Well, it’s official. The 2018 Buccaneers offseason is in full effect and we can finally start looking forward to next year. The Glazers made the decision to extend General Manager Jason Licht’s contract for another year. Then the Bucs decided that Dirk Koetter and the entire coaching staff’s 5-11 season was good enough to bring them all back for another season. So now that the front office politics have been taken care of, the Bucs have begun the process of evaluating their current roster in preparation for free agency in March and then the draft in April. This is the first part of my offseason series on the Buccaneers potential roster moves over the next few months. In this part, I’ll break down the current offensive/special teams roster, stats from the 2017 season, player contracts, and whether or not some players may or may not be returning next season. Let’s get started.
Jameis Winston: 282-442, 63.8% comp, 7.9 yds/att, 19 tds, 11 ints, 92.2 qbr; under contract ($4.9m cap hit)
At 24 years old, Winston is under contract through the 2018 season earning just over $8m while counting for nearly $5m against the salary cap with a 5th year option available for 2019.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 96-163, 58.9% comp, 6.8 yds/att, 7 tds, 3 ints, 86 qbr; UFA
At 35 years old, Fitz is an unrestricted free agent for 2018 after earning $3.675m this season. The Bucs could potentially re-sign him as the team’s backup QB, but I have a feeling that they have other plans.
Ryan Griffin: NO 2017 STATS/INJURED RESERVE; under contract (no cap hit)
At 28 years old, Griffin spent most of the 2017 season on IR with a shoulder injury. Last year, the Bucs thought enough of him to re-sign him to a 2-year contract that paid him $1.15m for 2017 and another $1.1m in 2018. He becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2019. I have a feeling that the Bucs may end up making him their backup QB next season.
Doug Martin: 138 att, 406 yds, 2.9 yds/att, 3 tds; under contract (no cap hit)
At 29 years old, I think Dougie has played his last down as a Buccaneer. He’s under contract until 2021 and due $6.75m for the 2018 season. However, the Bucs can release him from his contract without any salary cap repercussions which is what I think will end up happening. He failed to break 500 yds for the fourth time in five seasons and once again had injury issues to go along with his 3-game suspension for PED’s. As you can see, he’s the only Bucs RB to average less than 3 yards per attempt. With the emergence of Peyton Barber, Doug most likely will not be returning next season.
Jacquizz Rodgers: 64 att, 244 yds, 3.8 yds/att, 1 td; under contract (no cap hit)
At 27 years old, Rodgers is under contract until 2019 and is set to make $1.6m in 2018. The Bucs could decide to release him with no salary cap repercussions and move on. He’s been a fairly reliable backup and he has a history with Koetter so I think he’ll be back next year.
Peyton Barber: 108 att, 423 yds, 3.9 yds/att, 3 tds, 16 rec, 114 yds, 7.1 yds/rec; ERFA
At 23 years old, Barber is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning that the Bucs have exclusive rights to him as a free agent. They can re-sign him for another season for a minimal salary and maybe give him a full season as their feature back before making him a serious contract offer for 2019. He made $540k in 2017 so it’s fair to assume that he could be re-signed for something similar, maybe a little more.
Charles Sims: 21 att, 95 yds, 4.5 yds/att, 35 rec, 249 yds, 7.1 yds/rec, 1 td; UFA
At 27 years old, Sims is set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. There are mixed reviews about his performance over the last four years, especially running the football. But the fact is that he averages almost 6 yards every time he touches the football. He is a solid third-down back when he stays healthy and if the Bucs can bring him back at the right price, then they should do it. He made $950k in 2017.
Donovan Smith: starting left tackle; under contract ($700k cap hit)
At 24 years old, Smith is still under contract until 2019 and he’s due to make $1.9m next season. He was the only Buccaneers player to start all 16 games in 2017. Despite his many critics, Smith had a solid performance in 2017 and much to their dismay he’ll be back for 2018. Besides, releasing him would cost the Bucs about $700k towards the salary cap and a new left tackle would be expensive.
Kevin Pamphile: co-starting left guard; UFA
At 27 years old he had a pretty inconsistent 2017, but that’s not entirely his fault. For some odd reason, Koetter elected to use Pamphile and Evan Smith both at left guard throughout the season. Did it hurt his performance? Perhaps. Either way, it will be interesting to see what happens with both guard positions this offseason. I see him as a better fit as the reserve swing guard for this team. He’s an unrestricted free agent, so the ball is in his court. He made $1.85m in 2017.
Ali Marpet: starting center, finished 2017 on IR; under contract ($250k cap hit)
At 24 years old, he had a decent first year as an NFL center. He’s under contract through 2019 and set to make $1.2m next year. Some fans would like to see him back at right guard. The Bucs like him at center. It should be another interesting plot to watch this offseason.
