Jason Licht has his work cut out for him, but he certainly has more than enough wiggle room to address the Buccaneers’ glaring needs.
As much credit as we give Jason Licht for doing so well in the draft – and you’d be hard pressed to find too many general managers doing better – Licht has had his swings and misses in free agency. Now, he has a Buccaneers roster that has to be constructed that will reach the postseason and save not only his job, but the jobs of the entire coaching staff that will be returning in 2018.
You can point to Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson as being Licht’s first two “misses”, but when you take in the totality of the players brought in while Lovie Smith was the head coach, most of them are “Lovie guys.” Don’t forget, Lovie had full roster control while here, so it’s not out of the question that Smith told Licht what guys he wanted and Licht did his best to acquire them. Collins, Johnson, Major Wright, Henry Melton, Sterling Moore, Bruce Carter, Mike Jenkins, Josh McCown…all pretty clear cut misses.
Whether it was Licht, Lovie, or a combination of the two, it doesn’t matter. Licht has to work with Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith to assemble the best 53-man roster possible or all three of them will wind up on the unemployment line.
Licht will head into free agency with $62.9-million dollars in cap space. However, there will be more to that very soon.
With the First Pick
It seems likely the Buccaneers are going to move on from Doug Martin after another massively disappointing season. Given his suspension for the violating the substance abuse policy, his salary is no longer guaranteed and releasing him frees up $6.75-million with absolutely no dead cap hit,
J.R. Sweezy was underwhelming to say the least in 2017. It’s no question offensive and defensive lines will be a focus. If the Bucs decide to move on from Sweezy – who isn’t the player the Bucs thought they signed now with his back problems – they can do so after June 1, allowing the dead money to drop from $1.875-million to $625,000 and also free up $5.875-million in cap space.
Ah, Chris Baker. The dancing, smiling waste of a contract that had one stand out play all season long and it was a penalty that allowed the Panthers to beat the Bucs in week sixteen. Yes, he’s outta here. In doing so, the Bucs suffer no dead money as all of Baker’s guarantees are up. Releasing him frees up $4.875-million.
Those few moves would jump the Buccaneers from the fifth to the fourth most in terms of cap space and only leave them two million dollars behind Indianapolis. San Francisco and John Lynch have over $117-million while the Browns have over $112-million. Surely both of those clubs will go hard after the top players on the market, but a lot of that cap space can be eaten up real fast if each team signs their quarterback – Jimmy Garoppolo in San Fran, A.J. McCarron in Cleveland.
The Bucs will have the opportunity to go after players like Ziggy Ansah, Trumaine Johnson, Dontari Poe, Luke Joeckel, Jonathan Joseph, Haloti Ngata. They’ll have players of their own they’ll want to bring back like Brent Grimes and Mike Evans who is entering the final year of his rookie deal and will be looking for an extension.
The Buccaneers will once again be big money players in free agency to try and bolster the trenches and help out the secondary. This time, however, they can’t afford to make any mistakes.