With the Super Bowl now in the rear-view mirror, the NFL offseason has officially begun. Of all the teams in the league, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be in line for the most tumultuous offseason. All of the attention has understandably gone to Tom Brady’s retirement, but there are far more issues than just that.
The biggest issue by far is Tampa Bay’s salary cap situation this off-season. The Buccaneers’ are currently more than $55 million over the cap for next season, with the only team more in the red being the division-rival New Orleans Saints. Brady’s dead cap hit of over $35 million is certainly not helping matters either. With key players like Lavonte David and Jamel Dean about to hit the market, the Buccaneers’ roster will likely look substantially different next season.
With this awful cap situation, Tampa Bay will have to make some difficult choices this offseason. Some players may be able to stick around with restructured deals, but others may have to pack their bags and head elsewhere. That may include some painful goodbyes to some longtime NFL veterans.
With that said, here is the most surprising cut candidate for the Buccaneers this offseason.
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Buccaneers surprise roster cut: OG Shaq Mason
Shaq Mason joined the Buccaneers last offseason in the team’s effort to shore up a depleted offensive line. Mason had a good but not great season for the Bucs, posting a 68.9 overall PFF grade. He was very good in pass protection, only allowing one sack all season, but struggled a bit in run blocking.
Although 2022 was Mason’s first season in Tampa, it wasn’t his first rodeo with Brady. Mason had played for the Patriots since 2015, and was Brady’s teammate between 2015 and 2019. His familiarity with the quarterback, plus the fact that it only took a fifth-round pick to get him from New England, made him a seemingly-perfect fit for Brady’s last ride.
Well, Brady’s gone now (for real this time), and Mason may be gone along with him. But why would the Bucs choose to get rid of a solid, starting-caliber lineman when the line struggled this season? It may seem foolish at first, but there are a few legitimate reasons for it.
The most obvious reason for the move would be the financial flexibility it could provide. Mason carries a cap hit of about $9.5 million next season, and the Bucs can save around $5.3 million by moving on, albeit with about $4.3 million in dead money. Alternatively, they could opt to move on after June 1, which increases the savings to $8.5 million and decreases the dead cap hit to just over $1 million.
Additionally, while Mason is a good lineman, he is not irreplaceable. The Bucs went through plenty of offensive linemen this season, and both Nick Leverett and Robert Hainsey showed some flashes of potential. With better injury luck next season, it’s possible that one of them could replace Mason at right guard. There’s also the chance that Tampa could target o-line in the draft, whether it’s in the first round or later.
As previously stated, Mason is a good offensive lineman who Tampa would love to have next season and beyond. However, the Bucs’ horrific cap situation may prevent them from keeping the lineman. It’s just the cruel reality of the NFL sometimes. Even if the Bucs do cut him, though, Mason should have no problem finding a new home.