TAMPA — The Bucs face a tough decision following the passage of a new labor agreement announced Sunday between the NFL and its players.
They can only use the franchise or transition tag on one player for 2020. Does it go to linebacker Shaquil Barrett or quarterback Jameis Winston?
Indications are that barring an agreement on a long-term contract extension, the Bucs will use the franchise player tag on Barrett, who led the NFL in sacks this past season with 19.5.
That means that Winston, the NFL’s passing leader with 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns last season, could potentially enter the legal free agent tampering period as early as Monday. The new league year and NFL free agency is set to begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians has been consistent in saying that Barrett would not be leaving the Bucs while calling Winston, who also led the NFL with 30 interceptions, “an unknown quantity.”
If Winston does not receive a franchise or transition player tag, it means the Bucs’ No. 1 overall pick in 2015 would be allowed to negotiate a contract with any team, including Tampa Bay, beginning at noon Monday.
In that scenario, the Bucs would move quickly to determine whether they could lure quarterback Tom Brady from the Patriots. If not, they will quickly pivot to other free-agent quarterbacks beginning with the Saints’ Teddy Bridgewater and the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, in that order.
Winston will likely remain in the mix as well as he tries to determine whether a starting job exists for him with another team.
To use the franchise tag on Winston, the Bucs would have to guarantee him about $27 million on a one-year deal. He earned about $20.1 million in his fifth season with the Bucs in 2019.
A simple majority was needed for approval of the new labor agreement and it passed by a count of 1,019 to 959.
Had no new deal been reached, the league would have played under the rules of the final year of the collective bargaining agreement put in place in 2011. It would have allowed for teams to use both a franchise and a transition player tag on potential free agents.
But now that the league has a new collective bargaining agreement and labor peace through 2030, the NFL and its players may work to extend the start of free agency, according to multiple reports.
The NFL salary cap will be set at $198.2 million per team. The overall player costs per club is $242.9 million, which includes benefits and performance-based pay pool.
Prior to the agreement, the Bucs had nearly $80 million in salary cap space, fourth-most in the league.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called it a “transformative” agreement.
“We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety, and give our fans more and better football,” Goodell said. “We appreciate the tireless efforts of the members of the Management Council Executive Committee and the NFLPA leadership, both of whom devoted nearly a year to detailed, good faith negotiations to reach this comprehensive, transformative agreement.”
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The new provisions in the collective bargaining agreement include:
• Owners have the option to expand the regular season from 16 to 17 games as early as 2021.
• Playoffs will expand from 12 to 14 teams in 2020. The last time the NFL expanded its playoff field was in 1990 when it went from five teams in each conference to six.
• Rosters will expand from 53 players to 55. Active game day player limits will go from 46 to 48. Practice squads will expand to 12 in 2020-21 and 14 in 2022.
• Starting this year, players will get 47 percent of all league revenue. That figure goes to 48 percent in 2021 and could move higher depending on negotiations for new TV deals.
• A player with less than one year of NFL experience will earn a minimum salary of $610,000; That will increase to $1.065 million in 2030.