J.R. Sweezy: starting right guard, finished the 2017 season on IR; under contract ($1.875m cap hit)
At 28 years old, he is under contract with the Bucs until 2021 and is due to make $5.875m in 2018. I’m on the fence with whether they should bring him back or not. His lack luster performance in 2017 brings up questions. They could keep him and hope that he’s better next year. Then again, they could look for cheaper alternatives in free agency and/or the draft. The downside is that his release would be a $1.875m cap hit even though it does save them another $4m in cap space.
Demar Dotson: starting right tackle, finished 2017 on IR; under contract (no cap hit)
At 32 years old, he just finished his 8th season with the Bucs on IR after tearing his knee. Even though he’s under contract through 2020, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, the team could potentially release him without any cap repercussions. He’s set to make $4.6m in 2018. Coming off of a torn PCL at his age will be tough so it will be interesting to see how the Bucs handle this situation. He did have a solid season right up until he was hurt going into Week 13 ranking as the #2 right tackle in football and #1 in pass protection.
Joe Hawley: backup center; under contract ($125k cap hit)
At 29 years old, he ended the season as the Bucs starter at center when Marpet was put on IR. He’s a solid veteran and under contract until 2019 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He’s set to make $2.625m in 2018 and I expect him to be back in red and pewter next year.
Evan Smith: co-starting left guard/backup center; UFA
At 31 years old, he shared starting left guard duties with Kevin Pamphile for most of the season until JR Sweezy was put on IR. He ended the year starting at right guard and performed terribly. I can’t see a scenario where the Bucs bring him back for another year. He made $4.5m in 2017 so the Bucs could probably find a much cheaper alternative. He’s an unrestricted free agent.
Caleb Benenoch: reserve offensive tackle; under contract ($126k cap hit)
At 23 years old, he’s under contract with the Bucs until 2020 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. In 2017, he made $600k as a reserve swing tackle but finished the season starting at right tackle in place of the injured Demar Dotson. His performance was pretty inconsistent, but he’s young and still inexperienced. He’s only due $700k in 2018 so I’m sure that he’ll be back with this team in a similar role.
Leonard Wester: reserve offensive tackle; under contract ($7k cap hit)
At 25 years old, he spent part of the 2017 season on the practice squad until he was promoted to the active roster after a few injuries to the o-line. He made almost $550k in 2017 and is due to make nearly $640k next season. He’s under contract until 2019 when he becomes a restricted free agent. The Bucs seem to be high on him so he should be back next year.
Michael Liedtke: reserve guard; under contract (no cap hit)
At 26 years old, he’s under contract until 2019 when he becomes an exclusive rights free agent. He spent most of 2017 on the Bucs practice squad where he earned $137k, but he is set to make $555k in 2018 so we’ll see if the Bucs keep him around or move on.
O.J. Howard: 26 rec, 432 yds, 16.6 yds/rec, 6 tds; under contract ($9m cap hit)
At 23 years old, the rookie performed well in his first NFL season. He ended his season on IR missing the final two games. He made $2m in 2017 and is set to make just over $2.5m in 2018.
Cameron Brate: 48 rec, 591 yds, 12.3 yds/rec, 6 tds; RFA
At 26 years old, Cam had another solid year as the Bucs main receiving tight end. He made $690k in 2017 and is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason which means the Bucs will have to come off of their wallets to keep him in Tampa Bay. Hopefully, they’re smart enough to pay the man.
Antony Auclair: 2 rec, 25 yds; under contract ($13k cap hit)
At 24 years old, he started the 2017 season on the Bucs practice squad and ended up as a valuable member of their tight end group. After playing his college ball in Canada, he’s still learning the American game. He apparently showed the Bucs coaching staff enough potential that they were comfortable releasing veteran blocking tight end Luke Stocker in December. He made $472k in 2017 and is due to make another $562k in 2018. He’s under contract through 2020 when he becomes a restricted free agent.
Alan Cross: 5 rec, 58 yds, 11.6 yds/rec; under contract (no cap hit)
At 24 years old, he’s a solid blocking tight end. He only made $160k in 2017 but he is set to get a nice pay bump next year with a $630k salary. I expect him to be back with the team once again for the final year of his contract before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2019.
Mike Evans: 71 rec, 1,001 yds, 14.1 yds/rec, 5 tds; under contract (no cap hit)
At 24 years old, he is without a doubt the Bucs biggest offensive weapon. He’s entering the final year of his rookie contract where he’s set to make $13.2m. It’s a substantial pay increase from the $4.65m he made in 2017. He is one of the many players that the Bucs have to start preparing themselves for to re-sign to big time contracts in the next couple years. After next year he becomes an unrestricted free agent so if the Bucs don’t get his contract handled in 2018, he will be a hot commodity in free agency come 2019 which will only drive his price up even more.
