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Pewter Report has spent the past two months or so providing its print and Pewter Insider subscribers with detailed salary cap information as it pertains to Tampa Bay’s 2005 offseason.
We’ve used articles such as Future Forecast and a recent installment of Flynn’s Focus to enlighten our subscribers in terms of which players might become salary cap casualties this offseason due to the fact that the Bucs are approximately $14 million over the cap.
After reading those two articles and considering Tampa Bay’s cap challenges, are any Bucs players safe this offseason? In other words, which Bucs are untouchable headed into the 2005 offseason?
Of the 50-plus players on Tampa Bay’s roster, Pewter Report could deem just six of them as “untouchable” from a salary cap perspective. Here’s the list and reasons the Bucs won’t part ways with them this offseason.
LB DERRICK BROOKS – Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen rewarded Brooks with a contract extension that included a $4.5 million signing bonus last year. While that move created cap room in 2004, Brooks’ cap value escalates to $9.657 million in ’05, which might make him a candidate to restructure. Not to worry, though. Brooks, who led the Bucs in tackles (172) last season en route to earning a trip to a franchise-record eighth Pro Bowl, isn’t going anywhere this offseason. However, 2006 could be a different story since Brooks’ cap value goes up again to $11.657 million.
WR MICHAEL CLAYTON – The Bucs aren’t about to part ways with their best offensive weapon. Clayton certainly gave the Bucs a great return on their 2004 first-round draft pick by hauling in a team-high 80 passes for 1,193 yards (14.9 avg.) and seven touchdowns. That’s quite a bargain when considering the fact that his base salary for next season is reasonably low and his rookie contract runs through the 2008 season.
RB CHARLIE GARNER – Some might be surprised by this one, but the Bucs gave Garner a $3.7 million signing bonus and are determined to make him earn it next season. The good news is Garner’s injured knee is said to be coming along well and his cap value in ’05 is only $2 million, which is why it wouldn’t make much sense for the Bucs to release him this offseason unless, of course, the move was made after June 1.
CB BRIAN KELLY – Kelly turned in a banner season last year, leading the team with four interceptions and 22 passes defensed. He also added 62 tackles, but those numbers didn’t earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl. Last year, the Bucs received some cap relief from Kelly when he agreed to rework his contract, which runs through the 2008 season. Kelly received a $2.265 million signing bonus in the deal and is due a $400,000 roster bonus on March 1, but don’t expect the Bucs to avoid paying him the bonus by releasing him, especially since he’s coming off a Pro Bowl-caliber season and is scheduled to have just a $3.63 million cap value in ’05.
DT ANTHONY MCFARLAND – Despite the fact that the Bucs are a bit down on “Booger” due to his disappointing debut at under tackle and his decision to go on injured reserve with a torn triceps injury, McFarland will be a Buc in 2005. Tampa Bay simply can’t afford to cut or trade McFarland because of the $9.5 million signing bonus he received with his new contract back in 2003. McFarland’s ’05 cap value is $4.7 million, and the Bucs are hoping he makes a better attempt to earn it this season. Otherwise he won’t see the end of his contract, which runs through 2008.
DE SIMEON RICE – Rice’s cap value is a whopping $10.7 million in 2005, and although they need to substantially reduce that figure, the Bucs may not be able to since Rice knows he currently owns the team with the way his contract is structured and won’t have to grant the team’s request to restructure. Although they wish he was more consistent, the Bucs are pleased that they’re still getting good production out of the 30-year old Rice, who notched a team-high 12 sacks last season. The Bucs can’t cut or trade Rice this year without taking a significant cap hit.
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