The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made one of the biggest splashes in the NFL's free agency talent pool last year. Now the Bucs are poised to stir the waters in a big way again.
The Bucs have $30.1 million worth of available cap space to work with for the March 12 start of free agency, the fifth most of the league's 32 teams, according to an accounting on NFL.com.
A good chunk of that space – about $23 million – came as a result of the Bucs reworking the 2013 contracts for two of last season's free agent prizes.
Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson and former Pro Bowl left guard Carl Nicks agreed to rework their contracts in a way that turned the majority of their 2013 salaries into guaranteed bonuses.
That allowed the Bucs to pro-rate the bulk of Jackson's $13 million salary and Nicks' $12.5 million salary over the final four years of each player's contract, creating extra cap space for 2013.
"That has actually opened a lot of cap room for us going into 2013 – a tremendous amount," Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. "We've got a chance to be (heavily) involved in free agency again.
"But we also have a chance to try to retain this nucleus of players. So (the contract restructuring) was a big commitment that our owners made and I think that should be encouraging for all fans about our football team."
The Bucs have traditionally entered the free-agent marketplace focused on re-signing their own free agents, but they took a dramatic turn a year ago when they immediately signed Jackson, Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright.
Tampa Bay later added tight end Dallas Clark and backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky to help round out an offense that wound up setting franchise records for yards (5,820) and points scored (389).
The Bucs free-agent focus could turn to the defensive side of the ball this year as the team tries to correct a pass defense that last year allowed 4,758 yards, ranked last in the league.
The Bucs are expected to target primarily cornerbacks but may also seek a linebacker to replace Quincy Black, whose future with the team is in jeopardy after a neck injury that left him with nerve damage late last season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers have plenty of cap space for free agency
Tampa Tribune | Feb 12