Working Salary Cap Magic

June 3rd, 2023

Bucs GM Jason Licht.

Joe recently shared a story from good ol’ follicly-challenged Billy Barnwell of BSPN. He mostly loved the magic that Bucs AC/DC-loving general manager Jason Licht used to keep so many key defensive pieces together this season.

Barnwell was just bent that Licht talked himself into believing Kyler Traskfield will lead the Bucs deep into the playoffs.

(Some national analysts believe Licht banking on Traskfield means the Bucs are “half-tanking” that this season is little more than a ruse to set the franchise up to draft a quarterback next spring.)

The defense returns mostly intact. The Bucs entered the offseason in terrible cap shape and only got squeezed harder by Tom Brady’s second retirement. The team is absorbing $35 million in dead money for Brady on its 2023 cap, which is more than 25 other teams have in dead money for their entire roster. It has a league-high $74.3 million in dead money on its cap this year.

Despite those limitations, general manager Jason Licht managed to find a way to bring back Lavonte David and Jamel Dean, with the latter coming off his best pro season. Of the 11 defenders who led the team in snaps a year ago, eight will return in 2023.

The returning defensive starters Barnwell cited do not include Bucs sack king Shaq Barrett. Barnwell, correctly, is spooked if or how Barrett will come back after blowing an Achilles tear last season.

Look, Joe thinks Todd Bowles completely knows what kind of team he has so he’s going to go full-blown Father Dungy. Play tough defense, keep it close and hope the offense has one more play in it than the opposing offense.

Bowles isn’t going to have Traskfield throw the ball 40 times a game. Nor should he.

The problem with keeping a game close also means keeping the other team in the game, too. But this is the hand Bowles has apparently chosen.

42 Responses to “Working Salary Cap Magic”

  1. Brandon Says:

    Saw a study.. it stated that only 64% of NFL players that tore their Achilles returned to action up until 2010… which is funny, because most of the medical advancements on that surgery have happened over the last 10 years. I have ZERO doubt Shaq will return and play at least as well as he did his last season and a half… which is probably an 8.5 sack a year guy.

  2. AnonymousBuc76 Says:

    Yeah I have to give Licht credit; we pushed all of our chips to the middle of the table a few years back…We got a Super Bowl out of it (almost 2) but now we’re paying the price…

    I personally am not buying the doom an gloom predictions for the Bucs this season…

    We’ve been way to pass-happy here in Tampa for my taste really since Dirk Koetter became coach; and we got even more pass happy under Bruce Arians…That being said, I’m excited the see the Bucs get back to their ground and pound roots under new coordinator Canelas…A running game does wonders for your QB… Not to mention, it helps in time of possession which in turn helps keep your defense fresh…

    The best thing Todd did this off-season was get away from the no riskit, no biscuit philosophy…The new philosophy is simple, run the football, control the clock, minimize turnovers, play sound defense and special teams…

  3. bucnjim Says:

    Every single article of experts critical of the Bucs QB situation are all missing one thing…..A Solution! Not even one explaining how they could have or would have done it better. Division titles and Super Bowl wins come with a cost.

  4. Lt. Dan Says:

    More cap magic?..Dalvin Cook is available.

  5. Andrew Fish Says:

    I don’t think people realize just how much money was/is pushed down the road. it is as far out as 2027 with a 15mil dead money hit. that’s 4 years from now. 2025 its 58 million in dead money. 100% worth it to get the Super Bowl win but its time to fix things and pay the bill. Not spend money on players when we are not a super bowl contender. let the young guys play.

  6. Todd Says:

    I’ve never torn my Achilles, but I did suffer a detached bicep and had to have reattachment surgery. I didn’t have the rehab resources Shaw does, but can tell you within a year my left bicep was BY FAR stronger than my right. And it had nothing to do with a Farrah Fawcett poster! 😎

    I submit Shân will be a well-healed beast!!!

  7. Todd Says:

    Shaq does…

  8. bucabubba Says:

    I think Licht had a great draft. Beef and more beef. Having only one quarterback on the roster, though, I was surprised he didn’t take another quarterback, especially with hyped Levis and Hooker available in the first two rounds. Although, that did signal what the Bucs think of Trask.

