Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rumors & News

AFC Notes: Mariota, Bowe, Manuel, Raiders

Offset language continues to represent why Marcus Mariota hasn’t come to terms with the Titans on his rookie contract, the last such holdout. Whether or not Mariota would draw two salaries if cut by the Titans — a highly unlikely event considering Jake Locker finished his four-year deal in Tennessee — and signed by another team is slowing down the process, writes John Glennon of the Tennesseean.

No. 1 pick Jameis Winston‘s contract does contain offset language, which determines whether or not a second team’s payment would help the Titans offset the amount owed to 2015’s No. 2 selection in this scenario, but No. 3 choice Dante Fowler Jr.‘s does not, Glennon reports.

In a decade that’s featured far fewer first-round contract issues than the last due to the clearer structure of the new CBA on rookie salaries, the Titans have been the last team to sign their first-rounder in each of the past three seasons, with Chance Warmack and Taylor Lewan coming to terms late in the summer on their respective deals in 2013 and 2014. First-rounder Kendall Wright missed three days of training camp in 2012 after becoming the second-to-last player to sign that year.

Glennon views Mariota’s camp as holding the leverage in these talks, with the Titans coming off a 2-14 season and ready to have the face of their franchise and advertising campaign suit up.

Here are some more items being mentioned across the AFC as Independence Day winds into the afternoon. We’ll continue with a couple of quarterback assessments.

  • This could be the typical preseason hype before any negatives come to light, a time-honored tradition across sports, but Dwayne Bowe had an interesting observation as he prepares for his first training camp with the Browns. “With Alex Mack and Joe Thomas, we’re going to have a lot of time to hit that deep ball even in the red zone,” Bowe told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer in a piece centered on the ex-Chiefs wideout’s 17-game span without a touchdown. “I never had a quarterback like Josh (McCown) that was that tall and could see the mismatch and really go to it. He’s got my confidence level high right now.” It’s true Bowe hasn’t exactly had the best passers throwing to him in Brodie Croyle, Matt Cassel and Alex Smith, but the latter duo are 6-foot-5 and 6-4, respectively, while McCown also stands 6-4. Perhaps it’s a sign McCown has shown a penchant to take more risks than the two checkdown-based artists displayed during Bowe’s time in Kansas City.
  • In analyzing Winston, former Buccaneers Pro Bowler and current FOX analyst Ronde Barber made his presumptive stance on the Bills‘ starting quarterback battle known. “The guy that preceded (Winston) at Florida State, EJ Manuel, I did a couple of games of Buffalo over these two years that I’ve been working at FOX, and he is the other way. He’s timid. He holds the ball. He’s scared to deliver it when he needs to,” Barber told Kevin Patra of NFL.com. “This guy is the complete opposite, maybe to a detriment at times; he throws a lot of interceptions. But he has that “it,” that bravado, that gunslinger mentality, if I could use that (tired) cliché, to be a great quarterback in this league.” 
  • Elvis Dumervil collected an extra $1MM in incentive cash with his 12th sack last season, and the 10th-year pass-rusher can earn an additional $3MM by hitting that plateau again this season for the Ravens, reports Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. The two-time first-team All-Pro matched his career high with 17 sacks last season, and in doing so began a push for his contract signed before the 2013 season to inflate to its full value of $33MM over five years.
  • Behind Latavius Murray, who will receive the first chance to start and build on the momentum he showed at the end of his second season, in the Raiders backfield are Trent Richardson and Roy Helu. The latter has a clearer path to steady playing time, with a proven track record as a passing-down back, writes Steve Corkran of Raiderbeat.com. Marcel Reece, however, may not despite the seventh-year fullback coming off three consecutive Pro Bowl campaigns. As is the case in many NFL attacks today, the fullback does not make frequent cameos in Bill Musgrave‘s system.

