Why the Bucs felt confident commiting to Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks
You might recall learning recently that the Bucs restructured the contracts of receiver Vincent Jackson and guard Carl Nicks, converting their guaranteed 2013 base salaries into roster bonuses paid on the 2012 league calendar.
The move frees up considerable salary-cap space next season, allowing the Bucs to go shopping again, if they choose. However, it might make the Bucs less flexible in the future.
But there’s a back story that explains why the Bucs saw this as a smart calculation, and it goes beyond just the 2013 salary-cap space it created.
The Bucs signed Jackson and Nicks to contracts that essentially avoided paying guaranteed money beyond the second year of the deals. This continued a trend we’ve seen with many of the long-term deals the Bucs have executed in recent seasons (i.e. Donald Penn, Quincy Black, Eric Wright).
But after the restructures, there now are salary-cap ramifications for the next four years on each player because the money was paid in the form of bonuses. But the Bucs are okay with that.
They feel that after having each player on the roster for a whole season, they have a better sense of their coachability and character. Liking what they’ve seen, the Bucs were willing to make a longer-term commitment to Jackson and Nicks.
The lump sums recently paid to Jackson and Nicks – a combined $25 million – will be prorated over the final four years of their respective contracts. But if the Bucs are right about both players, they won’t have to worry about the financial concerns involved with releasing them before they fulfill their contracts.
The Bucs have taken a cautious approach in the way they structure free-agent contracts for a reason. Because they have the space to absorb high salary-cap figures, they’ve chosen to frontload contracts so they’re not married to players for years on end.
One of the biggest risks with signing outside free agents is the leap of faith you take because of the unfamiliarity with them. You don’t know what kind of locker-room presence they'll have, how they respond to coaching or whether they’re simply players of strong character.
But the Bucs have made that determination with Jackson and Nicks, and the handling of their contracts suggests they’ll be Bucs for years to come.