By Jeff Berlinicke
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are already in a deep hole for the next two seasons and veterans Derrick Brooks and Simeon Rice aren't willing to make things any easier.
It's not necessarily their fault; the Bucs got themselves in salary cap trouble years ago when they sold the future for the 2003 Super Bowl. It's up to Bucs fans everywhere to decide if selling the team's soul for that title was worth it.
The bills are now due and the Bucs are in a perplexing situation as to how to pay it off. Far over the salary cap through the 2006 season, the team has been forced to go after bargain-basement free agents for a team that is aging and in need of a makeover. Then again, going after high-priced free agents got them into trouble in the first place.
Which brings us back to Brooks and Rice. The Bucs have attempted to rework their deals for some salary cap relief, but neither is interested. Making thing worse, many of the stars of the Super Bowl team grew old in a hurry and are now costing the Bucs a ton of cap dollars to play for other teams. Quarterback Brad Johnson will cost the Bucs $4,300,000 in cap money alone while LB Ian Gold, K Martin Gramatica, and OT Kerry Jenkins will all cost more than $1 million this season alone. A total of 11 former Bucs will cost the Bucs nearly $10 million in cap money this year with OT Todd Steussie another likely cut before training camp that will put the Bucs "dead money'' tab at more than $10 million.
Cutting big name players like Brooks or Rice won't help much because of their guaranteed money.
So that leaves the Bucs in a situation where they'll be scanning roster cuts throughout training camp while other teams – including NFC Central foes Carolina, Atlanta, and New Orleans – have a few bucks to spend. Even Jacksonville, which had its franchise decimated by salary cap decisions, has $17 million to spend this season.
What are the Bucs to do? Bite the bullet, let Cadillac Williams, Michael Clayton and whoever wins the quarterbacking job to try to blossom into a unit that isn't as bad as it sound if two or three offensive linemen step up out of nowhere, and hope the defense doesn't get too much older too fast.
Or they can hope and pray that Rice and Brooks can defer some of their money for the good of the team.
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