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SR’s Fab Five appears weekly on PewterReport.com
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Here are five things that caught my interest this week:

FAB 1. You’ve probably heard the term “take one for the team” before. That’s exactly what Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks did this week when he took a stunning and dramatic pay cut to help the Bucs’ salary cap situation and ensure that he retired as a Buccaneer.

Forget the term restructure, which is what PewterReport.com used when we broke the story on Sunday afternoon. This was a huge pay cut to the tune of $28.75 million – and there’s no other way to say it. Now would Brooks have seen all that money anyway since most big contracts are typically backloaded? Probably not, but even the fact that Brooks took a $4.75 million pay cut in 2006 and a $7 million pay cut in 2007 is still $11.75 million is money that was coming to him but yet he won’t see if he plays over the two next years. Although he won’t likely be a Buccaneer past 2007, his pay cuts in ’08 and ’09 were $8 million and $9 million, respectively.

Brooks’ salary cap savings have already been reported in the St. Petersburg Times, but allow me to go into greater detail and explain exactly what happened and why.

The fact that Brooks took such a sizeable pay cut – without receiving any signing bonus – indicates that he was in a very, very giving mood or that he was forced to take this pay cut or be cut from the team – or both. In fact, the only concession that Brooks received was that his $3 million base salary this year is guaranteed, and that $2 million of his $3 million base salary in 2007 is also guaranteed. Guaranteeing $5 million over the next two years and losing $11.75 million in the process is not a concession – it’s being held at gunpoint.

But Brooks knew the alternative was getting released, and he also knew that what I reported over the last two weeks in my SR’s Fab Five column was true – his head was going to be on the chopping block if he didn’t take a sizeable pay cut. With a crop of very talented linebackers in the 2006 NFL Draft and some real special linebackers on the free agent market, such as Carolina’s Will Witherspoon and Indianapolis’ David Thornton, Brooks realized he didn’t have the Bucs over a barrel.

He knew first hand that general manager Bruce Allen is a no non-sense cap manager who isn’t afraid to part with a fan favorite if necessary (see John Lynch and Joe Jurevicius), and that any public relations hit Allen or the Bucs took would be softened by the unusual circumstances surrounding the NFL at a time when the Collective Bargaining Agreement has yet to be extended by the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association. In other words, the Bucs had some cover if they had to part ways with Brooks and they had the leverage.

Give Brooks a lot of credit, though, because he got something out of this deal that was more valuable than the money he essentially gave back to the team. Brooks’ already sterling reputation skyrockets to epic proportions with the level of pay cut he took to re-sign players like nose tackle Chris Hovan, who is a personal favorite of Brooks’, and hopefully his good friend and special teams ace, linebacker Jeff Gooch, who will likely be a salary cap casualty.

Brooks is the ultimate team player and a professional who “gets it.” Nearing age 33 and clearly in the twilight of his career, he understands that it is a privilege to play in the NFL and he’s not one of these guys that gets hung up on the fact of how much money a player makes equals his “status” in the league. Brooks wants to go down in team history with Lee Roy Selmon as a Buc-lifer and a Hall of Famer.

He did what he had to do for the reason of self-preservation, but will relish the idea of retiring as a Buccaneer in the next few years. Because his salary cap figure is a very manageable $3.85 million for seasons 2007-09, Brooks should be able to finish out his contract and career in Tampa Bay without the threat of being a cap casualty as long as he is a starter.

FAB 2. PewterReport.com has learned the 2006 dead cap money figure for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the current Collective Bargaining Agreement is not extended and the NFL’s salary cap is set at $94.5 million, the Buccaneers will only have approximately $86 million to spend due to over $8.5 million in dead cap money.

The following is a list of the players (from highest to lowest) who will contribute to Tampa Bay’s 2006 dead cap money, which is money that the team will not be able to use in current player salaries because of the prorated signing bonus amount from released players:

OT Todd Steussie $2,666,668
RB Charlie Garner $2,466,668
OT Derrick Deese $1,650,000
OT Kenyatta Walker $903,335 (leftover proration from voided contract)
FB Mike Alstott $504,000 (leftover proration from voided contract)
WR Larry Brackins $164,000
FB Rick Razzano $58,000
FS Hamza Abdullah $49,600
WR Paris Warren $13,333
WR J.R. Russell $9,125
LB Matt Grootegoed $6,667
G Jonathan Clinkscale $6,000
DE Josh Savage $2,834
CB Dominque Morris $1,750
OT Leon Robinson $1,500
CB Ukee Dozier $1,375
G Doug Buckles $1,000

Bucs’ Total 2006 Dead Cap Money = $8,505,855

A few things need to be explained when it comes to dead cap money. Whenever a player is released, any prorated signing bonus in future years accelerates and becomes dead cap money. It’s a form of a penalty for cutting a player who was given a signing bonus.