Largest 2015 Cap Hits By Team: NFC South

Before NFL training camps get underway next month, we’ll be taking a closer look at the top 2015 cap hits for teams around the league. We began our series last week by focusing on the NFC East and AFC East divisions, and earlier this week, we looked at the NFC North and AFC North. Today, we’ll head back to the NFC to examine the South division.

Listed below are the top 10 cap hits for the coming season for each of the four NFC South franchises, accompanied by some observations on the spending habits of those clubs. Let’s dive in….

Atlanta Falcons:

  1. Matt Ryan, QB: $19,500,000
  2. Julio Jones, WR: $10,176,000
  3. Roddy White, WR: $5,556,250
  4. William Moore, S: $5,368,750
  5. Paul Soliai, DT: $4,400,000
  6. Jon Asamoah, G: $4,268,750
  7. Justin Blalock, G: $4,120,000 (dead money)
  8. Joe Hawley, C: $4,000,000
  9. Tyson Jackson, DT: $3,850,000
  10. Jake Matthews, LT: $3,733,977
    Total: $64,973,727

Besides Ryan’s substantial cap hit and an eight-digit figure for Jones, which could be reduced if he signs a contract extension this year, the Falcons aren’t carrying a single cap number exceeding $5.56MM in 2015. Overall, Atlanta’s top 10 players account for less than $65MM of the team’s 2015 cap, a very club-friendly total.

Of course, the Falcons are somewhat lacking in star power outside of the players involved in their passing game, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t be too heavily invested at other positions. In recent years, offensive and defensive line play has been one of Atlanta’s shortcomings, and the club’s recent investments at those positions is reflected in this list — Soliai, Asamoah, Jackson, and Matthews have all been added to the roster within the last year and a half.

At $4.12MM, Blalock easily represents the largest dead-money charge on the Falcons’ books, but if he had been retained for the 2015 season, his cap number would have been $7.91MM, third on the team behind Ryan and Jones.

Carolina Panthers:

  1. Charles Johnson, DE: $20,020,000
  2. Cam Newton, QB: $13,000,000
  3. Ryan Kalil, C: $11,795,000
  4. Jonathan Stewart, RB: $8,300,000
  5. Greg Olsen, TE: $6,300,000
  6. Thomas Davis, LB: $5,900,000
  7. DeAngelo Williams, RB: $4,333,333 (dead money)
  8. Luke Kuechly, LB: $4,002,283
  9. Steve Smith, WR: $4,000,000 (dead money)
  10. Mike Tolbert, RB: $3,425,000
    Total: $81,075,616

With a $20.02MM cap hit for the 2015 season, Johnson has a cap charge that ranks first among defensive players, and is also one of just three figures over $20MM at any position — Lions receiver Calvin Johnson‘s cap number also exceeds $20MM, as does another player in the NFC South, whom we’ll discuss shortly.

Still, despite Johnson’s extravagant figure, it may not even be the most noteworthy feature of the Panthers’ list. Even more unusual is the fact that three running backs show up within Carolina’s top 10 cap hits. Combining for a total cap charge of nearly $12MM, Stewart and Tolbert alone would represent an overpayment at the position, and that doesn’t even take into account Williams’ $4MM+ dead-money charge. I imagine GM Dave Gettleman is looking forward to eventually getting those deals off the books and perhaps investing in younger, cheaper backs.

The rest of the Panthers’ top 10 is made up primarily of core players who either recently signed extensions or will do so soon. Newton, Olsen, and Davis all agreed to new contracts this offseason, and it’s just a matter of time before Kuechly does the same.

New Orleans Saints:

  1. Drew Brees, QB: $26,400,000
  2. Jimmy Graham, TE: $9,000,000 (dead money)
  3. Jahri Evans, G: $7,000,000
  4. Marques Colston, WR: $6,500,000
  5. Ben Grubbs, G: $6,000,000 (dead money)
  6. Jairus Byrd, S: $5,500,000
  7. Junior Galette, OLB: $5,450,000
  8. Curtis Lofton, LB: $5,000,000 (dead money)
  9. Keenan Lewis, CB: $4,500,000
  10. Max Unger, C: $4,500,000
    Total: $79,850,000

Heading into the offseason, no team had more cap maneuvering to do than the Saints, who were about $20MM over the cap prior to free agency. All the dead-money charges on the team’s top-10 list don’t look great, but they reflect the moves New Orleans had to make in order to create a little flexibility this spring. If the team had kept Graham, Grubbs, and Lofton rather than trading or releasing them, their cap figures would be even larger.

