For most Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans this offseason, the chatter was about how the Buccaneers would spend their wealth of salary cap space to improve an awful pass defense, and upgrade a team record-setting offense. Even I tried my hand at predicting what the Buccaneers would do, and fell into the same trap as many Bucs fans: overspending. The Buccaneers went into this offseason with a calculated plan to not spend the entirety of their potential 40+ million dollars in cap space, and avoided wasting money on any of the first wave of free agents after signing highly coveted Dashon Goldson. The team was sitting on nearly 30 million in cap space when the Darrelle Revis trade went down, and that turned an offseason spent being frugal into a shopping spree in a hurry, as Revis will make 16 million dollars per year, and his salary cap hit will be the same.
The Buccaneers carried over 8.5 million dollars in salary cap space from last year, which is essentially fool’s gold cap space the Bucs cannot safely use this season, because they would enter next year over the salary cap threshold. So there is still around 10.7 million dollars in cap space on the table, and some of that money figures to be spent on a contract extension for Mike Williams.
Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com posted an article recently breaking down the future salary cap obligations of the NFC South teams, and while the Buccaneers aren’t set up with Scrooge McDuck-like piles of cash, they’re certainly in a better position then their NFC South brethren.
The Buccaneers already have 118 million dollars committed to next season in cap space, which is more than the salary cap hit of the present roster. According to spotrac (an unofficial but usually reliable source for NFL contracts) this massive leap in cap hit is due to the restructuring of Vincent Jackson and Carl Nick’s contracts. The duo will see their cap hit raise by 9 and 6 million dollars, respectively. This increase in cap space used also comes with the ending of the contracts of Mike Williams, Josh Freeman, Erik Lorig, Adam Hayward, Gary Gibson, and Eric Wright. In other words, players who are going to see the field in 2013 are going to run out of contract after 2013, and cap space will not be looking up for the Buccaneers at that time.
Doesn’t sound great, does it? It’s worse for our NFC South friends. Here is what Pat had to say about the Carolina Panthers’ situation:
At the moment, the Panthers are $5.28 million under the cap. That gives them room to sign their draft picks and enough room to sign some players if injuries come during the season. But the Panthers, who had to work hard to get under this year’s cap, are going to face similar obstacles going forward. They already have $125 million committed toward the 2014 cap. Perhaps more importantly, they have $109 million committed toward the 2015 cap. Carolina has only 21 players under contract through 2015 and quarterback Cam Newton isn’t one of them.
21 players from the Panthers roster will have a cap hit of 109 million before Cam Newton is figured into the mix. Think about how dire of a situation that is for a franchise that is held up by the play of their dynamic signal caller.
The New Orleans Saints already have 140 million dollars committed to the 2014 salary cap, so they’re definitely not in a good place either. They aren’t losing their quarterback, so they’re better off than the Panthers, but they lack the room to make the moves needed to improve the team, and can only hope to maintain their current status.
The Atlanta Falcons are in an interesting position, as they have a similar cap situation as the Buccaneers, but the total falls off a cliff in 2015, as they drop tons of money off the books and have only 59 million currently committed to the 2015 roster. When they extend the contract of Matt Ryan, this will all change, but for now the Falcons have the space to do whatever they want with future contracts. Keeping their young stars on offense should be the number one focus, and I am sure some of that cap space will quickly disappear when it comes time to re-sign Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and either re-sign or replace Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.