Amid the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ many salary cap issues, one starter could lighten the load without the team’s decision.
Longtime Bucs tight end Cameron Brate might retire, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine. Brate, 31, sustained a concussion and neck injury this season, which Laine noted as reasons for why he might call it a career. If Brate doesn’t retire, the Bucs could cut him and save $2 million but eat $2.96 million of dead cap space amid the team’s dire salary cap situation of $55.5 million over the cap, Laine noted.
“After the Bucs’ playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys, it was clear he was taking stock in his life and what’s next after suffering a concussion this season and a neck sprain that resulted in him leaving the field on a stretcher and missing a total of six games,” Laine wrote.
Brate, who started the 2022 season as the No. 1 tight end after Rob Gronkowski‘s retirement, caught 20 passes for 174 yards and no touchdowns. Brate notably played less than 30 snaps in each of the Bucs’ final four regular season games. He played 21 snaps against the Cowboys and got targeted only three times on passing plays.
An undrafted free agent, Brate played his whole career for the Bucs thus far except for a stint on the New Orleans Saints practice squad in 2015. The Bucs signed him in 2014 originally, but he played in only one game and moved on to the Saints. Tampa Bay then plucked Brate from the Saints practice squad in September 2015, and he became a consistent presence on offense ever since.
Brate has 273 receptions for 2,857 yards and 33 touchdowns in his nine-year career with the Bucs. He also helped the team win a Super Bowl in the 2020 season where he caught 14 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs. That score came during the Bucs’ NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers.
Bucs Tight End Situation After Cameron Brate
Tampa Bay looks well positioned to move on from Brate after promising seasons by Cade Otton and Ko Kieft as rookies in 2022.
Otton caught 42 passes for 391 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winner, in 11 starts. Kieft, who got drafted for blocking primarily, made an impact in the passing game with seven catches for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Fellow Bucs tight end Kyle Rudolph didn’t produce much in 2022, and he will become a free agent on March 15. The former Pro Bowler only had three catches for 28 yards and a touchdown in 2022.
Bucs Could Cut 3 Other Starters, Jenna Laine Says
Besides Brate, Laine identified three other Bucs starters from 2022 squad who could get cut before the new league year on March 15.
Cutting offensive tackle Donovan Smith, running back Leonard Fournette, and kicker Ryan Succop would clear $17.1 million of salary cap space according to Spotrac. All three starters also underperformed in different ways in 2022.
Smith hyperextended his elbow in Week 1 at Dallas, and he struggled after that point amid missed time on the field. He tallied the fourth-most penalties, 12, and the 15th-most sacks, six, among tackles per Pro Football Focus.
Fournette regressed in 2022 as he matched the lowest single-season rushing touchdown total, three, of his career. He also came close to career lows of rushing yards with 668 and average per carry, 3.5, in the process.
While the Bucs relied on Succop often in 2022, his 81.6% field goal percentage marked his worst clip “in a non-injured season” since 2013, Laine noted. Succop also went 2-7 on field goals past 50 yards, which ranked 32nd, Laine wrote.