  9. Try a different username please Says:

    Licht is NOT a good gm.. Look who he hired for Bucs head coach!

  10. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Magic & Mathematics & good Management……..

    What isn’t being discussed much is how much younger this team is… a lot.

  11. Allbuccedup Says:

    I don’t understand why the nfl doesn’t get rid of the salary cap like the nba and mlb. I mean its really a joke to begin with.

  12. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Allbuccedup Says:
    June 3rd, 2023 at 9:56 am
    I don’t understand why the nfl doesn’t get rid of the salary cap like the nba and mlb. I mean its really a joke to begin with.

    The NBA and to some degree MLB have far fewer players than the NFL…..MLB has the “Luxury Tax”….

    It would be financially prohibitive for the NFL to abandon the cap….and having the cap helps with parity.

    Owners would have to approve of abandoning the cap and they most certainly won’t.

  13. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    The Bucs had the 4th oldest team last year. Stats on that aren’t out yet this year.

    Just think of it…..we replaced all of these players with younger players.

    Brady, Gabbert, Rudolph, Mason, D Smith, Bernard, Lenny, Julio, Perriman, Wells

    Ryan, Hicks, Gholston, Nacho

    We will be considerably younger this year…..probably one of the youngest teams.

  14. Dooley Says:


    Cam Brate, Ryan Griffin, & Succuop. Might not be done either with LS Zach Triner has competition in the building, Dee Delaney has comp in the building, Nassib probably won’t be back with Diaby & Ramierez here. This honestly might be the youngest Bucs roster since that gloriously agonizing 2010 campaign, but this roster is waaaaaaay more talented than that squad was. Honestly under everybody’s nose last season, we quietly infused a good amount of youth into the bottom portion of the depth chart last offseason as well. McClendon, Minter, Adams and a few others all got replace by younger players.

    I’m actually looking forward to youth translating to energy on the field whether it be practice or gameday. Still waiting to see if/when Canales will show up to a training camp practice in pads, lol dude seems like the type

  15. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Current Cap Space:
    -Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $402K

    Cap Space Needed for Unsigned Draft Picks:
    • Calijah Kancey DT – $2,635,177
    • Cody Mauch G/C – $1,360,992
    • YaYa Diaby OLB – $993,711
    • SirVocea Dennis LB – $829,331
    • Payne Durham TE – $811,244
    • Josh Hayes CB/S – $801,093
    • Trey Palmer WR – $794,823
    • Jose Ramirez OLB -$794,003

    Ditching Barrett now? Shortsighted. It’d punch a $16.428M hole in our 2024 cap – half of the projected $32M. The smart move? Postpone till post-June 1, 2024. With more cap space in 2025, it’s a strategic deferral.

  16. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Cap Space Needed for Unsigned Draft Picks: $9,020,374
    Anticipated Trade or Contract Extension Next Week to Create Cap Room.

  17. Hodad Says:

    So what QBs should’ve we brought in? Licht drafted Trask so he’d have at least one QB on the roster when Brady retired. Baker wasn’t the best FA available, but he’s not much worse than Carr, and with no cap he was the best we could do. Everyone has questions about us, but no one can say what else we could’ve done.

  18. Tampabaybucfan Says:


    Thanks…..forgot about those players……and yes, it should be more exciting with the younger roster…..more speed…..more athleticism.

  19. TampaBayBucsFanSince1976 Says:

    QUIT talking about the stinking CAP. All Bucs need is to get through this year. Cap will increase by about 32 Million in 2024 and it is NOT Jason Licht that works the cap magic-it is Greenberg.

  20. Marine Buc Says:


    “Cap Space Needed for Unsigned Draft Picks: $9,020,374”

    Due to the “top 51” salary cap rule it will actually cost @ $3.9M to sign our draft picks.

    Remember – only the top 51 salaries count against the cap. As a draft pick is paid and added to the top 51 another lower paid player drops off the top 51 salary cap list and his salary is deducted from the total cap number…

  21. Marine Buc Says:

    @ LUV

    However I do agree with you – there will be a cap reduction move coming from the Bucs soon.

    Either Mike Evans will be extended or Shaq Barrett will be released.

