Buccaneers Eat $4 Million to Trade Goldson

Last week the Buccaneers traded safety Dashon Goldson to Washington and I speculated that the Buccaneers would likely have to eat close to $4 million to make the trade happen. According to Joel Corry that is exactly what happened, as Tampa Bay paid Goldson $4 million before the trade occured in the form of a $4 million guaranteed roster bonus that is treated like a signing bonus for salary cap purposes.

The trade of Goldson should mark the end of a disastrous period of spending by the Tampa Bay front office that has left them with over $20 million in dead money, more than half of which is being paid in cash to players no longer on the team. That number is pretty staggering considering the Bucs do not use signing bonus money, but so many of the players signed underperformed so badly and were overpriced to begin with that Tampa had little choice. To their credit they did not sink more money into bad decisions even if it meant paying large sums of money to players like Michael Johnson, Anthony Collins, and Goldson to go away. Not every team in the NFL would act that way.

I do think the team makes a very interesting case study in contract management as they are really the first team to essentially disregard salary cap accounting for a majority of their contracts and simply work on a cash basis. In my opinion the tradeoff on that has always been higher annual value contracts and large guarantees with no offsets being negotiated to make up for the lack of signing bonus and somewhat lower than expected first year roster payment.

While the strategy can create a great deal of cap flexibility it’s success is dependant on getting strong performances from players who the market did not see worth that kind of money. Their dead money this year is nearly identical to that of the Saints who are polar opposites of Tampa Bay in terms of cap management. With both roads essentially leading to the same end result, my guess is there is a very happy medium somewhere in the middle of the two approaches, but I think it would be worth investigating if the money possibly saved by Tampa is any different than what other teams have done using the signing bonus structures.

  • macatawami

    Regarding the Saints/Bucs cap approaches, I think there’s a good argument that the “preferred” approach is team-dependent. The Bucs had a ton of cap room at the time of their signings and few established high-salaried players, so it made sense to use cash accounting and push all the guaranteed money into the first few years of the contract (their flaw was in giving this money to unworthy players, which will hurt a team no matter which contract structure they use). On the other hand, the Saints had a lot of expensive players already and a window of only a few years with a top QB, so it made sense to push the cap hits for signing bonuses into the future.

  • eddiea

    With NFL teams having a “spending floor”, are Bucs still above even with their releasing so many and having “dead money”? Just asking since they were/are a cash salary no bonus team.