The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in salary cap hell. The team is 43 million over the cap, with no relief coming.
The team also has 23 players on the roster that are free agents and will hit the market in March unless they are signed to new contracts before the free agency period begins.
The Bucs are expected to part ways with wide receivers Julio Jones, Breshad Perriman, and Scotty Miller. Also, tight-end Kyle Rudolph is not likely to be back. All of these players were non-factors this season due to injuries.
Keanu Reeves, Logan Ryan, and Akiem Hicks will likely not be back on the defensive side of the ball, as they were here on one-year deals.
Kicker Ryan Succop also appears to be on shaky ground. His inability to consistently hit field goals from 50-55 yards has put him in Todd Bowles’s doghouse, and the Bucs could be looking for a new kicker.
He was 2/7 from over 50 yards this season.
Buccaneers Should Release Donovan Smith And Leonard Fournette
There are two other players on offense; the Bucs should release immediately. Tackle Donovan Smith and running back Leonard Fournette.
Smith is coming off his worst season in the NFL since coming to the Bucs as a first-round pick out of Penn State in 2015. PFF graded Smith as the 69th worst tackle this past season in the league. No tackle played more snaps and had a lower rating than Smith.
Smith also has the honor of costing the Buccaneers more points due to his penalties than any other player in the league. He also takes the number one position in yards taken away by penalties with 111.
Time for a changing of the guard at left tackle.
Kelvin Beachum is the only left tackle on the free agent market that the Bucs could fit, in theory, under the salary cap. He could give the Buccaneers a few good years until a young left tackle can be drafted.
Leonard Fournette has been just ok since that Super Bowl run in 2020. Fournette has his lowest yards-per-carry average at 3.5 yards per game this past season.
He has had four 100-yard rushing games in three years, excluding playoffs. There are better and cheaper options available.
Kareem Hunt, Rashad Penny, and D’Onta Foreman are all free agents and will come cheaper and with better production than we got with Fournette.
Releasing these players will save the Bucs over 35 million dollars in cap space.
Tom Brady’s Decision Will Set The Course For The Bucs Offseason
We are all waiting for the big announcement from Tom Brady, whether or not he will be back with the Buccaneers for the 2023 season.
Currently, Kyle Trask is the only quarterback on the roster under contract, as Blaine Gabbert is also a free agent.
I would expect the Bucs to move on from Gabbert, as he was on the roster because he was a favorite of former head coach Bruce Arians.
If Brady does not return, the Buccaneers will take a 25 million cap hit in 2023. If he does return, the cap hit will be 11 million dollars plus whatever the value of the contract.
The good news for the Bucs is the salary cap will increase to 224.8 million dollars in 2023 from 208.2 million in 2022. That’s a cap increase of 16.6 million.
There will be a lot of other roster decisions that need to be made besides the one mentioned here to get under the cap for 2023.
Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy Bunting, and Mike Edwards are all free agents and will have to be re-signed or replaced.
Then there is the situation with 12-year veteran linebacker Lavonte David. David has played his entire career in Tampa, and his contract is up.
David made 12.5 million this past season, and according to Spotrac, his market value stands at 9.7 million per season. So if the Buccaneers can sign him for that amount, that would go a long way toward stabilizing the linebacker situation for another year or two.
Once Tom Brady makes his decision, the Bucs will be able to move forward with retooling the roster for 2023.