The day after the 2012 season ended, with the Buccaneers out of the playoff picture but feeling very good about the immediate future, General Manager Mark Dominik pointed out a pair of unrelated side items that could affect the team’s fortunes in 2013. Specifically, Dominik referred to recent contract restructurings for WR Vincent Jackson and G Carl Nicks that would free up additional salary cap space in the coming season.
Whether the space would eventually be used to lure more free agents to Tampa – the Bucs made the NFL’s most dramatic impact in free agency in 2012 with Jackson, Nicks, Eric Wright and a handful of others – or to lock in part of the team’s existing nucleus, Dominik knew it was important.
“That has actually opened a lot of cap room for us going into 2013,” said Dominik at the time. “A tremendous amount. By the time we get to March [12th], we’ve got a chance to be involved in free agency again but we’ve also got a chance to try to retain this nucleus of players. As more time comes out, I think more of those numbers will become public. But that was a big commitment that our owners made and I think that should be encouraging for all fans about our football team.”
According to the NFL, the Bucs are in very good shape to take advantage of the salary cap. The league has posted a photo gallery on NFL.com that ranks the teams from #32 to #1 in terms of anticipated available cap space in 2013. The Jets are ranked last on the list, with a reported $23 million of overage to take care of before the new league year begins on March 12. The Buccaneers are all the way up at #5.
The photo essay indicates an expected 2013 cap of $121 million per team. Clubs like the Jets, whose collective contracts for 2013 would be over that number are required to make moves to ensure that isn’t true on March 12. Those with anticipated numbers below $121 million can get ready to spend, if the right addition is available.
Things can obviously change between now and the second week of March. Even the Jets could be in position to spend if they make the necessary moves. Still, the Bucs appear to be in a favorable position right now, and that’s particularly true in comparison to the rest of the NFC South. On the aforementioned list, New Orleans ranks 30th ($20.6 million over), Carolina ranks 29th ($13.7 million over) and Atlanta ranks 20th ($2.1 million under).