Flynn's Focus

February 19 - While Tampa Bay would like to restructure a few more players' contracts before the start of free agency, there are at least four Buccaneers who could become cap causalities this spring. Find out which Bucs players could be in danger of walking the plank in this installment of Flynn's Focus.

The start of free agency is less than two weeks away and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still believed to be working hard in hopes of restructuring several players' contracts before February 28.

Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson, wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and linebacker Derrick Brooks are players the Bucs are likely targeting as candidates for restructuring.

Tampa Bay has already restructured the contracts of cornerback Ronde Barber and kicker Martin Gramatica, but there's no guarantee the Bucs will be able to restructure any more contracts.

The Bucs are believed to be roughly $2-million under the NFL mandated $74.8-million salary cap. That puts Tampa Bay out of danger for now, but the Bucs want to re-sign some of its own free agents-to-be, like linebacker Shelton Quarles and left tackle Roman Oben, and they'll want to be a player in free agency, too.

Tampa Bay will have to create even more salary cap room in order to make both of those scenarios come to fruition.

That said, there are at least four Bucs players under contract that could become cap casualties this spring.

Center Jeff Christy
Christy has been Tampa Bay's starting center for the last three seasons and he's signed with the Bucs through the 2004 season.

But at 34, Christy's best days are behind him. He's also scheduled to count $3.95-million towards the cap in 2003.

Although the Bucs offensive line played well in the playoffs, Jon Gruden and Co. will still likely try to upgrade this unit during the offseason. Gruden will likely try to add more size to the Bucs' O-line, which doesn't bode well for Christy (6-2, 285), who has been regarded as an undersized center throughout his 10-year career.

If they're looking to add size to the center position, the Bucs won't have to look far to find it. Tampa Bay backup guard/center Todd Washington (6-3, 310) signed a four-year contract last year and he's been groomed to succeed Christy.

Washington will count $1.3-million towards the cap in ‘03, which is awfully high for a backup.

With Christy scheduled to receive a $750,000 roster bonus on Feb. 28, don't be surprised if the Bucs try to avoid paying that to him by releasing him or by asking him to retire.

Fullback Mike Alstott
It didn't look like Gruden had a defined role for Alstott in his offense at the beginning of last season. But towards the end of Tampa Bay's ‘02 campaign, Gruden's running back by committee approach was effective.

Alstott led the Bucs in touchdowns with seven and he rushed for 548 yards (3.8 avg.). He also caught 35 passes for 342 yards.

While Alstott is signed through the 2005 season, he is scheduled to have a $2.691-million cap value in ‘03. He's also due a $300,000 roster bonus on Feb. 28.

But with starting tailback Michael Pittman's inconsistent play last season, the chances of the Bucs releasing Alstott are not high. In fact, it's not likely at all. But Alstott received a $2.5-million signing bonus up front, which means the Bucs could release him without taking a big salary cap hit.

Running Back Michael Pittman
Pittman is a guy who will be on the bubble throughout the offseason and training camp. His strong finish at the end of the ‘02 season certainly encouraged Tampa Bay's coaches and Pittman's teammates.

Still, Pittman struggled to get into a groove throughout most of last season. He rushed for 718 yards (3.5 avg.) and he scored just one touchdown. But Pittman was very effective in the passing game, where he caught 59 passes for 477 yards.

Pittman is signed through the 2006 season and he will have a $1.575-million cap value in ‘03. Pittman is scheduled to receive $425,000, which is the rest of his signing bonus, on Feb. 28.

Pittman won't likely be released during the spring, but if Pittman struggles out of the gate next season and Bucs second-year RB Travis Stephens shows some significant improvement from his short-lived rookie campaign, Pittman's job could be in jeopardy.

Tampa Bay will have its eye on running backs in the draft and in free agency. If the Bucs land a running back they're high on, Pittman could become expendable.

Wide Receiver Karl Williams
With Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius, Tampa Bay already has a lot of money dedicated to its wide receiver position. While Williams filled in well in place of receivers McCardell and Jurevicius, he might be a little too expensive for the Bucs to keep.

Williams is signed through the 2004 season and he'll have a $704,000 cap value in ‘03. Williams won't likely be a cap casualty unless the Bucs find a punt returner to replace him. Tampa Bay will likely bring some competition in for Williams, but "The Truth" always seems to find a way to earn a roster spot.


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