In years past under the current CBA, if a player was cut prior to June 1, the Bucs would take the full signing bonus proration cap hit immediately and that dead cap money would apply to that particular year’s salary cap. Any cuts after June 1 would help create cap room because the signing bonus proration for that year would still apply to a player who was cut, but the acceleration from future years prorated signing bonus, which would typically be a greater sum of dead cap money, would get pushed back to the following year.

Historically, the whole reason for the June 1 date is to allow teams to make the necessary roster cuts to free up enough money to sign draft picks prior to training camp. But unless the CBA is extended, there will be no June 1 cap relief this year because the special rules for 2006 state that the signing bonus proration accelerates and hits the salary cap the same year as dead cap money. Teams can no longer push dead money into the following year.

With that being said, the Buccaneers will undoubtedly end up with much more than $8.5 million worth of dead cap space. In fact, if Tampa Bay releases quarterback Brian Griese ($2,666,668 in dead money), guard Matt Stinchcomb ($300,000 in dead money) and linebacker Jeff Gooch ($200,000 in dead money) as expected prior to the start of free agency, the Bucs will be hit with another $3,166,668 worth of dead cap room, pushing the team’s running total to $11,672,523 – and it will climb even further before the year is up.

Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen was taken to task by both Tampa Bay area newspapers this week for exaggerating the Buccaneers’ cap dilemma and for painting a picture that wasn’t as bleak as it seemed. But considering the amount of dead cap money and the lack of a June 1 mechanism, the Bucs will need to clear at least another $12 million for the rest of the year if the Bucs want to be a player in free agency, re-sign some of the team’s free agents and have enough money for the 2006 rookie pool, which could be around $5 million, and another $500,000 or so for signing bonus proration that will wind up hitting the cap as dead money when players are released at the end of training camp and prior to the start of the season.

Clearing $10 million might mean having to actually clear $12 million because whenever a player is cut for cap relief from now going forward, any signing bonus proration from those cap casualties accelerates and becomes dead cap money in 2006.

There are a couple of more things to clear up regarding dead cap money. Even if a player is cut and then re-signed, such was the case with 2005 draft picks like fullback Rick Razzano and receivers Larry Brackins, J.R. Russell and Paris Warren, those players will have two sets of cap charges. The first set will be how much dead cap space they occupy with their former signing bonus proration acceleration, and the second set will be the player’s current contract with the team.

The other issue regarding dead cap room pertains to the contracts of fullback Mike Alstott and offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker, both of whom will be unrestricted free agents because their contracts with the team voided. Alstott and Walker leave the team with $504,000 and $903,335 worth of dead cap money, respectively, because of leftover signing bonus proration.

FAB 3. Speaking of fullback Mike Alstott, a deal to retain him in Tampa Bay for one more season could come any day now. Alstott and the Buccaneers are believed to be about $500,000 apart in negotiations, and dead cap money could be one the reasons for the stalement up until now.

Alstott is seeking $1.5 million in salary in 2006, which was what he earned in 2005. He won’t play for below that on principle, but would love to make as much as $2 million, which was supposed to be his base salary in 2006 before the contract voided over a minimal playing time clause that Alstott reached by playing in the season opener of 2005.

Tampa Bay would like him to play for $1 million in 2006, partly because Alstott will already be on their salary cap books for $504,000. To the Buccaneers, having Alstott play for a $1.5 million salary in 2006 is still having him take up over $2 million in salary cap room.

Alstott wants to get the deal done quickly, but the only way that might happen from the Bucs’ perspective is that he take less than the $1.5 million he wants. Otherwise, the team may decide to put his deal on the backburner and wait to address other areas in free agency, such as the offensive line.

FAB 4. Who were the Buccaneers’ ironmen in 2005? In other words, which Tampa Bay players played every snap on offense or defense last year?

Only four Buccaneers avoided injury to play in 100 percent of the snaps on either offense or defense. The three offensive players to accomplish this feat were center John Wade and guards Dan Buenning and Sean Mahan, who played all 1,028 snaps. On defense, only Pro Bowl weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks was able to play all 996 downs.

Cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly played 99 percent of the defensive plays in 2005. Kelly logged 989 plays – missing only seven snaps on defense – while Barber participated in 988 plays.

Other players who played at least 90 percent of the snaps on offense or defense include middle linebacker Shelton Quarles (958 plays, 96 percent), right tackle Kenyatta Walker (982 plays, 96 percent), left tackle Anthony Davis (954 plays, 93 percent) and defensive end Simeon Rice (900 plays, 90 percent).

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Carnell “Cadillac” Williams was able to set a rookie record by rushing for 1,178 yards, despite only playing in 52 percent of the offensive plays (530 snaps). Wide receiver Joey Galloway stayed healthy for all 16 regular season games and led the way for wide receivers by participating in 80 percent of the offensive snaps (822 plays).