  22. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    @ Marine Buc

    My bad for the oversight
    Top 51: $5,270,374 ?

    Cap consequences considered, dropping Shaq this year? That’d be a real head-scratcher. It just doesn’t add up. More probable: Devin gets dealt, Mike bags an extension

  23. Defense Rules Says:

    Not understanding I guess where the salary CAP numbers are coming from. According to Spotrac, Bucs are currently $1,609,236 under the salary CAP. It’ll cost us $9,020,374 to sign all 8 of our draft picks, BUT … that’d drop off the lowest paid 8 players of our Top-51 off the roster IF we did that, saving $7,063,004.

    By that math, Bucs would need to come up with only $348,134 to stay under the salary CAP as a result of signing the rookies. Obviously we’d need to come up with considerably more than that to have room for replacing players who get injured, adding any talent that might become available by the end of preseason, etc. Bucs really do have limited ways we can do that (give Mike Evans and/or Devin White a new contract, release Shaq Barrett or some other high earner). We’ve pretty much restructured all our other contracts (creating another salary CAP mess for 2024 but we won’t go there).

  24. Allbuccedup Says:

    Tampabaybucsfan as far as parity goes explain the Rays in the mlb.

  25. Marine Buc Says:

    @ DR

    I like Over the Cap better. They actually show every player on the roster and their salaries listed and they show the Bucs having @ $400K under the cap.

    @ LUV

    If we release Shaq this year it will save the Bucs @ $14.25M… Would you rather have a washed up Shaq or Dalvin Cook at running back?

    I have nothing against Shaq – however – there is a high % chance he will not return to his 19.5 sack form ever again… There is also a chance he will not return to his 8 sack form we saw last season.

    Personally – I would rather have Dalvin Cook at running back.

  26. Allbuccedup Says:

    If you want true parity teams should not be allowed to push money down the road. If a player signs for three years his salary had to be paid on three years not six.

  27. Letsbucinggo Says:

    Marine Buc I don’t if you have noticed Shaq never returned to his 19.5 year even before injury.

  28. Marine Buc Says:

    @ Allbuccedup

    Without the current salary cap rules the Bucs don’t win their second Super Bowl…

  29. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    @ Defense Rules

    “Current cap figures vary (Depending on Updates):
    • OverTheCap shows $401,791.
    • NFLPA Public Salary Report: $1,196,898
    • Spotrac: $1,609,236.

    I generally lean on Spotrac, but occasionally cross-check with the others.

  30. Marine Buc Says:

    @ Letsbucinggo

    Like I said – “There is also a chance he will not return to his 8 sack form we saw last season.”

    Personally – I believe it is time to move on from Shaq Barrett… I hate to say it but he is probably done in the NFL.

  31. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    @Marine Buc

    I respect your viewpoint, but let’s unpack this. Cutting Shaq saves us about $14.25M, no dispute there. But remember, it also inflicts a hefty dead cap hit in ’24. It’s not just about the immediate savings, but the long-term fiscal health of the team.

    Shaq might not hit that 19.5 sack season again, agreed. But even an 8-sack Shaq brings considerable pressure and disrupts offenses. His presence alone changes how teams game-plan against us.

    As for Dalvin Cook, no question about his talent. But running back is a high-attrition position. We’ve got to weigh the pros and cons of allocating significant cap to it.

    In the cap-strapped world of NFL, it’s a chess game. Every move has ripple effects. We’ve got to play the long game.”

  32. realistic-optimistic Says:

    But even an 8-sack Shaq brings considerable pressure and disrupts offenses

    Excluding his 19.5 season, he barely hit 8 sacks per season even before the injury. I like him personally, but even if he has the most miraculous recovery there’s no way he gets back to 100%. Probably not even 90%. I HOPE the Bucs can get 5 sack from him this year.

  33. realistic-optimistic Says:

    Then move on from his contract after June 1, 2024

  34. Marine Buc Says:

    @ LUV

    I guess it really depends on where Shaq is with his rehab… He will probably miss the entire training camp and preseason at least.

    Plus – not to mention the personal tragedy he suffered…

    We really don’t know where Shaq is physically, emotionally and mentally.

