TAMPA, Fla. — Now that Tom Brady’s retirement is official, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can start looking forward to how they will build the team moving forward. One thing is for sure, the team you see take the field in August will likely not look anything like the team that left the field after losing to the Los Angeles Rams.
We’ll start with Brady. Losing the greatest quarterback of all time is never easy. When a team loses a franchise quarterback, that team typically take a step back. And Brady’s contract will remain with the team for a couple of more seasons through dead cap space.
According to Spotrac.com, Brady’s contract carries $32 million of dead cap space if the retirement is processed before June 1. Eating up that much cap space for a retired player would be tough, and Spotrac reported the most likely path forward is restructuring the contract and splitting up the cap hits over two years at $8 million in 2022 and $24 million in 2023.
Using the cap figures for Brady, the $8 million charge will free up approximately $12.2 million in cap space for the 2022 season. While the $24 million in cap charge in 2023 will be large, the salary cap is expected to jump next season with an injection of money from the large new TV/streaming contracts.
Adding $12.2 million to the current cap space the Buccaneers have would put the team at roughly $20 million in cap space before they look at any restructuring of contracts or player releases to help clear up any further salary cap space.
The Bucs will likely lose tight end Rob Gronkowski who is an unrestricted free agent. He’s said in recent days he is likely to retire after a storied career alongside Brady. The Bucs could also lose Chris Godwin, Carlton Davis, Leonard Fournette, O.J. Howard, Jordan Whitehead, Alex Cappa, and Ryan Jensen. The Bucs could also lose backup running back Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard, along with CB Carlton Davis.
Out of the bunch, Godwin is arguably most dynamic of the group. He’s likely to command upwards of $20 million per season, even coming off a serious knee injury.
Through creative contract restructuring, releases, and other methods, the Bucs could also clear tens of millions more in cap space if they chose to do so this season, while expecting a bigger chunk next season with the cap likely going up by a larger number.
So where will the Bucs focus their efforts during the offseason?
Obviously, the number one position of importance will be quarterback. ABC Action News’ Dan Trujillo gave an excellent rundown of who might be under center when the Bucs take the field next season. From his list, Aaron Rodgers would obviously be the top choice if he were somehow available, but that’s appearing to be less and less likely after the Packers’ run in 2021.
The most exciting name on the list is arguably Russell Wilson. If the Bucs could put together a trade package for Wilson and bring the dynamic passer to Tampa, it would make the Bucs a destination spot for free agents chasing a Super Bowl. Is it likely, no, but it would be the most exciting player they could bring to the team.
Regardless of who is brought in, with some creative cap management, the Buccaneers can still field a strong team next season. Plenty of work is left to be done on the offensive and defensive line, but the team isn’t in a full rebuild mode just yet.
Now, we must hurry up and wait as the team moves forward to some key deadlines. March 8 is the deadline for franchise/transition players to be tagged. Carlton Davis may be a candidate for the tag this year if a contract can’t be worked out before then.
After that, March 14 will be the date teams can start contacting free agents and start contract negotiations. Free agency officially opens March 16 and the trading period officially starts at 1:00 p.m. that day. Then, the next big date will be April 28-30 when the 2022 NFL Draft rolls around.