Tampa Bay came into 2017 with hopes of competing for the NFC South crown. They invested in more receiving talent to get the most out of Jameis Winston as they brought in DeSean Jackson and drafted OJ Howard. They added defensive talent with Chris Baker, JJ Wilcox, and TJ Ward coming over to bolster their depth and playmaking ability.
Hard Knocks came to town in the preseason and, as ever, only added to the idea that the Bucs could compete in a division that was home to the last two NFC champions. It wasn’t to be.
Hurricane Irma meant they had to play 17 games without break. An inconsistent and injured season from Jameis Winston and the same old problems getting to the quarterback bogged the team down. The resurgence of both Carolina and New Orleans made the NFC South the most competitive division in football. They finished the year just 5-11, with their most notable win coming over the Saints in Week 17. While they were an unfortunate 3-7 in games decided by less than a touchdown, it was a lot of small things that added up to the disappointments for Tampa Bay and their fans.
Coming into 2018 they have a lot of places to improve, and a lot of cap space with which to do it. General manager Jason Licht has $63.2 million to play around with and find a way to compete, but he will also have to make some cuts heading into 2018. Which players are in danger of not coming back to the bay?
Doug Martin, RB – save $6.75 million
Martin has been with the Bucs since they took him 31st overall in 2012, and while he has had some strong performances for them in that time he has mostly been a remarkable let down. Over the last two years he has a suspension for PED’s and also a 2.9 yards per carry average. I’d hate to think what that number would be if he hadn’t been taking banned things.
The Bucs can move on from Martin without any dead money on their cap, and they absolutely shouldn’t hesitate to do so. The college ranks are sending more and more playmaking backs to the league every year and Tampa should be able to find someone who can make an impact at a far cheaper price.
William Gholston, DE – save $6.5 million
Another player without a cent of dead money that should be shown the door is William Gholston. The defensive end signed a five-year extension last year but has been an entirely ineffective player for Tampa Bay.
Gholston managed to finish the season with zero sacks to his name and just one QB hit despite playing 14 games. It was a down year to be sure, but since an up year for him is three sacks and eight QB hits he is hardly worth the roster space. The Bucs have consistently been bad at pressuring the quarterback and it is time they cleared the decks and started again with their edge defenders.
Chris Conte, S – save $2.4 million
Conte has been in the NFL for seven years now, but hasn’t developed into anything more than a backup player, and not a good one at that. He is a liability in coverage athletically and has been exposed too often both in Chicago and in Tampa Bay to be anything more than a bottom-rung player on the depth chart.
Tampa Bay may have plenty of cap space, but with 54 players on their active roster they have to make some room for new blood, especially in the secondary. Conte should be one of those players that makes way immediately.
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