The Saints aren’t quite out of the woods yet. Contracts like Byrd’s, Galette’s, and Cameron Jordan‘s – which didn’t make the cut here – have relatively modest cap numbers in 2015 before jumping significantly in future seasons. Those three players will count for a total of about $32MM against the cap in 2016, representing the club’s top cap numbers besides Brees.

Speaking of Brees, his $26.4MM cap hit is by far the biggest one in the NFL this year. However, the Saints did well to avoid restructuring his contract and pushing more money onto future seasons. Brees’ cap number will increase to $27.4MM in 2016, but since that’s the last year of his contract, New Orleans should be able to reduce that figure by extending him.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

  1. Gerald McCoy, DT: $14,595,000
  2. Vincent Jackson, WR: $12,209,777
  3. Michael Johnson, DE: $7,000,000 (dead money)
  4. Logan Mankins, G: $7,000,000
  5. Carl Nicks, G: $4,714,000 (dead money)
  6. Jameis Winston, QB: $4,609,323
  7. Bruce Carter, LB: $4,250,000
  8. Alterraun Verner, CB: $4,250,000
  9. Dashon Goldson, S: $4,000,000 (dead money)
  10. Evan Smith, C: $3,750,000
    Total: $66,378,100

Like the Saints, the Buccaneers have three dead-money charges amongst their top 10 cap hits, which I was somewhat surprised to see — Tampa Bay often structures contracts to include larger base salaries and small signing bonuses, in order to make it easier to go year to year. That wasn’t the case for these three players, though, particularly Johnson, who epitomizes the team’s misguided 2014 spending spree.

One factor that could give the Bucs a leg up on their division rivals within the next three or four seasons is the small amount of cap room they’re dedicating to their quarterback. The NFC South’s other three starters have an average cap hit of more than $19MM for 2015, while Winston comes in below $5MM. If the No. 1 overall pick develops into a solid NFL starter, it will allow Tampa Bay to surround him with pricier impact players at other positions until he’s eligible for his second contract.

Information from Over the Cap was used in the creation of this post.

NFC Notes: Ihenacho, Washington, Brinkley

Washington safety Duke Ihenacho has been watching NBA free agency going crazy, and took to Twitter to express his opinions about minimum contracts for NFL players. Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post captured his tweets, where Ihenacho writes that NFL players have the highest risk of injury and brain trauma, and that the NFL is the richest league, and therefore the minimum salary for players should be $1MM.

Here are some other notes from around the NFC:

  • Washington D.C. wants their NFL franchise to return to the District, but they are unlikely to get support from the Obama administration as long as the team still bears a racial epitaph for their name and logo, writes Jonathan O’Connell of the Washington Post. The National Park Service owns the land beneath Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, and they are unlikely to accommodate the construction of a new stadium, according to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
  • Former Vikings linebacker Jasper Brinkley decided to sign a two-year deal with the Cowboys this offseason, and the top reason for choosing Dallas is the opportunity to play for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, writes Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News“I played in Minnesota for five years and I remember when he was in Chicago, just thinking about those defenses and the guys with the takeaways, a lot of takeaways,” Brinkley said. “You think about Charles Tillman, you think about Brian Urlacher, you think about Lance Briggs, you think about Tim Jennings, all those guys.”
  • Even though Deone Bucannon was a first round pick of the Cardinals in 2014, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (on Twitter) doesn’t see the Washington State product having a great career at safety. The draft expert feels that Bucannon should stay at linebacker, where he played the bulk of last season. In 16 games, the Washington State product racked up 86 tackles, 2.0 sacks, and three pass deflections.
  • Former Buccaneers linebacker Brandon Magee has been swinging the bat for the Boston Red Sox Class A affiliate, but he told Pro Football Talk that if an NFL team called him, he would give up baseball to try out, reports Mike Florio. Magee was released from the Buccaneers in March, and had also spent time with the Browns.
  • The Bears hired John Fox in the hope that he could quickly turn the organization around, writes Tom Pelissero of USA Today. The turnaround starts with the attitude of every player on the roster, and the veterans are already buying in. “You go out and get John Fox and Vic Fangio and Adam Gase — you’re sending a message to every player in that locker room that we’re not messing around,” said Jared Allen“We want to win. We want to win now. We certainly have the talent to win. So, get your heads right and let’s go play ball.”