    It’s up to Jason Licht to make that determination. I’m not worried about the dead cap hit in 2024. I want the best OLBs available to make the 53 man roster.

    We drafted YaYa and Jose for a reason. We re-signed Nelson for a reason.

    Shaq might be done.

  35. Marine Buc Says:

    @ LUV

    If the Bucs are going to try to win the NFC South again this season we are going to need a stronger running back room than we currently have.

    That’s why I prefer Dalvin Cook over Shaq Barrett. Especially with this new offense being installed. Play-action passing will be a huge component and you can’t run play-action passes without a dominant running game.

    Do you really think the RBs we currently have scare anybody?

  36. Joe Says:

    Not understanding I guess where the salary CAP numbers are coming from.


  37. Defense Rules Says:

    Marine Buc … ‘I like Over the Cap better. They actually show every player on the roster and their salaries listed and they show the Bucs having @ $400K under the cap.’

    I check both usually, but admittedly lean on Spotrac more. I noticed on checking the current roster’s salary CAP numbers that there are several discrepancies in what the CAP hit for several players would be.

    For instance, Spotrac shows Cody Mauch’s CAP hit as being $1,360,992 while OTC shows it as being $750,000. Same with all the other unsigned rookies. Spotrac uses their actual costs, but doesn’t count them in the Top-51 until they’re signed (and paid?).

    Another difference I noticed is that the 2 sites show different Dead CAP values. Spotrac has it as being $74,313,700 while OTC lists it as being $75,323,702. The difference is $1,010,002 and why they’re different is perplexing I admit. But it does explain most of the difference between how much we’re under the CAP on the 2 sites.

  38. Marine Buc Says:

    @ DR

    Over the Cap hasn’t put any of our draft picks in the top 51 yet – they have just assigned a $750K cap number because none of them are officially signed yet.

    Sportrac is using an assumed contract value for our draft picks like Cody Mauch.

    Both are solid sites for info – I’m not sure where the dead cap discrepancy is coming from though. That’s odd.

    Either way either Mike Evans gets an extension or Shaq Barrett gets released. It will be interesting to see what they do next.

  39. Defense Rules Says:

    Marine Buc & LUV … Shaq’s injury status does create a dilemma for the Bucs right now, but I suspect they’ll keep him on the roster at least until we approach the 1st game.

    Beyond Vea, Gaines & Senat, none of our DLine guys weigh close to 300 lbs. Our OLBs, with the exception of Nelson (270 lbs), are light also. I’m more concerned that opponents will eat up up on the run than I am about our pass rush (we look to be vulnerable to the run outside). And that’s one thing that Shaq was always good at (countering the run outside).

    Far as Dalvin Cook goes, we by-passed a number of very good potential runners in the draft (plus Cook is still listed on the Vikings roster … at a $14 mil CAP hit). For the life of me I have no idea why we didn’t draft a RB (since we say we want to run the ball more), but we did. There are still lots of free agent RBs on the market, to include Fournette (Market Value’s down to $2.3 mil as of now). With an improved OLine (hopefully?), he could probably get back up to the 4.5 YPC that he had with us in 2021.

  40. Defense Rules Says:

    Marine Buc … ‘Either way either Mike Evans gets an extension or Shaq Barrett gets released. It will be interesting to see what they do next.’

    Doing a new contract for Devin White is still a player in my book. Even IF we paid him an average of $20 mil a year, it’d be easy to get his CAP hit down to say $8 mil or so. That’d be a ‘savings’ of well over $3 mil (enough to sign the draft picks), since his current CAP hit is $11.7 mil.

    In any event, Bucs are really walking a tightrope right now. Very little flexibility it seems. And I shutter to think what 2024 will bring (we’ve pushed a LOT of 2023’s money problems down the road).

  41. Marine Buc Says:

    @ DR

    I would wait on the Devin White extension… His stock isn’t rising. It is flat to slightly down.

    I appreciate what he has done but if he wants $20M/season he better be the best ILB in the NFL. Let’s see what he does in 2023.

  42. David Says:

    I wish the NFL would change how contracts are structured. Make it extremely simple. This is what you get paid each year and that is exactly what it costs against the cap.