Crunching the Numbers
Around the League is taking a look at each team's salary cap situation as we approach the start of training camp:
• Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
• Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
• Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
• Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
• Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
• Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
• Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
• 49ers | Cardinals | Rams | Mark Barron signs
Best Bargain: As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' No. 1 receiver by default, Mike Williams has caught 130 passes for 1,735 yards and 14 touchdowns over his first two seasons in the NFL. A 2010 fourth-round draft pick, Williams has earned just over $1.3 million in his career thus far and is scheduled to earn $540,000 in base salary in 2012. The arrival of Vincent Jackson will move Williams to a more suitable role as a No. 2 receiver this season, a position where the 6-foot-2, 221-pounder can take advantage not going up against the other team's top cornerback.
Potential Camp Casualty: The Buccaneers have moved away from signing bonuses, and instead are signing players to higher base salaries (often guaranteed), so players with high salaries always are candidates for release. Two such players on the Buccaneers are right tackle Jeremy Trueblood and linebacker Quincy Black. In the second season of a two-year contract, Trueblood triggered a $1 million escalator to his base salary and is scheduled to make $5.25 million, all of which could be wiped off the books. Black is due $5.5 million in base salary and would leave a cap imprint of just $250,000 from a workout bonus.
The problem with releasing Trueblood or Black lies in whom would replace them? Trueblood played in over 92 percent of the Buccaneers' snaps last season and is solid in pass protection. The Buccaneers do not have much (or any) depth at the tackle position. Black was largely a two-down player in 2011, but with Geno Hayes moving on in free agency, Black is the team's most experienced linebacker. With plenty of cap space, the Buccaneers unlikely are to be motivated by cap relief when shaping their 53-man roster this summer.
Contract Issue Looming In 2013: Cornerback Aqib Talib is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. Off-field issues have had his future in Tampa in doubt, but he won't face charges in Texas. Talib has a clean slate with first-year head coach Greg Schiano. When not getting involved in off-field issues, or injured, Talib is an excellent cover cornerback with the ability to be a perennial Pro Bowl player. A healthy, law-abiding season could get the Buccaneers to pony up the dough or place the franchise tag (projected value of $10.784 million) on him next offseason.
Defensive end Michael Bennett received a "First Round" restricted free-agent tender from the Buccaneers and will earn $2.742 million in base salary in 2012. Da'Quan Bowers' torn Achilles will give Bennett another opportunity to cement his status as a starter, either for the Bucs or elsewhere, and he should do quite well for himself on the free agent market if he's allowed to test it.
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