NFC Mailbags: Cardinals, Bucs, Vikings, Saints

We checked out ESPN.com’s AFC mailbags earlier this morning. Let’s now shift focus to the NFC…

  • Josh Weinfuss believes Cardinals offensive lineman Ted Larsen, Earl Watford, Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie could be moved because of the depth at their positions.
  • The Buccaneers have been active in their spot atop the waiver wire, claiming Tim Wright and D.J. Swearinger. Pat Yasinskas says the team could make five or six more claims before the start of the season.
  • If running back Doug Martin has a big season, Yasinskas thinks there’s a good chance he’d re-sign with the Buccaneers.
  • 2018 is the earliest the Vikings would have to invest a longterm contract into a quarterback, writes Ben Goessling. That means that team shouldn’t have an issue signing their younger core players, including Harrison Smith, Matt Kalil and Xavier Rhodes. The one player that the writer could see the organization move on from is wideout Cordarrelle Patterson.
  • Mike Triplett says it’s “safe to assume” that Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan can’t survive another bad season. If the defense continues to struggle, defensive assistant Dennis Allen could also receive part of the blame.

Extra Points: Chiefs, Collins, Winston

Here are some items to round out the work week across the NFL.

  • With the Justin Houston standoff still in motion, the Chiefs have other looming financial decisions, which Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star examines as the team enters the pre-minicamp evaluation period. Paylor points out how Jeremy Maclin‘s backloaded contract, which will features a $3.4MM cap number this year before escalating to $12.4MM in 2016, makes this season’s wide receiver payments particularly minuscule, as no other Kansas City outside target is set to make more than $700K. Both Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson are playing for future deals this season, but as Scott Pioli-selected players coming off injuries, they may be playing for future jobs elsewhere. The John DorseyAndy Reid power structure has yet to re-up a previous regime’s offensive lineman, as Paylor notes.
  • Jameis Winston wants to drop down to the playing weight of his redshirt freshman, Heisman Trophy-winning year of 2013 (230 pounds) after ballooning to nearly 250 in the offseason, reports Kevin Patra of NFL.com. The Buccaneers‘ presumptive starter’s at around 238 presently. The No. 1 overall pick also doesn’t believe he’s on a redemption tour of sorts after the legal and other negative off-field issues that mounted during his three years at Florida State, notes Tom Withers of the Associated Press. “I have nothing to prove,” Winston said. “I believe that people make mistakes but I also believe that you bounce back from those and I’m just moving forward.”
  • With the Giants lacking much depth at safety, Landon Collins will certainly receive enough reps in an attempt to make good on his aspirations at becoming the defensive rookie of the year. But so far in the less-consequential, padless practice portion, the Alabama product is pretty raw in terms of playmaking instincts, writes Nick Powell of NJ.com.
  • Tom Compton is still a good bet to make Washington‘s 53-man roster despite the team using the No. 5 pick on Brandon Scherff and relocating the ex-Iowa left tackle to the right side, writes Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com. A 2012 sixth-round pick, Compton (six sacks ceded) rated as Washington’s worst offensive lineman in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Extra Points: Titans, Beckham, Raiders, Bucs

Following the Titans announcement today of their 20-year agreement with Nissan, CEO/president Steve Underwood reiterated that the team is not for sale.

