Lamar Jackson has officially requested a trade, and he’s sure to have plenty of suitors. Many have been teams listed for months, like the Colts and the Commanders.
But there’s another team seldom spoken of — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To be fair, that’s for a good reason. The Bucs are heavily strapped on cap, and can seldom afford some of their own free agents at the moment.
But some, such as Athlon Sports’ Luke Easterling, aren’t so convinced that Tampa Bay is out of the hunt. Here is what Easterling wrote while analyzing Jackson’s potential trade partners: “I know, I know. The Bucs’ salary cap situation makes this seem pretty much impossible.”
“But Tampa Bay’s brass has made it work before when it comes to getting a star quarterback, so it wouldn’t be shocking if they made it happen again.”
“Tampa Bay’s offseason moves (re-signing top free agents like Lavonte David and Jamel Dean) prove they’ve got no intention of tanking this year, and if they can make the money work, Jackson would immediately make them the NFC South favorites once again.”
“Pretty much impossible” certainly covers it. But if Tampa Bay were to make this work, how would they accomplish it? The answer lies in the contract that arguably started this whole mess — Deshaun Watson’s.
Watson’s contract, as many know by now, is fully guaranteed. The key with guaranteed money is that, since the money is by definition guaranteed, it can be moved around and distributed however the team wishes.
The Browns did just that with Watson, as the cap hit for his first year in Cleveland was just under $10 million. That number increases to $19 million this year, but it absolutely soars to $64 million from 2024-26. That’s the most in the NFL, with the next closest, Denver’s Russell Wilson, set to take up around $59 million in 2026.
In theory, the Buccaneers could construct a similar concept for Lamar Jackson where the cap hit is dispersed to later years and a void year is perhaps added on at the end to lessen space as well.
Restructures could subsequently help clear up cap for 2023, as Jackson’s cap hit to start would probably be around $10 million or so.
This would make the cap hit in future years loom large, but Jason Licht and cap expert Mike Greenberg could prepare for that beforehand. It’s very unlikely that Tampa Bay will try to make this move, given that the team just signed quarterback Baker Mayfield, but hey — anything is possible.