It was not long ago that I wrote an article about how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could easily fall into the same trap that the Baltimore Ravens did, and get into such awful cap trouble that successful teams couldn’t be held together. The Ravens have run their salary cap up by signing a few key players to massive contracts, and it’s currently limiting them from building back up after losing key players from their Super Bowl run. But Buccaneers’ fans would probably be just fine with being in “salary cap hell” if it meant winning another ring. So maybe the Ravens aren’t a good example.
Most Buccaneers fans would probably agree that while the Ravens are a team we wouldn’t mind emulating, the Jacksonville Jaguars are probably not on the list of teams we’d like to see our Bucs be more like. So be mindful of the things Jags owner Shad Khan told the Florida Times-Union (courtesy of Pro Football Talk) about his struggling franchise:
“You look at the teams that are successful and [ask], ‘How did they get there?’ ” Khan said, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. “I wanted to verify and get a reality check from some of the more successful teams.
“It’s very, very difficult to win games, and there are teams that are consistently successful over time. Regrettably, we would fall into the [category] of teams who have been unsuccessful. What are the lessons learned? A key lesson learned is you have to suck it up. Free agency is appropriate to fill some holes, but I think we proved last year that you can spend the fourth-highest [amount] and have the worst record in the league.”
In other words, don’t worry about winning free agency, because building a franchise is more than just throwing money at free agents and hoping they pan out as a team. Free agents are almost always flawed. That’s why they hit free agency. Even Michael Bennett, who most Buccaneer fans are upset to see walk without a contract, is flawed. Sean Smith, a player most Buccaneer fans coveted in free agency, was a flawed player as well. Ryan Clady, who was franchise tagged by the Broncos, is not flawed. He is a rock solid offensive tackle, and guess what? His team didn’t allow him to hit the market. Adding a player here or there through free agency can work out. Vincent Jackson has been a good signing so far, and Dashon Goldson figures to be a smart addition to the roster. But what else can a team do to improve?
Trading for Darrelle Revis is the right idea. Drafting a solid rookie at the 13th pick (or higher, or lower, depending on what happens on draft day) is the right idea. But throwing cash at inconsistent Sean Smith, jack-of-all-trades master-of-none Michael Bennett, oft-injured Derek Cox, system-misfit Elvis Dumvervil, and any other free agent you may think is a good fit just adds up to cap space that isn’t available to re-sign Doug Martin. Or re-sign Gerald McCoy. Or pay for Darrelle Revis’ contract extension. And just like the Jaguars, the Bucs could end up spending like a top four team, and playing like a bottom four team.