“The team is not for sale,” Underwood told John Glennon of the Tennessean. “We have not had any discussions with anyone about selling the team. Our owners are committed to continuing to maintain the team just as it is in their family, and we couldn’t be happier about that.”

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Following reports that Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. was peeved at his teammates’ teasing, the second-year player told Paul Schwartz of the New York Post that he gets along fine with the other players. “I have no problem with anybody on the team or inside or anything,” he said.
  • ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson took a look at the Raiders cap situation. The NFL requires teams to spend at least 89 percent of their cap between 2013 and 2016. The Raiders entered the offseason having spent just over 80 percent, and Williamson surmises that the team will need to spend nearly “all of their cap room” in the next two years.
  • Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht recognizes that it takes time to build a contender. However, as he told Steven Ruiz of USA Today, he believes his roster has improved drastically in his year-plus on the job. “This wasn’t a rebuild, this was a little bit of a retool,” he said. “When you have players like Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David and Mark Barron and Vincent Jackson and the list goes on and on, you can’t call it a rebuild. We just had a little retooling to do.”

NFC Notes: Martin, 49ers, Saints, Bears

Let’s round up a few Tuesday notes from around the NFC….

  • Having struggled since his massive rookie season, Buccaneers running back Doug Martin had his best offseason in three years, writes Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune. The upswing in Martin’s play couldn’t come at a better time for the running back, who had his 2016 option declined in the spring, meaning he’s eligible for free agency at season’s end.
  • The 49ers expect to lose some players due to free agency this year, but several early retirements have left San Francisco’s roster more depleted than anticipated. Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com takes a look at how those retirements will affect the franchise going forward.
  • The Saints‘ “walk on a salary cap tightrope” caught up to them this offseason, says Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap in a piece for The Sporting News. The team began confronting its cap issues by trading and releasing some high-priced players, and renegotiating multiple contract, but more moves will be necessary to get New Orleans’ cap into better shape, according to Fitzgerald.
  • With the Bears transitioning from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 look under a new coaching staff, the club made a handful of changes on the defensive line over the last few months. John Mullin of CSNChicago.com takes stock of the results, examining what the Bears’ reworked line will look like this season.

NFC Mailbags: Newman, Norman, Bucs, Reed, Cowboys

Our own Sam Robinson took you through some of the AFC Mailbags earlier today. Now to give the NFC some love, here are a few of the mailbags from that other conference:

  • The Vikings have been going with youth across the roster, and the secondary has been no exception with Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes slated to start on the outside. However, the team also signed 37-year-old corner Terence Newman to bring a veteran presence in the secondary, according to Ben Goessling of ESPN.com. Newman should take a little pressure of Waynes to be effective from day one.
  • The Panthers will definitely put a lot of focus into extending Luke Kuechly, but David Newton of ESPN.com expects that to come next offseason. Josh Norman is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and after performing well for the team he should be a priority for an extension.
  • Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com is guessing starters in his latest Buccaneers mailbag. He picks George Johnson and Jacquies Smith, Danny Lansanah as their third linebacker, and D.J. Swearinger over Chris Conte at safety.
  • Kyle Van Noy and Theo Riddick are a pair of players that have uncertain roles for the Lions in 2015. Van Noy could earn a starting job at linebacker, but won’t see starter’s snaps due to the likely reliance on nickel and dime packages, according to Mike Rothstein of ESPN.com. Riddick will also likely be an afterthough at running back, but should have ample opportunities to catch passes out of the backfield and in the slot.
  • With Jordan Reed‘s injuries, Washington could have used help at tight end either in free agency or the draft, writes John Keim of ESPN.com. While it is surprising, it means the team has confidence in Niles Paul, and believes contributions from the receivers and running backs catching passes could help them survive without Reed for some time.
  • In our lone entry from a non-ESPN writer, Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News writes that with the versatility of Byron Jones and Corey White in the secondary, the Cowboys defense could give some very creative looks in 2015. Both players are nominally corners, but each has the ability to play safety as well, and that could let the team mix and match in the defensive backfield.

