Tampa Bay needs to create a significant amount of salary cap room in order to sign its 12 draft picks next month, and the Buccaneers could make some progress in that area before the start of next week’s three-day mandatory mini-camp.

PewterReport.com has learned that Bucs tackle Todd Steussie, who has long been rumored to be a salary cap casualty after June 1, has not participated at the team’s organized team activity workouts over the past two weeks. With the Bucs having close to 100 percent participation during their voluntary OTAs, Steussie’s absence suggests he may not be a Buc much longer.

Steussie, who was signed to a six-year, $20 million contract during the 2004 offseason, started the season at right tackle but struggled making the transition from the left side, where he had spent his first 10 years in the NFL. In Week 5, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Steussie was benched in favor of Kenyatta Walker.

In addition to his struggles on the field, Steussie has had to deal with steroid allegations this offseason. When he participated at Tampa Bay’s OTAs earlier this offseason, Steussie thanked the Bucs for their support but couldn’t comment much further due to the ongoing investigation.

Tampa Bay’s rookie salary cap pool this year has been set at $6,037,440. Presently, the Bucs are approximately $1.25 million under the 2005 salary cap, and need to free up just over $5 million in order to sign the team’s 12 draft picks.

The Bucs would get about $2 million in cap relief by releasing Steussie, who is scheduled to have a cap value of $2.666 million in ’05. However, the team would still need to create about $3 million in order to sign all of its draft selections.

Other possible cap casualties include running back Charlie Garner, guard Matt Stinchcomb and T Kenyatta Walker.

In other news, the Bucs signed first-year center/guard Chris Watton on Thursday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Watton most recently played for the Arena Football League’s Colorado Crush. He originally joined the NFL in 2000 as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals.

Watton, who played collegiately at Baylor and Southwest Mississippi Community College, has also participated in NFL Europe and had short stints with the Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos.

If you liked this story, be sure to get the inside scoop and more detailed information on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offseason plans regarding roster changes, free agency and the NFL Draft with a Pewter Insider premium subscription.

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