Bucs have to look ahead to 2013 salary cap

Tampa Bay’s trade of Kellen Winslow might have been about more than just the tight end and new coach Greg Schiano not being on the same page.

The move might have been made with an eye toward the salary cap and the future. Yeah, I know that may sound a little weird because the Bucs haven’t been big spenders. In recent years, they’ve had one of the league’s lowest payrolls and easily have stayed under the salary cap. That’s still true this year as the Bucs have a little over $12 million in cap space remaining. They currently have used about $133.5 of their $146 million of cap space this year and Tampa Bay’s cap includes $23.5 million of space for a rollover for space not used last year.

But the Bucs spent big in free agency this year and next year’s going to be a different story. The cap isn’t expected to be much more than $120 million in 2013. Prior to the Winslow deal, the Bucs already had $117.4 million committed toward next year’s draft. By trading Winslow, the Bucs erased his $5.6 million cap figure for 2013, so that drops them down to $111.8 for the moment. But that’s going to change quickly. First-round draft picks Mark Barron and Doug Martin will sign contracts that will take up several million dollars of cap space next year. And the overall view of Tampa Bay’s cap situation could change dramatically after the 2012 season because some of the young players could trigger escalator clauses and it’s possible the team could look to extend the contracts of quarterback Josh Freeman and some others between now and next offseason.

The Bucs are going to have to be very cognizant of salary-cap space in 2013. They already started to address that with the Winslow deal. This is a work in progress because Schiano still is getting to know his personnel. But, if a player doesn’t seem to fit Schiano’s style and has a high cap number for 2013, that player could be joining Winslow.

I'm looking at Tampa Bay's numbers for 2013 and I'm seeing guys like linebacker Quincy Black ($5.75 million), guard Davin Joseph ($6 million), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy ($10.9 million), tackle Donald Penn ($6.3 million) and thinking it would be wise for those guys to get on Schiano's good side and stay there.