The State of the Cap: Outlook & Trajectory (September 2017 Edition)

With our final roster cut down to 52, now's a good time to look at our cap situation, the road ahead, and potential moves that we can make-- particularly with Jameis and Evans. Here's the TL;DR of this post: 

Summary

  • The Bucs currently have nearly $17M in cap space. After this season, many of our expensive players will become UFA's, which will free up an additional ~$25M in cap space. 
  • The Bucs are well-balanced in both offensive and defensive spend. This is likely to blow up in favor of offensive spend shortly, which leads me to...
  • The Bucs are the only team in the NFL that are likely going to have to give top 5 salaries to both our QB and WR. This is going to create serious salary cap challenges down the road that are further complicated by the 2020 CBA re-negotiation.

Overall

Total Cap/Cap Space

Notes: 

  • For 2017, the Buccaneers have a salary cap of $172.5M.
  • Our active contracts injured reserve, and dead cap figures add up to $155.8M, leaving us with $16.72M in cap space available. 

By Defense/Offense/Special Teams

Notes: 

  • $73M of our cap space, or 48.83% is currently used on defense. 
  • $67M of our cap space, or 45.07% is currently used on offense. 
  • $8.4M of our cap space, or 6.1% is currently used on special teams. 

Top Cap Figures: Offense

  1. Desean Jackson ($12.5M)
  2. Jameis Winston ($6.9M)
  3. Doug Martin ($5.8M)
  4. J.R. Sweezy ($4.7M)
  5. Mike Evans ($4.7M)
  6. Evan Smith ($4.5M)
  7. Demar Dotson ($4.3M)
  8. Ryan Fitzpatrick ($3.7M)
  9. Joe Hawley ($2.9M)
  10. O.J. Howard ($2M)

Top Cap Figures: Defense

  1. Gerald McCoy ($13.75M)
  2. Brent Grimes ($8M)
  3. Willie Gholston ($7M)
  4. Robert Ayers ($6.25M)
  5. Chris Baker ($6M)
  6. Lavonte David ($6M)
  7. T.J. Ward ($3.9M)
  8. Vernon Hargreaves III ($3.2M)
  9. Josh Robinson ($3.1M)
  10. Chris Conte ($2.9M)

Cap Projections: 2017 and Beyond

Active Contracts: Projected Spending

Notes: 

  • At the conclusion of the 2017 season, the Buccaneers will have multiple top dollar players set to become UFA's, hence the large decline in projected cap spend. These players include Brent Grimes, Evan Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacquies Smith, and Clinton McDonald. 

Key Considerations: Extending Mike Evans and Jameis Winston

In the next two years, the Buccaneers will likely have to sign QB Jameis Winston and WR Mike Evans to top dollar contracts. Both the WR and QB markets have exploded as of late, most recently with the extensions of Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr. 

With the Buccaneers opting into his 5th year option, Mike Evans will be under contract through the 2018 season, but it is likely the team will attempt to extend him to a long-term deal. 

It is assumed the Buccaneers will also pick up Jameis Winston's 5th year option this year, which would extend him through the 2019 season. To give you an idea of the current market for top WR and QB salaries, take a look at the below figures. You'll notice that the Buccaneers are currently facing a unique quandary, in that none of the teams below are currently having to pay top dollar to both QB and WR: 

Top 5 WR Contracts in NFL

  1. Antonio Brown ($17.5M/yr, $19M guaranteed)
  2. Deandre Hopkins ($16.3M/yr, $36.5M guaranteed)
  3. A.J. Green ($15M/yr, $26.8M guaranteed)
  4. Julio Jones ($14.25M/yr, $35.5M guaranteed)
  5. Dez Bryant ($14M/yr, $32M guaranteed)

Top 5 QB Contracts in NFL

  1. Matthew Stafford ($27M/yr, $60.5M guaranteed)
  2. Derek Carr ($25M/yr, $40M guaranteed)
  3. Andrew Luck ($24.5M/yr, $47M guaranteed)
  4. Drew Brees ($24M/yr, $24M guaranteed)
  5. Kirk Cousins ($24M/yr, 24M guaranteed)

So where does this leave the bucs? 

Let's play around with some realistic projections, because, there's no such thing as a "hometown discount" and Evans and Jameis would be foolish to take one. A few scenarios here: 

  • Scenario A: Mike Evans receives a 5 yr, $84M extension that pays him $35M in guarantees total (through 2019-2024). Jameis Winston, at the end of the 2018 season receives a 5 yr, $142M with $64M guarantees total (through 2020-2025). 
  • Scenario B: Mike Evans receives a 5 yr, $84M extension that pays him $35M in guarantees (through 2019-2024). Jameis Winston receives a franchise tag in 2020. The team waits for the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to be renegotiated before signing Jameis to a long-term deal. This is also a possible scenario. 

In Scenario A, the Bucs have an opportunity to front load Evans' deal to take the majority of the cap hit before Jameis's inevitable extension. Keep in mind, there are a million other variables at play here, including where Evans' 2014 peers Odell Beckham and Sammy Watkins end up deal-wise, but it's going to carry a hefty price tag. 

Where things get more interesting is Scenario B. As aforementioned, Jameis's contract runs through the 2019 season (assuming 5th year option is picked up). At the conclusion of the 2020 season, the CBA will expire. So what if the Bucs franchise Jameis in 2020 (paying him an average of the top five QB salaries, fully guaranteed for one year), and then wait and see how CBA negotiations unfold? Agents are pressing for deals that will allow for their players to receive a percentage of the salary cap rather than a flat wage and signing bonus, and there's always the chance the salary cap will go away altogether, which would take an explosive QB market and make it even more lucrative.