If you thought the Buccaneers were immune to the salary cap problems the rest of the league has been suffering, you were sadly mistaken. Not only is Tampa Bay mortal, they're suffering some heavy salary cap casualties this offseason. But unlike some other teams in the NFL, the Bucs should survive.
Bucs general manager Rich McKay is regarded as one of the league's best capalogists, but even he could not keep Tampa Bay from avoiding the ramifications of signing big name players to big money contracts.
Tampa Bay hasn't been shy about opening up their checkbook for their own and other teams' free agents, but the heavy spending has finally caught up with them. Tampa Bay was approximately $9.4 million over the salary cap before Mar. 1. Because of this, Tampa Bay was forced to cut players and let players explore career opportunities with other teams since the Bucs could no longer afford most of them. Here's a look at the players the Bucs have released and or lost via free agency since the 2001 season concluded.
CB Donnie Abraham (Bucs saved $3.1 million)
LB Jeff Gooch (Bucs saved $2 million)
TE Dave Moore (Bucs saved $1.2 million).
P Mark Royals (Bucs saved $440,000).
S Eric Vance (Bucs saved $473,000).
G Randall McDaniel (Bucs saved over $1 million)
Free Agents Lost
RB Rabih Abdullah (Signed three-year contract with Chicago for over $514,000 per season)
WR Reidel Anthony (Signed one-year contract with Washington worth $525,000).
RB Warrick Dunn (Signed six-year contract with Atlanta worth $4.5 million per season).
MLB Jamie Duncan (Signed five-year contract with St. Louis worth $2.2 million per season).
WR Jacquez Green (Signed three-year contract with Washington worth approximately $1.5 million per season).
TE Dave Moore (Signed three-year contract with Buffalo worth just over $1 million per season).
DE Steve White (Signed four-year contract with New York Jets worth just over about $2 million per season).
CB Ronde Barber (Bucs saved $1.6 million by restructuring Barber's contract).
It's not that Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and McKay don't want these players to play for the Pewter Pirates. The reason the Bucs have to let these players go is because they can't afford most of them, and even if they could, there's usually one or two teams that are willing to overpay them.
The NFL salary cap is giving all teams headaches, not just the Buccaneers. The salary cap is what allows teams to go from worst to first and first to worst in the matter of one season, but at the same time, it keeps the league competitive.
Not only are the Bucs under the league's mandated $71.1 million salary cap, they have approximately $6 million to spend. If the Bucs remain without a No. 1 or No. 2 draft pick next month, about $1.5 million of that amount will be needed to sign draft picks. The rest of the money can and probably will be used to sign at least one free agent running back, wide receiver, tight end and cornerback.
Tampa Bay has used the money they have freed up wisely. They've managed to sign New York Jets free agent LG Kerry Jenkins to replace retired G Randall McDaniel, QB Rob Johnson and re-sign C/G Todd Washington.
Salary cap problems are a common occurrence in the NFL, and it's Tampa Bay's turn to deal with them. The Buccaneers have not been dismantled. They've just been given a facelift.
Some Bucs fans have been quick to criticize Tampa Bay for allowing their players to walk the plank. But with about $6 million left to spend, one should judge the Bucs roster in August, not the one they have 18 days after the free agency period began.
Click here to sound off on this topic on BucMag.com's Premium message boards.
Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com
This story is intended to be read only by BucMag.com Club Insiders only and TheInsiders.com. Sharing of the Club content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.
Get more analysis, inside information and expert commentary from the Buccaneer Magazine staff by calling 1-800-881-BUCS(2827) to subscribe to Buccaneer Magazine.
Looking for the largest selection of Bucs merchandise on the internet? Check out BucGear.com.