With the Buccaneers trying to make up for a disappointing season, trading Cam Brate may not be the craziest idea.
Yes, the headline probably has you mad already. Let me preface this by saying I love Cam Brate and all the things he brings to the Buccaneers offense. He has a great chemistry with Jameis Winston and the one-two punch at tight end with O.J. Howard allows the Bucs to create mismatches, especially in the red zone.
All that said, trading Cam Brate this off-season may be the best move for the Buccaneers for 2018 and beyond.
Brate is a restricted free agent which means the Bucs can place a tender on him and they have right of first refusal should another team offer him a deal. That said, it is likely that Brate will sign with the Bucs before free agency gets underway. However, consider this;
The Bucs have ample cap space right now, but they still have to sign Mike Evans, Winston, Ali Marpet, potentially Donovan Smith, and certainly Kwon Alexander to extensions. Add to that any other free agents the Bucs pursue – Ziggy Ansah, Trumaine Johnson, Brent Grimes, yes even Le’Veon Bell – to the cap number. Then, you have a crop of rookies that will be paid and that will count against the cap.
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Brate has been a phenomenal find for Jason Licht and he even led the NFL in touchdowns by a tight end just two seasons ago. He’s Winston’s favorite red zone targets and the numbers prove that. Brate is going to be able to get a handsome long term deal and the Bucs flat out can’t afford to do that if they want to bring back their other players with expiring contracts and improve their roster with other free agents. O.J. Howard is the future at tight end for the Bucs and it just doesn’t seem feasible to keep both.
If the Buccaneers can get Brate on a one or two year deal and trade him for a draft pick or two, they can continue to build their young core and improve the defensive side of the ball now rather than later. A team to look at is the New England Patriots as an obvious fit.
With rumors swirling about Rob Gronkowski potentially retiring, Brate fits the mold for a Tom Brady target at tight end. A big, physical target that can stretch the field and be a dominant red zone weapon. The Patriots’ window is closing and if they lose Gronk, they need someone to fill that role.
Licht has connections in New England given his time there and has a solid relationship with head coach Bill Belichick, so there is a mutual respect that can start the ground work of conversations.
Again, I am not hoping that Brate leaves this team. Personally, he is one of my favorite players on this roster, but you have to take a look at the big picture. With the imminent signings the Bucs need to make and the money Brate would get on the open market, it’s best for the team to strike while the iron is hot. Sell high, right? If the Bucs don’t move him for a player, pick, or both, they’re looking at losing him as an unrestricted free agent and getting nothing in return except for a potential compensatory pick.
They can get far more than that if they work a deal themselves – and as we saw with Mike Glennon heading to Chicago, compensatory picks are far from a sure thing.
It’s something to think about when you look at the construction of the roster as it stands now and where the Buccaneers need to be for 2018 and beyond. It won’t be a popular move, but it may be the right one.