Can Bucs afford to trade for Rodgers or Carr?
Tom Brady is retired (we think). The Bucs still have a strong roster full of young, talented players. Antoine Winfield Jr., Tristan Wirfs, Chris Godwin, Cade Otton, Rachaad White, Devin White, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Carlton Davis form a core that could still be a playoff team with the right quarterback, especially if he’s out of the NFC South.
But with Brady’s retirement, that last part becomes a very big question mark. Will the Bucs roll with third-year quarterback Kyle Trask? Will they try to secure a new face to the franchise with their 19th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft? Could they trade?
Looking at the state of free agency, there aren’t many options that look appealing. Lamar Jackson and Geno Smith and Daniel Jones lead the potential class, but all three will likely be retained by their 2022 teams through mechanisms that prevent them from reaching the free-player market. Beyond that, the market is moving quickly to land reclamation projects like Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield. The prospects of securing a reliable signal caller through a free agency are not great.
With free agency and the draft both rubbish, the Bucs may find that trading for an experienced quarterback is the best course of action. Two of the hottest names thrown around in the quarterback trading market are Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr. But given that the Bucs are currently $55 million above the 2023 salary cap, could they even afford one of these talented and expensive options?
Step one: The Bucs need to become cap-compatible
Before they even consider signing one of these quarterbacks and taking their paychecks, they must meet the limits of their current players and commitments. So the team’s first action is to find a way to reduce $55 million in limit fees.
It will most likely start processing Brady’s retirement after June 1. That will bring the surplus down to $31 million. You can probably count on them to restructure the contracts of wide receiver Chris Godwin, defensive tackle Vita Vea and cornerback Carlton Davis III. That could raise as much as $29.5 million.
Add in the likely cuts from Cameron Brate, running back Leonard Fournette, kicker Ryan Succop — and possible farewell left tackle Donovan Smith — and the team could create another $18.7 million in space. At the time, the team would be about $17 million under the salary cap. Then, realistically, the Bucs could consider the option of taking on their second consecutive big-money quarterback.
Bucs QB Goal 1: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers has one of the most complicated contracts in the NFL. He also represents the most talented quarterback firmly on the market right now. The cost to Rodgers would be very high, both in terms of draft picks and long-term salary commitments. But the short-term cost of acquiring the old Packers quarterback would be relatively low.
If the Bucs were to pursue a trade for 39-year-old Rodgers, they would first have to come to terms with Green Bay over a trade package that would convince Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst to let Rodgers go to an enemy in the conference. That package would most likely be based on Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson’s trades from last year.
Watson was traded from Houston to Cleveland for the 13th overall pick in the 2022 draft, first-round picks in the 2023 and 2024 drafts, as well as a 2023 third-round pick and a 2024 fourth-round pick. They sent a fifth-round pick from 2024 back to the Browns as part of the exchange.
The Broncos gave up ninth overall, 41st overall and 153rd overall picks in the 2022 draft, as well as first and second round picks in 2023, plus a host of players including tight Noah Fant, defensive lineman Shelby Harris and quarterback Drew Lock in trade for Wilson and a fourth round pick.
Given the context of those trades, the Bucs should definitely say goodbye to their first and second round picks this year, as well as their first and second round picks in 2024. To match the value Houston received for Watson last year with the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart which the Bucs would have to give up those four picks while also getting Green Bay’s fourth-round pick with Rodgers back.
As for the implications of the salary cap, the Bucs would have to exercise an option bonus currently tied to Rodgers’ 2023 salary. In doing so, they would convert $58.3 million of his $59.515 million salary into a prorated bonus that is currently over spread over four years. The result would be a limit of only $15,790,000 in total, which the team could cover based on the aforementioned moves.
If the Bucs cut Rodgers after the 2023 season, they would have to pay a $43.725 million dead cap charge in 2024, making the $35.104 million charge they currently face for Brady look like peanuts.
If they kept Rodgers for the last year of his deal (2024), which they would have to decide before the 5th day after the Super Bowl, his maximum amount for 2024 would be $32,541,666, with the team dead cap-in 2025. amount would receive. of more than $60 million. Given all the design assets and dead cap costs associated with the Rodgers acquisition, the Bucs could theoretically make it happen, but in my opinion it’s highly unlikely.
Bucs QB Target 2: Derek Carr
If the Bucs were chasing Carr, it would be more difficult to make the salary cap workable in the short term at first. However, it would cost the team much less in long-term commitments and in exchange assets.
The Raiders have significantly reduced Carr’s trade value since benching him late in the season. That move, combined with the automatic trigger on Feb. 15 that would fully guarantee all of his $32.9 million salary in 2023, along with $7.5 million of his salary in 2024, means Vegas has little to no leverage.
They will cut Carr off the trigger if they can’t find a trading partner. That will suppress any offer they receive. The Bucs would most likely be competitive with a third-rounder offering in 2023 and a third-rounder in 2024.
The difficulty for the Bucs to trade for Carr is the bookkeeping of his contract at the time of the transaction’s execution. The team should have $33 million in caproom available to take on Carr. They can reduce his cap hit once acquired, but they must have the space up front.
Going back to all the moves I described at the beginning of this article, the Bucs still wouldn’t have enough room to accommodate the lame duck signaler from Las Vegas. They would need to take additional steps, such as cutting Russell Gage with a post-June 1 appointment, as well as completely restructuring the contracts of outside linebacker Shaq Barrett and center Ryan Jensen. By doing all this, they could squeak Carr under the cap.
At that point, the Bucs were able to restructure Carr’s deal and lower his limit to $7,612,000. This would free up $25,388,000 for the team to take additional steps to finalize the roster around Carr. Keep in mind that these moves would push dead cap costs down the line while also partially guaranteeing a portion of Carr’s salary for 2024.
At that point, his limits for 2024 and 2025 would rise to $48.367 million and $47.667 million, respectively. It would also mean that if the Bucs were to cut Carr after the 2023 season, they would have to absorb a $32.888 million dead cap in 2024.
There are no good options for the Bucs
Both options above are prohibitively expensive, but not impossible. With the free agent market deficient in talent, the Bucs will likely consider either trading in the draft to land their future face-of-the-franchise or going with a bridge quarterback (Trask anyone?). roles for at least one season.
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