It seems as though everyone is talking about the impending release of Gerald McCoy to create more cap space. Love him or hate him, the release of McCoy is not the only solution. I will highlight a few creative options to free up more money. But first, we must understand how the offseason salary cap functions
The Rule of 51
The Rule of 51 is simple, it states that in the offseason, only the top 51 players with the largest salaries will count against the cap. This rule was established to give teams breathing room in the offseason. The rule expires on September 5th, when rosters are trimmed down to 53.
Examining the Buccaneers roster, we can see that Isaiah Johnson, set to make $645,000, is the 51st player currently on the roster. But Jack Cichy, set to make $606,344, is below the 51 player threshold. His salary does not count towards the current cap. So when you read that the Buccaneers are $19 million above the cap, this takes into account every player on the roster. But this is not how the salary cap works in the NFL.
Understanding the Rule of 51, we can calculate the Buccaneers are currently $139,729 above the cap. This has halted their ability to sign Devin White, Jamel Dean, and Mike Edwards.
Draft Pick Salary
With five of the eight draft picks signed, the Buccaneers are $139,729 over the cap limit at the time of writing this article. The recent addition of Kendell Beckwith to the Non-Football Injury List will remove him from the 90 man roster, but his $800,000 salary will still count against the top 51 cap. Look for the Buccaneers to make a small move in the coming days to put them below the limit. With that being said, to understand how the cap situation can be fixed, we must also understand how much money the remaining three rookies will command. Thanks to the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement and the rookie wage, we can accurately predict each draft picks salary with relative ease.
Compared to previous drafts, Devin White is projected to make about $5.3 million in 2019. This would put White well above the 51 player mark, pushing Isaiah Johnson out. Now that we don’t need to account for Johnson’s salary, White’s cap hit reduces to about $4.7 million. Pushing the Buccaneers to $4.8 million over the cap
As third-round selections, Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards are set to make about $705,906 and $685,379 respectively, a combined salary of roughly $1.39 million. Knocking out two players from the top 51 would create only a $100,000 cap hit! So by remembering the Rule of 51, and adding the last three rookies to the salary cap, the Buccaneers are essentially $4.9 million above the cap. So how will they create more room?
By now you have probably heard about the Pierre-Paul accident. Without surgery, the injury could take four to six months to fully heal. This would leave the Buccaneers without their top pass rusher until October or November.
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Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, $7.5 of his $14.9 million dollar salary was guaranteed as of March 17th. If Tampa were to cut JPP today, the team could create $7.4 million in cap space. This would solve the cap problem, but create a massive need at defensive end. Don’t expect the team to make a decision any time soon. They will likely choose the “wait and see” approach as we head into the summer. You can read more about the JPP situation in the link below.
Other Notable Cuts
The JPP incident has opened up another door to create cap space, but I doubt the Buccaneers are willing to part ways with their 12.5 sack man. Here are other notable players that could be cut with little to no dead money.
One possible scenario is the release of Will Gholston, Caleb Benenoch and Ryan Smith. This would create about $6.1 million in cap room if we follow the Rule of 51, with $1.2 million left to spare.
The last strategy to create cap space is the restructuring of a current contract. For this example, we will look at Mike Evans, first mentioned by Scott Reynolds of Pewter Report. Evans is under contract for $20 million in 2019, 10% of the total cap.
In order to create the $4.9 million that is needed, the Buccaneers can turn eight million dollars of Evans 2019 salary into a signing bonus. This would reduce Evans contract from $20, to $12 million. Knowing that the contract does not expire until 2024, we can spread the signing bonus over the next four years of his deal. This would increase Evans salary by two million for four years until the contract expires.
This immediately frees up eight million without being forced to cut an existing player. The only problem, Mike Evans has to be willing to take a pay cut in 2019.
The Buccaneers have a number of options to create cap space this summer. While cutting Gerald McCoy is the easiest solution, there are various methods that don’t include his release. Many Buccaneers fans have been vocal for a stronger defensive line. Is cutting McCoy really the best choice?