With free agency set to begin March 11 at 4:00, the new regime leading the Buccaneers organization will look to fill the big holes left by prior management.
As of right now, the Buccaneers will have close to $20 million under the salary cap to bring in new players.
Of course, there are always certain players whose contracts can be restructured or can be released to add to that cap space.
These players could be: (Numbers from overthecap.com)
WR – Vincent Jackson ($12.4m) –>save $5.1m
DT – Gerald McCoy ($15.6m) –> save $10.4m
CB – Darrelle Revis ($16m) –> save $16m –>
OT – Donald Penn ($8m) –> save $7.4m
OC – Jeremy Zuttah ($4.5m) –> save $4.5m
OG – Davin Joseph ($6m) –> save $6m
P – Michael Koenen ($3.25m) –> save $3.25m
Releasing, restructuring, or trading players like Carl Nicks, Mike Williams, or Dashon Goldson will result in minimal to zero additional cap room according to overthecap.com.
Gerald McCoy is also on the verge of a new contract extension, which would bring his cap number down significantly.
Darrelle Revis has been the discussion of recent trade talks simply because he would bring the Buccaneers back the most of any player in terms of a return and would relieve the Bucs of $16m in cap room.
Now that you have a better understanding of the Bucs cap situation, let’s focus on free agency.
Here are the Bucs biggest needs (in no particular order) heading into free agency and the players that could fill those needs:
Lovie Smith and Jason Licht have not made it any secret their want for improved quarterback play. Mike Glennon’s rookie season can be described as successful in terms of statistics, but neither Licht or Smith drafted Glennon nor have loyalty to him. Without a true quarterback, it is extremely difficult to win consistently in this era of the NFL. While the draft will be a better place to find a long term answer to this question, it’s well known that the Bucs would like to add a veteran prescence as well.
Free Agents: Matt Cassel, Josh McCown, Michael Vick, Josh Freeman, Rex Grossman
This category could probably be better described as “pass rusher.” The Bucs have been embarrassing when it comes to getting to opposing quarterbacks since the days of Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice. The Bucs best pass rusher is on the interior of their defensive line. Lovie Smith said recently that his defenses have to have a guy that can record double-digit sacks from the outside, and currently the Bucs do not have that. While Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack might be attractive options in the draft, the list of available free agents should help give the Bucs a boost as well.
Free Agents: Jared Allen, Julius Peppers (rumored to be released), Michael Johnson, Justin Tuck, Michael Bennett, Corey Wootton, Everson Griffen, Robert Ayers, Anthony Spencer, Demarcus Ware (rumored to be released)
With recent rumors of the Bucs interest in top free agent offensive tackles like Branden Albert and Eugene Monroe, it’s pretty clear that Lovie Smith and Jason Licht are looking to restructure their offensive line. There is a lot of money tied up in the offensive line, but most of it can be cleared without much penalty. I think every position could be up for grabs along the offensive line. Demar Dotson has proved to be a valuable and affordable commodity. The Bucs might even explore signing a right tackle and moving Dotson to left tackle.
Free Agent Left Tackles: Eugene Monroe, Branden Albert, Bryant McKinnie, Anthony Collins, Jared Veldheer
Free Agent Right Tackles: Michael Oher, Tyson Clabo, Rodger Saffold
Free Agent Guards: Jon Asamoah, Zane Beadles, Geoff Schwartz
Free Agent Centers: Brian De La Puente
We know the issues Mike Williams has had this off-season, but his contract is structured so that he should not be going anywhere. Vincent Jackson is another year older and another step slower, but he is still a reliable go-to target for whomever the Bucs quarterback. The Bucs were desperate for a slot receiver last year, and that need follows them into this off-season. Jeff Tedford wants “speed in space” and free agency might give him the opportunity to find that speed.
Free Agents: Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks, Emmanuel Sanders, Golden Tate, Dexter McCluster, James Jones, Andre Roberts, Ted Ginn Jr.
This is not a reflection of the Darrelle Revis rumors because it is highly unlikely that Revis leaves via trade. However, in an NFL where the nickel corner is on the field more than the strongside linebacker, the Bucs must upgrade over Leonard Johnson.
Free Agents: Charles Tillman, Captain Munnerlyn, Vontae Davis, Antoine Cason, Jabari Greer, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Sam Shields, Alterraun Verner, Tarell Brown
Follow Justin Pawlowski on twitter @Commishonline for updates on the NFL Draft and the Buccaneers.