Extra Points: Moffitt, Irvin, Wilson, Bills

Free agent offensive guard John Moffitt could have suitors in the Eagles, Dolphins, Buccaneers, Jets and Texans, tweets Ross Jones of FoxSports.com. Moffitt announced earlier this week that he was coming out of a two-year retirement. The Broncos subsequently cut the 28-year-old and he cleared waivers on Thursday, per Jones (Twitter link), making him available to sign anywhere.

Let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the NFL….

  • Talking to the media on Thursday, Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin insisted that he wants to remain in Seattle and that his comments about wanting to go to Atlanta were “misinterpreted,” tweets Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. According to Condotta (Twitter links), Irvin added that he’ll be extra motivated in 2015 after the team chose not to exercise his 2016 option, and that his contract situation will take care of itself.
  • Speaking of Seahawks players entering contract years, the team’s most notable extension candidate, Russell Wilson, was fairly noncommittal when addressing his situation on Thursday, indicating that he remains optimistic about getting something done. Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News Tribune has the details and the quotes.
  • The Bills formally announced a number of changes within their player personnel department, most notably promoting Rob Hanrahan to director of pro peronnel and Kevin Meganck to director of football operations.
  • Browns rookie Cameron Erving will likely begin his career at right guard and compete with John Greco for the starting job, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo told Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Erving, the 19th pick in this year’s draft, played offensive tackle and center during his career at Florida State. He’s expected to be a long-term option at center for Cleveland, which could lose starter Alex Mack to free agency next offseason.
  • Second-year Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson is looking to build on a rookie campaign that saw him total an impressive 48 receptions in 10 games. So far, so good, says Jags quarterback Blake Bortles. “He’s been unbelievable,” Bortles said of Robinson’s showing at minicamp, according to Mark Long of the Associated Press. “He’s definitely a threat now in the red zone. … He’s physical. He can run and do everything out in the open field, so he’s been fun to throw to.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

NFC South Notes: Falcons, Jones, Oher

Buccaneers running back Doug Martin has a lot of goals for the 2015 season, including one that might surprise you.

The name ‘Muscle Hamster’ is the worst nickname possibly ever given to somebody,” Martin told Tom Pelissero of USA Today Sports. “I hope it changes, and I hope that I play to a level where my nickname changes. That’s what my goals are.”

As Martin gets to work on that, let’s check out more from the NFC South..

  • Falcons star Julio Jones says he won’t be holding out to get a better deal like Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure writes. “[Agent] Jimmy Sexton, he’s going to negotiate that with [general manager] Thomas [Dimitroff] and [Falcons owner] Mr. [Arthur] Blank. That’s the side they handle. My side, I’ve got to handle on the football field. I’ve got to keep showing up every day and putting in work,” Jones said. Atlanta picked up Jones’ fifth-year option, meaning that he’ll earn $10.2MM for 2015. The Falcons will have the option of slapping him with the franchise tag in 2016 if they don’t work out a new deal. If that happens, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Jones’ position change a bit.
  • The movie “The Blind Side” made Michael Oher a household name but the Panthers offensive tackle believes that the film has had an adverse affect on his career, ESPN.com’s David Newton writes. “I’m not trying to prove anything,” Oher said. “People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am. That’s why I get downgraded so much, because of something off the field. This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not … that has nothing to do with football. It’s something else off the field. That’s why I don’t like that movie.” Unable to live up to his first round billing, the Ravens released Oher this offseason, leading him to hook on with Carolina.
  • Kevin Williams will earn a base salary of $1MM with a $500K signing bonus on his deal with the Saints, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (on Twitter). He can earn another $600K through playing time incentives. In 2014, the former first-round pick ranked in the middle of the pack among defensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus’ data (subscription required). PFF’s grades placed Williams 40th out of 81 qualified DTs, as he finished the season with 38 tackles and three sacks.