Only the Bucs can be bad and broke at same time

Tampa Bay’s delusional 2018 laid the seeds for being spectator during free agency and beyond
Linebacker Kwon Alexander (58) was one of several Bucs who exited Tampa Bay on Monday by agreeing to free agent contracts elsewhere. Alexander is headed to the San Francisco 49ers. [Times files (2017)]
Linebacker Kwon Alexander (58) was one of several Bucs who exited Tampa Bay on Monday by agreeing to free agent contracts elsewhere. Alexander is headed to the San Francisco 49ers. [Times files (2017)]
Published March 12, 2019|Updated March 12, 2019

TAMPA — First, let’s be clear. It’s not as if a Super Bowl team is being broken up.

It’s the Bucs.

Oh, is it the Bucs.

It’s the Bucs, even the feel-good Bruce Arians Bucs, still run by headless honcho GM Jason Licht.

It’s the Bucs, who sat helpless, in the studio audience, by their own doing, on the first full day of NFL free agency, and meanwhile watched Kwon Alexander and Adam Humphries, two rightful points of pride, go out the door.

It’s the Bucs, who unloaded dead weight frumpy bear DeSean Jackson months after they should have.

It’s the Bucs, who despite going 5-11, have the cap problems of a playoff team: no money. They had like $2 million in cap space when Monday broke, less than almost any NFL team. It’s one thing to be terrible. It’s quite another to be terrible and expensive.

But the Bucs pulled it off.

Look, everybody who hits free agency gets overpaid. I’m sure Alexander, who is coming off knee surgery, was overpaid by the 49ers. Is Nick Foles a $88-million QB? Of course not.

That’s not the point.

The point is that Monday was Black Friday. Store doors flew open, shoppers rushed in. And the Bucs, despite being lousy, were looking for quarters under couch cushions. It’s just another indicator of how badly this organization is run.

At 5-11, you have so little cap space you can’t even afford to keep the young players you want to keep. Really?

The Colts had $100 million to spend. And they made the playoffs last season. The Bucs’ pockets are empty.

I’m not saying overspend. But just a few days ago, the Bucs decided that two more of their generally subpar offensive linemen were worth signing to big deals, as if Licht paying them makes Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson any better.

The real story is the Bucs didn’t do everything they needed to do at the trade deadline last season to prepare for Monday.

They have now freed up $10 million by trading Jackson, but they could and should have shed him last season, for maybe a third-round pick from a playoff contender that needed a speed receiver, like Houston or, hey, the Eagles. By Monday, it was clear the Bucs were going to cut Jackson without a taker. Other teams knew it.

Last season was the time. Everybody that made money should have been gone, Jackson, Gerald McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul. McCoy is a good man, a good player, a good draft pick. How many playoff seasons has he had with the Bucs again?

And when the Bucs do come up with and develop a nice find in the draft, like Alexander, or find a Humphries, who is now off to Tennessee, you just have to watch them walk.

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And when Arians sends five receivers out in the fall and Jameis Winston ends up under five pass rushers, we’ll have your answer. We haven’t even gotten to the elephant in the Uber in the room, that Winston might stink anyway.

No one can truly explain why the Bucs have decided to pay Smith and Dotson like this. Is there any team out there that values these guys this much except the Bucs?

It is becoming increasingly clear that last season’s surprising, mostly Winston-less start ate through this franchise’s brain and made it delusional.

Trading and dumping last season would have cleared cap space and helped the Bucs load up on picks that could be used at the upcoming draft, which will be chocked with talent.

Monday came, and everybody cut into the free agent bird. The Bucs were at the kids table. Maybe next week they’ll pick up a bargain-rack guy. But free agency will be a net negative for a team that already didn’t have enough talent.

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The Bucs will miss Alexander more than Humphries. But they couldn’t keep Alexander, because they put themselves in this position last season, thinking they were going to win last year. That should be the new Bucs marketing slogan: Wait ‘Til Last Year.

The Bucs needed to make this roster deeper, build on it, but didn’t think ahead. It’s like going into retirement and saying, “Hey, what’s the 401k thing?”

Look at the teams that have cap space. Most of them are bad. The Jets were awful last season but have tons of cap space because they took their medicine last season. Licht and the Bucs were unwilling to do that. Now look.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has the best hockey team in the world and a baseball team that is back to making something out of nothing. The Bucs continue to make nothing out of nothing.

Bad and broke and is a grisly combination. Forget the salary cap. Try a dunce cap.

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Contact Martin Fennelly at or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly