3 players with declined fifth-year options the Bucs should target in 2024
By Josh Hill
One team’s trash is potential treasure for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a slew of young players are slated to hit free agency next offseason.
Now that the NFL Draft is behind us, it’s time to start looking ahead to what the future holds. For some teams, that means squinting to get a glimpse of what’s on the horizon next offseason.
One of those teams is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are taking it easy this offseason with the expectation that the team will truly begin building a post-Brady future in 2024.
Next year the Bucs figure to be players in the open market, being a year removed from needing to take their medicine to pay the bill for ring chasing the last few seasons. The Bucs were $55 million over the cap entering this offseason and carry $35 million in dead cap from Tom Brady’’s decision to retire.
Simply put, there was no way the team was going to be active this offseason and it’s a miracle the front office pulled off the deals it did. Next year, though, things will be different.
According to Over The Cap, Tampa Bay is projected to have around $43 million in cap space to play with next offseason. Keep in mind that’s before the team makes any moves to offload players, but also before factoring in an expected extension for Antoine Winfield Jr., which could cost around $14 million per year.
Jason Licht and the front office have proven to be experts at navigating the cap, though, and creating space by converting elements of a player’s contact. All of this seems to point toward the Bucs being in a position to add some talent expected to hit free agency next offseason.
The deadline for teams to pick up the fifth year option on the first-round rookie class from the 2020 NFL Draft was on Tuesday. In making their decisions, a few teams handed the Bucs a telescopic view of who some of their targets might be next March.
Players with declined fifth-year options Buccaneers should target
We’ll see where the Buccaneers are at next season in terms of offensive line construction, but there’s a chance the team will still be in the market for a starting guard. Tristan Wirfs is moving to left tackle this year and rookie Cody Mauch is expected to play guard, which leaves a giant question mark at right tackle.
Even if Donovan Smith ends up returning in 2023, the Bucs will likely need to readdress the tackle situation next offseason. That’s where Mekhi Becton enters the equation as an interesting potential option.
The Jets declined his fifth-year option of just over $13 million guaranteed, a decision that comes amid injury concerns that have stunted his growth.
Becton failed to follow up a stellar rookie season with much of anything. He missed all of the 2021 season and has played just one game since 2020. There’s hope that he can use this upcoming season to return to form and prove he has what it takes to be an important part of an offensive line, but it’s looking like he might be an affordable gamble for the Bucs to take in 2024.