DeSean Jackson: 50 rec, 668 yds, 13.4 yds/rec, 3 tds; under contract ($7.5m cap hit)
At 31 years of age, he had an up and down year with the Bucs and was somewhat of a disappointment. Between Jameis Winston’s injury, his lack of familiarity with his QB and Dirk Koetter’s questionable playcalling, Jackson never really got things going with the offense. He’s under contract through 2019 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He made $12.5m in 2017 and is set to make $11m in 2018. Some fans think he was a bad free agent signing and want him gone. The problem with that is if the Bucs simply release him this offseason, it’s a $7.5m hit towards the salary cap. The only “out” for the Bucs is to try and trade him for a mid-to-late round draft pick. The alternative is to keep him around for another season in hopes that he turns out to be the deep threat weapon they originally expected. The Bucs have an opportunity to get out of his contract after 2018 without any salary cap implications.
Chris Godwin: 34 rec, 525 yds, 15.4 yds/rec, 1 td; under contract ($595k cap hit)
At 21 years old, the rookie had an impressive first season. His rookie contract keeps him a Buc until 2021 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He’s set to make $780k in 2018.
Adam Humphries: 61 rec, 631 yds, 10.3 yds/rec, 1 td; RFA
At 24 years old, he’s a restricted free agent in 2018 so the Bucs may have to spend a little bit of that cap space to keep him around. I don’t think the market will be too crazy for him in free agency so hopefully they’ll be able to re-sign him for a decent price. He made $615k in 2017.
Freddie Martino: 5 rec, 96 yds, 19.2 yds/rec; under contract (no cap hit)
At 26 years old, he is about to get a nice raise from the $253k he made in 2017. His 2018 salary jumps up to $705k should the Bucs decide to keep him around. He’s under contract through 2019 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, but there’s no cap hit if the Bucs release him this offseason. It will be interesting to see what the team decides to do with him.
Bobo Wilson: 1 rec, 18 yds, 1 td; under contract (no cap hit)
At 22 years old, he is another player set to get a significant pay bump this year. After making just $137k in 2017, he is set to make $555k in 2018. He spent most of the year on the Bucs practice squad before being brought up to the active roster for the final 3 games. Again, it will be interesting to see how the Bucs deal with his contract. He becomes an exclusive rights free agent in 2019.
Patrick Murray: 17-18 FGs less than 49 yds, 2-5 FGs over 50 yds, 21-22 extra points; ERFA
The 26 year old kicker becomes an exclusive rights free agent in 2018 after making $380k in his 12 games of 2017. While Murray is money inside of 50 yards, his leg strength has come into question. The fact that he was 2 for 5 in field goals more than 50 yards and that he only had 14 touchbacks in 59 kickoff attempts proves that it can be an issue. The question for the Bucs is will it be a big enough issue that it will keep them from bringing him back for 2018? I doubt it.
Bryan Anger: 65 punts, long of 62, 44 yds/att, 5 touchbacks, 24 inside the 20; under contract (no cap hit)
At 29 years old and in his 6th season (2nd with the Bucs), he made $4m in 2017 and is under contract through 2022 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He’s set to make $3m in 2018 unless the Bucs decide to release him this offseason, which they could do without any salary cap repercussions this year. He had arguably the worst year of his career statistically punting the football in 2017. Dirk Koetter did admit that part of Anger’s drop in production was because of what they were asking him to do as a punter. In my opinion, he’s one of the best weapons that this team has because of his ability to flip the field. He’ll be back next season.
Garrison Sanborn: long snapper; UFA
The 32 year old long snapper made $900k in 2017 and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018. You’re guess is as good as mine with this one. He seemed to have a solid year snapping the ball so it’s possible that he could be back in Tampa Bay next season.
In my opinion, the Bucs are in great shape on offense. The biggest questions this offseason will be with the offensive line and the running backs. The Bucs already have about $65m in cap space and depending on who they release this offseason, they could create a bit more. Just on offense alone, they could free up about $15.5m by releasing Doug Martin, J.R. Sweezy and Demar Dotson. The flip side to that is that they’d have to find replacements for two of their five starting offensive linemen this offseason. The strength of this offense is obviously the starting QB and the receiving corps, wide receivers and tight ends both. The really good news for this team is that almost every starting player on this offense is under 26 years of age. In fact, the average age of their 11 starters is just 26 years old and that includes 32 year old Dotson and 31 year old Jackson. That’s exciting for the future of this franchise and for us Bucs fans.
With the exception of a few practice squad players, that takes care of the offense. In my next piece, I’ll hit on the defensive side of the ball and break down the contract situations for those players. Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!