The Tampa Bay Buccaneers do not have any salary cap issues heading into the 2014 offseason, mainly due to the excellent bookkeeping of Mark Dominik and his staff. But if GM Jason Licht wants to open up the books a bit more heading into his first season in charge, he definitely has the means to do so.
As our friends at Bucs Nation pointed out, releasing Carl Nicks is not among the cost-effective ways to cut down on salary and increase the cap space available to make moves this offseason. So if not Nicks, then who? Here are some of the big contracts in Tampa Bay, along with some thoughts on whether or not it would make sense to let them go.
Darrelle Revis, CB
- Set to earn $16 million
- If released, most or all of the $16 million will be available for the Buccaneers immediately.
- Only two bonuses are paid prior to the season (one roster bonus and one workout bonus).
- These bonuses would remain as cap hits if the Buccaneers waited to release Revis until after they paid out.
But who are we kidding? Darrelle Revis isn’t being cut. We’ve discussed it before, and we’ll discuss it again. The new GM and head coach would have to agree that Revis is not worth his salary and unable to be traded in order to release him, which both seem unlikely. Revis is too good to let go for free, and I believe he’s worth every penny he’s being paid.
Vincent Jackson, WR
- Jackson, like Nicks, had his contract restructured last offseason, and does not have a cut-friendly contract.
- Unless he’s traded, which I doubt a new GM would look to do with one of his only stars on offense, Jackson is likely here for the next couple of years.
Jackson is the best veteran player on offense for the Buccaneers, and had a very good season in 2013 despite narratives about his slightly raised drop rate. Yes, he needs to be a bit more consistent in terms of catching the football, but he’s still one of the toughest receivers in the NFL to cover.
Gerald McCoy, DT
- McCoy has reached the final year of his rookie contract, and his 2014 salary is through the roof.
- According to Brian McIntyre, McCoy will make over $12 million this season.
- Releasing McCoy would only save about $7 of that off of the cap, as bonus money would count as dead money for the 2014 season.
But obviously, McCoy isn’t going to be released. If anything, he’ll get a long-term extension this offseason and be locked up for the next five years in pewter and red. That extension may or may not come with adjusted terms for 2014, but either way, McCoy is worth his salary and should be a Buccaneer for a long time to come.
Dashon Goldson, S
- Since Goldson’s contract with the Buccaneers is so new, he’s still in the guaranteed portion of his contract.
- That means the Buccaneers would have to pay every guaranteed dollar owed to Goldson against the 2014 cap.
No matter how disappointed you were with Goldson’s 2014 performance, he’s not going anywhere.
Donald Penn, T
- Penn is set to earn $6.4 million in 2014, the next to the last year in his contract.
- He is set to earn a similar amount in 2015.
- Penn’s contract included a small signing bonus which now amounts to less than $700,000.
- This means that if he’s released, the team would receive over $5 million in savings in 2014.
Penn did not have a great season in 2013, but he was hardly awful. That said, left tackle is an important position and Penn is aging. There will be left tackle options with the seventh pick in the draft, so the Buccaneers may choose to let go of Penn and start over with a rookie at that spot. Penn’s seat should feel a little warm, but I suspect he’ll be back in 2014.
Davin Joseph, G
- Joseph is set to earn $6 million in 2014 on a contract that does not end until 2018.
- Joseph’s salary will go up to $7 million in 2015, and then to $7.5 in 2017.
- However, there are no guaranteed dollars left on his contract. He can be cut with absolutely no penalty to the Buccaneers’ salary cap.
That final bullet point is bad news for Joseph, as he has absolutely no leverage with a new coach and GM in town who have some really bad tape to sift through when evaluating Joseph from 2013. I don’t believe there’s any way that Joseph takes to the field in 2014 as a Buccaneer making $6 million. He’ll either have to take a paycut or be let go. He was not productive enough last season, and he’s too old to simply assume that he’s going to bounce back from a severe knee injury.
Jeremy Zuttah, C/G
- Zuttah is set to earn $4 million in 2014 on a contract lasting until 2016.
- Zuttah’s base salary does not increase much over the next couple of years, but he does have incentives in his contract based on playing time and Pro Bowl berths, according to Rotoworld.
- Like Joseph, the guarantees on Zuttah’s deal have all paid out, meaning he can be released with no penalty to the Buccaneers.
However, unlike Joseph, Zuttah is playing too well to simply be let go. He’s versatile and experienced at a position (interior offensive line) where the Buccaneers have a ton of uncertainty. I don’t see any reason why saving $4 million would be worth getting rid of the team’s best healthy interior lineman.
Michael Koenen, P
- Koenen is set to earn $3.25 million in 2014 on a contract that ends in 2017.
- His base salary does not increase over that time.
- Koenen has no guaranteed money left in his contract, meaning he can be released with no penalty.
Koenen has been among the best at kickoffs in the NFL over the past few years, but that skill alone is not worth over $3 million in salary. His punting has been consistent but below average. He will likely have to take a paycut or find himself without a contract at some point this offseason.
Connor Barth, K
- Barth is set to earn $2 million in 2014, which raises to $3.3 million in 2015, the final year of his contract.
- Barth has no guaranteed money left in his contract.
If the same Connor Barth that merited the contract referenced above is back after his offseason injury last year, the Buccaneers would be wise to keep him. Being confident in a kicker from 55 yards or closer is a blessing for an offense, especially an offense that so often stalled out just inside enemy territory. However, the Buccaneers could save money by ditching Barth, if they so choose.
Mike Williams, WR
- Williams is set to earn only $1.2 million in 2014.
- That number grows to $5.2 million in 2015 and continues to increase from there until the final year of the deal, 2018.
- The guarantees in Williams’ deal only cover the first two seasons’ salary, meaning the Buccaneers would only be on the hook for $1.2 million in dead money for releasing Williams.
Williams was a disappointment in 2013 after a shaky preseason and a frustrating injury kept him off the field for the regular season. And by whatever magic powers Mark Dominik and his crew possess, the contract for Williams is very easily let go from here forward. The Buccaneers would not benefit in the short-term from releasing Williams, as his entire 2014 salary is guaranteed. But beyond 2014, Williams will have to earn every penny, as his salary will go up, but with no guarantees.
Which, if any, of these players would you let go of? Let us know in the comments below.