It would take a stretching of resources for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to land ‘epic’ a pair of stars, but it could happen.
Once a potential Bucs draft target, free agent star running back Dalvin Cook wants to join forces with fellow free agent and star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Cook talked about that on “The Adam Schefter Podcast” on June 19.
“If we end up on the same roster, that would be something epic for the NFL,” Cook told Schefter.
For the Bucs to pull off landing two such stars — albeit a pie in the sky ambition — it would take a few cuts and restructuring contracts to free up adequate salary cap space. The Bucs did it before during the Tom Brady era, and this year’s Bucs don’t plan to tank for Caleb Williams or Drake Maye.
“Never rebuild,” Bucs head coach Todd Bowles said after the season in a January press conference. “You always reload. You feel like you have a chance to win every year. You’ve just got to tweak some things from a schematic standpoint all the way around — offense, defense and special teams.”
Tampa Bay kept key players on defense such as linebacker Lavonte David and defensive back Jamel Dean, which means the Bucs could be a top-10 defense again. The Bucs offense already has two 1,ooo-yard receivers, two Pro Bowl-caliber offensive linemen, and a quarterback with playoff experience.
Dean also provides a model for how the Bucs could afford to sign stars such as Cook and Hopkins. When Dean re-signed with a four-year, $52 million deal in March, he took just $1.08 million for his base salary this year. The rest will come the following three seasons with bases of $12 million or higher.
Cook and Hopkins remain unsigned after their respective teams unloaded them in the past month due in part to hefty contracts. Hopkins had a $54.5 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals, and Cook had a $63 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings.
Suitors Won’t Need to ‘Pay Up’ for Dalvin Cook or DeAndre Hopkins
NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry doesn’t see Cook or Hopkins earning anywhere close to their prior contracts.
“Here’s the deal: I don’t think you’re going to have to pay up for this player,” Perry said about Cook as transcribed by NBC Sports Boston. “He’s a running back. He’s a veteran running back in a league where running backs simply, unfortunately for them, are not valued.”
“So, even though he’s a big name — and I still think he’s an explosive player — we’re in June now,” Perry added. “There ain’t that much money floating around for teams to just spend willy-nilly on veteran running backs.”
“I’m just telling you, there ain’t that much money out there,” Perry continued. “DeAndre Hopkins is finding this out right now: He still hasn’t signed with anybody because the money isn’t there. Teams haven’t saved up to have as much money as you would need to pay a guy big bucks at this point in the calendar year.”
How the Bucs Can Clear Enough Space for Two Stars
Tampa Bay only has $1.4 million in cap space, but the team could free up a couple of players to make room for Hopkins and Cook. Two potential cut candidates at the same positions of Hopkins and Cook include wide receiver Russell Gage and running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
Parting ways with Gage and Vaughn would free up $2.3 million based on Spotrac’s estimates. The Bucs could also restructure contracts of current players eligible for restructures and free up an additional $8.1 million per Spotrac’s calculations.