Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' hopes to sign big stars dwindle

It's the time of year when the term "fantasy football" takes on quite a different definition.

With the start of the free agent signing period drawing nigh, it becomes irresistible for fans to imagine top would-be free agents joining their favorite teams.

For those who follow the Bucs, the thought of adding Eagles game-breaking receiver DeSean Jackson or maybe Ravens all-purpose running back Ray Rice is downright dreamy.

But the reality is stars are never likely to hit the market, and that has been reinforced over the past few days. Jackson on Thursday was the first player to get a franchise tag, and a flurry followed. By Monday's deadline, many of the top players will see their ability to change teams all but eliminated.

Each team is allotted one franchise tag, providing it the opportunity to keep a free agent at a predetermined salary under a one-year deal. If another team wants to make a franchise player an offer, it must not only back up a Brink's truck but yield two first-round draft picks. That's not happening.

And now it's easier for teams to decide to hand out franchise tags. The new labor deal changed the way salaries for franchise players are determined. As a result of the new (and complicated) formula, the salaries have dropped, in some cases drastically.

Rice, for example, will make roughly $7.7 million if he plays under the franchise tender. Under the previous labor deal, he would have earned $9.6 million.

Had Jackson gotten a franchise tag in 2011, he would have been in line to earn $11.4 million. If he plays under the tender in 2012, he'll make $9.4 million.

That's still more money than most of us will make in a lifetime, but the change makes it easier for teams to accommodate those kinds of salaries under the cap.

For the Bucs, the high number of franchise designations will affect their efforts to acquire top talent, something they seem interested in doing.

Take the Falcons' decision to put a franchise tag on cornerback Ben Grimes. By taking him off the market, they create greater competition for the remaining top-tier defensive backs, such as Tennessee's Cortland Finnegan (provided Finnegan doesn't get a franchise tag).

The Eagles' decision on Jackson means competition could be more intense for receivers such as Vincent Jackson, the Chargers' impending free agent.

Free agents can sign with new teams starting March 13.

Zuttah's status: Bucs left guard Jeremy Zuttah is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. But if all goes according to plan, that will never happen.

There's reason to believe Zuttah and the Bucs can strike a deal before the signing period begins; he continues to be the team's top free agent priority. The sides have begun talks.

Given the Bucs' huge stash of cap space ($60.496 million), Zuttah's age (25) and experience (44 starts over four seasons), re-signing him is an easy decision.

Barth situation: Bucs kicker Connor Barth is also an impending free agent and seems likely to get the franchise tag. It makes too much sense for the Bucs.

By tagging Barth, the Bucs hang on to the kicker who tied for most accurate in 2011 (93 percent on field goals) for less than $3 million. It also prevents the Bucs from having to commit to him for the long term if they're reluctant to do that.

Help still wanted: Ben McDaniels, hired as a Bucs offensive assistant Thursday, won't be the quarterbacks coach, as some speculated.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @holderstephen.

Comments
Bucs’ Lavonte David misses practice with hamstring injury

Bucs’ Lavonte David misses practice with hamstring injury

TAMPA — The Bucs knew they might be playing without DT Gerald McCoy, who suffered a biceps injury early in Sunday’s loss to the Lions. But now they face the prospect of playing Monday against Atlanta without another of their defensive leaders, as LB ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
USF’s Nigel Harris eager for chance with hometown Bucs

USF’s Nigel Harris eager for chance with hometown Bucs

When Nigel Harris chose where to play college football, he wanted to stay home in Tampa at USF. And now, after playing for the Chargers and Giants as an NFL rookie, he's grateful for the chance to again prove himself in Tampa as the newest member of ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
NFL Week 15: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

NFL Week 15: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

Week 15 starts and ends with disappointment — a Thursday night meeting of two of the more disappointing teams (Denver at Indianapolis) and a Monday night game that once had held high hopes locally (Atlanta at Tampa Bay). Once.Here's our picks f...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Measuring Jameis Winston’s progress, and Dirk Koetter’s job security

Measuring Jameis Winston’s progress, and Dirk Koetter’s job security

TAMPA — It is one of the most honest moments of the season, captured in the first Hard Knocks episode. Jameis Winston is having a frank conversation with coach Dirk Koetter, seated behind his desk in his office at One Buc Place."I just want to have a...
Published: 12/14/17
Jones: If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?

Jones: If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?

What would you do?If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?Well, you could go to Hooter’s and order a pitcher of beer and dozen wings. Then, Monday, you could go be inducted into the Bucs’ Ring of Honor.I’m talking about after that.Would you stay i...
Published: 12/14/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Dirk Koetter, Evan Longoria, Stanley Cup and more

Rick and Tom podcast: Dirk Koetter, Evan Longoria, Stanley Cup and more

Rick Stroud and Tom Jones answer a lightning round of questions.
Published: 12/14/17
Bucs’ Mike Evans gives the gift of perspective

Bucs’ Mike Evans gives the gift of perspective

TAMPA — So, this is Christmas.The Bucs are having an awful season. There is no way around it. Star receiver Mike Evans isn’t having a great year, either, not nearly as many catches or touchdowns as last season, when he was selected for the Pro Bowl.S...
Published: 12/13/17
Warren Sapp on sexual harassment allegations: ‘Ain’t no #MeToo’

Warren Sapp on sexual harassment allegations: ‘Ain’t no #MeToo’

Warren Sapp vehemently denied allegations that he sexually harassed a female employee when he worked at the NFL Network during a radio appearance this afternoon in Miami."Ain’t no #MeToo," the former Buc and Pro Football Hall of Famer said on the And...
Published: 12/13/17
Cannon Fodder podcast: Gerald McCoy still wants to play

Cannon Fodder podcast: Gerald McCoy still wants to play

Greg Auman has an update in his latest podcast while the Bucs have two days off during the long week.
Published: 12/13/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Should the Rays go full fire-sale mode?

Rick and Tom podcast: Should the Rays go full fire-sale mode?

As baseball’s hot stove starts heating up, should the Rays go full fire sale to build for the future?In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss whether the Rays should trade guys like Evan Longoria, Chris Archer, Alex Colome and more,...
Published: 12/13/17