extensions. Also need to get a vet CB, let VH3 go, and sign a LT, move Smith to RT.

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    • You think Donovan smith will be better at RY? I never thought about that. I agree with everything we need too add a Veteran CB and Safety to this team

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  4. Winston extension? Hold on there fella, maybe you’ve seen enough to extend him, but I’m still waiting. Read my last post, it’s going to come down to which QB plays better as it usually does. Winston has to prove he can win more games then he loses to get a big pay day, that’s why he’s hasn’t been locked up yet. This is prove it year, and so far he’s proved jack shit. Let’s see how it plays out before signing that check.

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    • Since you seem to think it’s all on the QB, I guess Rodgers was the reason they lost last night huh? We all know if Jameis did that, you’d be calling for his release. You can’t have it both ways.

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    • I’m an FSU fan. I’ve been watching Jameis since like 2012. I know the QB he is and the potential is still there.

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  5. Can’t believe you waisted an entire page talking about “Captainship”. Listen Nassib may be a nice guy, vocal leader, hard worker and everything else but what Nassib has shown me the 1yr he’s been here is that he is just a guy. Nassib still haven’t figured out how to get off a block, he’s drawing on every play a single blocker and once they get their hands on him he’s stuck. Nassib is a decent rotational player but that’s all. Nothing against him it’s just my opinion.

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  6. A win Sunday and we are right back in the thick of things. I hope Daniel Jones lights it up to help mend another QB having there career game against the Bucs. Pound the rock and let Rojo have a great homecoming. Defend the run, keep Gurley under 75 yards and lets see if we get a couple breaks for a road win on the dreaded west coast.

    Go Bucs
    Bucs 24-17

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  7. Well, as always, the bottom line is the bottom line. And in football and other team sports, the bottom line is winning. Everything else is just explanation for the winning or losing.

    To date this season, at 1-2, the Bucs on “on pace” to win 5 games, repeating the sorry results of the previous two 5-11 seasons.

    Unfortunately for the Bucs, most expect the “pace” to go lower not higher.

    But we’ll see come the end of the season.

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  8. Soooo is anyone else concerned that Jameis has never thrown a reciever open to get YAC when the ball has to travel 30+ yards in the air ? If that throw to Mike is a little bit better, Mike gets into the endzone. We’ve never seen that kind of throw from him!

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    • Rewatch Godwins last catch of his rookie season vs NO. That’s the throw you’re looking for. Can Winston do it? Yes. Would we like to see more of it? Absolutely!

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  9. This article is close on JPP but not quite right. Yes, the Bucs hope he can come back this year but the odds are stacked against him. They are cutting their potential losses by paying him more but cutting the contract for one year. There is a story out there saying the Bucs doubt he will be able to play again. That is the reality of JPP. https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/jason-pierre-paul-agrees-to-restructured-contract-with-bucs/ar-AAHPtYd

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  10. IDK Scott – I find it amazing no matter how hard it’s raining on him, you can always find a ray of sunshine around Jason Licht.

    How much better would our offense be with Humphries ($5m cap in Tenn), instead of the horrible Perriman ($4m cap in TB) and his 4 drops this year? That’s $1m difference.

    You also missed noting his biggest financial move of the offseason – swapping out Donovan Smith at $1.93m of cap, for Donovan Smith at $12.5m of cap…a negative to the cap of $10.5m!!!! All to sign the worst LT in the league…..and it’s not just me, or pff saying that….you guys put Donovan Smith on your Worst Performers list more than any other Buc.

    Face it – the guy is not good at this GM stuff….

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  11. The fact still remains that we can win any game if everyone shows up. Just like the past couple years we could be 3-0 just as easily as 0-3 so far this year. If we can bring both ‘fences together at once we can win any game. We have seen improvements in some areas and weaknesses in others and it’s all about how they learn and improve. For al we know, this long road trip will allow them to focus on nothing but their game and it could go a lot better than expected. Nothing wrong with Hope!!!

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  12. Thank you Scott for the information.
    I will be recording the Bucs and will not be watching them live for a while until I feel like they can be winners. I’ve been disappointed so many times, but this last one has really got me.
    I have been a Buc fan since 1976. I have gone through two 15 year no playoffs games time-frames. I’m not wasting my time anymore for a while. I’m not giving up on Bucs, but I’m not going to put myself in a position again where hope is scratched just like that! Presently we are no better than what we were last season or many past seasons. You all enjoy the game; I’ll watch them if they win the game via recorder; much healthier for me right now.

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  13. Blaming Jameis Winston for the loss to the Giants is just another attempt to spew the anti-Winston agenda with virtually no supporting data other than the “L”. Typical Naples who, while far more rational than Bob, usually emerges to enlighten the rest of us about #3 after a loss. To be sure, Jameis has his faults and his play hasn’t been consistent enough or spectacular enough to overcome the shortcomings of his teammates. But in this game against the “Gints”, Jameis’ play contributed to the 18 point lead and put the team in excellent position, with but a few seconds to travel the length of the field, to kick what should have been the game-winner.

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  14. Much less drama without GMC. The D-line seems to work as a unit not individuals. Good future.

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  15. Great work by Licht!!

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  16. Licht releases free agent mistakes (though weren’t your examples really Lovie’s?), but he does hold onto draft picks (Spence and Hardgraeves come to mind). To me having a guy money for the really, really important kicks (40 in) who *can* bang a long one (Santos) is more important than spending a draft pick on a guy who’s iffy from closer but can bang from far (and don’t give me Gay’s 39-40 ratio within 40 in college. Look at how the ball comes off his foot. If it’s straight and true (think Justin Tucker), it doesn’t matter if he makes it, it’s HOW he made it. With Gay and Aguayo, even though the field goal was made it was always drifting to one side or the other. This will manifest itself in the pros and has).

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  17. Let me see if I understand. We’ve lost of three games to the worst two teams in football and the answers provided by the coaching staff are platitudes as follows:
    1. It takes 60 minutes to win games.
    2. We just didn’t make plays.
    3. I took a penalty to move back.
    4. I took a lot of sacks.

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  18. Fab 3 is incorrect. Arians said in his presser Matt Gay “is our kicker and isnt going anywhere.” So no they will not be releasing Gay of course

    The kid bounced back and nailed 4 straight FGs including a 50 + yarder. He wasnt the reason we lost. It was obviously on the defense and specifically the Secondary is to blame.

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