Despite being a number two tight end on the depth chart, rookie Alex Smith actually participated in more offensive plays than starter Anthony Becht did. Smith logged 744 plays (72 percent), while Becht took part in 730 snaps (71 percent) last year.

Linebacker Ryan Nece led the way for the Buccaneers on special teams by playing in 79 percent of the snaps (342 plays). Rookie linebacker Barrett Ruud played in 62 percent of the snaps (271 plays), while safety Kalvin Pearson participated in 61 percent of the snaps (264 plays).

FAB 5. Here are a few things to hold you over until next week:

• Once free agency starts, expect the Buccaneers to secure a kicker right off the bat. The team has said it wants Matt Bryant back, but the buzz about his return is not as strong as it was for nose tackle Chris Hovan and is for fullback Mike Alstott. Bryant’s name may be on the list, but perhaps only after the likes of more experienced and consistent kickers like Green Bay’s Ryan Longwell, whom PewterReport.com has reported the Bucs have an interest in for the past few weeks, New England’s Adam Vinatieri and Indianapolis’ Mike Vanderjagt. After suffering through two years of 60-percent field goal kicking with Martin Gramatica in 2003 and 2004, head coach Jon Gruden and the Bucs know the value of having an 84-percent field goal kicker, which is what Bryant was last year. If a kicker isn’t signed quickly – the first 48 hours – once free agency starts, I’d be shocked.

• In addition to Derrick Brooks’ new contract figures, PewterReport.com has new salary cap info on running back Michael Pittman, defensive tackle Anthony McFarland and tight end Anthony Becht, all of whom restructured their contracts this week to help the Buccaneers get some cap relief. Becht was given a $600,000 restructure bonus in lieu of a $500,000 roster bonus that he was due. This allowed his salary cap value to drop from $1.252 million in 2006 to $802,000 – a savings of over $400,000. Becht’s base in 2006 is now $600,000 instead of $700,000. Becht’s 2007 salary cap value is also down from $1.612 million to $982,000 with his base salary cut from $1.56 million to $780,000. Another year was added on to Becht’s deal, so his contract doesn’t expire until after 2010, but the last three years are voidable. As for McFarland, his 2006 salary cap value dropped from $8.1 million to $6.6 million because he had $1.5 million of likely to be earned (LTBE) incentives stripped away from him by general manager Bruce Allen. McFarland was not given anything in return for the deal in the way of a signing bonus, and his cap value is still $7.6 million in 2007, and $8.95 million in 2008. Pittman was given a $330,000 restructure bonus and his 2006 salary cap value was lowered from $1.8875 million to $1.102 million – a savings of just over $780,000. Pittman’s base was reduced from $1.35 million to $670,000 this year. His 2007 cap value was also reduced from $2.2875 million to $952,000, which represents a substantial paycut of over $1.2 million. Pittman’s deal was extended through 2009 with cap values of $1.152 million in ’08 and $1.352 million in ’09. The last two years in Pittman’s deal are voidable.

• PewterReport.com is hearing some whispers that Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton may not have a radio show next year. This news, if it comes to fruition, is not surprising as we reported it as a possibility in the January issue of Pewter Report magazine. Nose tackle Anthony McFarland had his radio show stripped away from him after two years on the air after a sub-par season in 2004. The message from the team was “no distractions.” The same message could be sent to Clayton after a two-year run of his radio show coincided with a disastrous 2005 campaign. It would be a shame because unlike some of his teammates, Clayton’s radio show was actually entertaining and educational. It was clearly the best of the bunch. In other Bucs radio news, the Sarasota Herald Tribune recently reported that radio color analyst Scot Brantley will not be back with play-by-play announcer Gene Deckerhoff in 2007. Look for former Bucs middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson, who interviewed for the job a couple of years ago, to emerge as a possible replacement.

• Faithful readers of my SR’s Fab 5 column know that I have been a big fan of Boise State left tackle Daryn Colledge for quite some time. Well, the Buccaneers not only had scouts in attendance at his Pro Day on March 7, but also had a Tampa Bay offensive line coach present (we’re still trying to determine if it was Bill Muir or senior assistant Aaron Kromer) to put Colledge through the drills. If Tampa Bay doesn’t go offensive tackle in the first round, Colledge would be a great pick-up in round two. He’s Muir type of offensive line and there is quite a buzz about him at One Buccaneer Place after his performances at the Senior Bowl and the Indianapolis Scouting Combine, as well as his personnel interviews with the team.

• One last note to Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen, who reads this column as he does all Buccaneers-related columns and articles from all media outlets. Why don’t you go ahead and officially announce your new assistant coaches? PewterReport.com and other media outlets have already reported the coaching hires weeks ago, so why not rubber-stamp them?

This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.

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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
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