The Tampa Bay Buccaneers changed general managers, but they haven’t changed their approach to the salary cap.
So far in free agency, Jason Licht has been using the same tactics as predecessor Mark Dominik. Licht has avoided using signing bonuses.
That was a Dominik trademark that ran contrary to what most of the rest of the league does. I don’t know if Licht is following orders from ownership or if he simply decided to follow Dominik’s blueprint.
Either way, it’s a smart approach. Signing bonuses can be dangerous because they spread out a cap hit through future years. If a player doesn’t work out, the team can end up with a big cap hit. That’s when you hear about “dead money’’ -- cap charges for players no longer on the roster.
Dominik preferred to pay big salaries in the early years of contracts and avoided back-loaded deals. Thanks to Dominik’s contract structures in the past, the Bucs have almost no dead money this year. The Bucs were in good cap shape throughout the Dominik years and Licht inherited a good cap situation.
The Bucs were able to release cornerback Darrelle Revis and his $16 million salary without a penny counting toward the salary cap. Licht’s been positioning the Bucs the same way with the contracts he’s been giving out. He has included a few roster bonuses, but no signing bonuses.
You can call this approach frugal. I call it smart. The Bucs are taking bigger cap hits early in contracts, but that means they won't get jammed up in later years.