Bucs are front loading contracts

Although it seems like it’s been an eternity, it really wasn’t all that long ago that I wondered if the Buccaneers and Panthers, who opened the free-agency period among the league leaders in cap space, would “front load’’ contracts.

That’s the term for putting money at the front of a contract to take an early salary-cap hit as opposed to spreading the impact out as much as possible.

Now that I’ve seen most of the early contracts, it turns out the Bucs are front loading and the Panthers are not. Carolina simply is spending money left and right, keeping its own free agents and bringing in others. The Panthers are doing a lot of it by using big signing bonuses. They gave $30 million to Charles Johnson and $20 million to Jon Beason. Those bonuses are pro-rated over the course of the contract for salary-cap calculations.

The Bucs are taking a different approach. Let’s take a look at the deals they did to keep two of their own key free agents. With guard Davin Joseph, the Bucs decided to take a big cap hit early on and not worry about spreading it out with a signing bonus.

The Bucs didn’t give Joseph a signing bonus on his seven-year, $52 million contract. Instead, they put a ton of money right up at the front of Joseph’s contract. They gave him a $9.5 million base salary for this year and the same for next year. Both years are fully guaranteed.

After that, Joseph’s base salary drops to $6 million in 2013 and stays the same in 2014. It rises to $7 million in 2015 and stays the same in 2016. In 2017, Joseph’s schedule salary is $7.5 million.

The Bucs took a similar tact when they brought back linebacker Quincy Black. He didn’t get a signing bonus either, but he got a big first-year salary. Black will earn $6 million this year and his salary drops to $5.5 million for each of the following four years.