It’s not a secret that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is interested in his team pulling off an Odell Beckham Jr. trade. That much was noted back in February after Brady earned his seventh Super Bowl title.
The issue here for Brady and his Buccaneers is rather simple. The NFL has this thing called the salary cap. It has been impacted big time by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a league-wide downtick in revenue. Tampa Bay also finds itself in a less-than-stellar cap situation heading into NFL free agency.
In talking about this and the Buccaneers’ reported interest in an Odell Beckham Jr. trade, ESPN’s Adam Schefter threw some cold water on the idea Monday morning.
“While Tampa Bay and Tom Brady might want Odell Beckham Jr. there, can they fit in his contract? Can they make that work? I guess you could always try to make due with whatever you want,” Schefter said on ESPN’s Get Up (h/t Bleacher Report.) “But I think it’s challenging to fit a wide receiver in at that number on top of everything else they’re trying to get done there.”
Indeed, there’s a lot of layers to this. Outside of the Buccaneers’ cap difficulties (more on that below), the Browns’ brass has made it clear Beckham Jr. figures into their plans for the 2021 season as he recovers from a torn ACL. How much of that is just PR spin remains to be seen.
If OBJ were put on the NFL trade block in the coming weeks, a number of teams would show interest in the former Pro Bowl performer. That also complicates things for the Buccaneers. Below, we look at that and more while drawing a final conclusion that something could in fact happen on this front, albeit highly unlikely.
Odell Beckham Jr. trade complicated by 2021 NFL salary cap
As of right now, the Buccaneers are an estimated $19 million under said cap. That’s based on a projected $185 million number. If said number is $180 million, things will get complicated. It could also be up to $190 million, creating more flexibility for the defending champs and other teams.
Beckham, 28, is currently playing under a five-year, $90 million contract. He’s set to earn $15.75 million against the cap. Any team acquiring him would be on the hook for all but $250,000 of that 2021 figure.
It’s not a cheap price to pay for a star receiver who struggled in his first two seasons with the Browns and is coming off a serious knee injury. Risks are involved, both financially and in terms of what he might bring to the table moving forward.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers free agent and 2021 NFL salary cap situation
As is normally the case with teams coming off a Super Bowl title, there’s a number of notable Buccaneers players set to hit free agency here soon.
- Shaquil Barrett, linebacker
- Lavonte David, linebacker
- Rob Gronkowski, tight end
- Chris Godwin, wide receiver
- Leonard Fournette, running back
- Antonio Brown, wide receiver
- Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle
The primary focus here for Tampa Bay would be to sign Godwin to a contract extension before being forced to place the franchise tag on the star receiver. Said tag would cost the Buccaneers a whopping $16.3 million in 2021 — creating a major issue when it comes to the cap.
Assuming for a second that the two sides come to terms on an extension, Godwin is likely looking at roughly $17 million annually on a long-term deal. Tampa could push back the big cap hits to later years on said extension when the NFL salary cap is projected to increase post-COVID. Under this scenario, it could actually pay Godwin was little as $7 million against the cap in 2021.
That’s the path general manager Jason Licht is expected to take should the Buccaneers attempt to retain their core free agents and potentially add a couple upgrades from outside of the organization. This could include a hypothetical Odell Beckham Jr. trade.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster and potential salary cap casualties
One NFL head coach said recently that it’s going to be a “catastrophic” week for veteran players earning a ton of cash. Simply put, we could see some big-name players released do the questionable NFL salary cap situation around the league. That includes the Buccaneers.
Star left tackle Donovan Smith could be traded or released, saving the Buccaneers a whopping $14.25 million against the cap without a dead money hit. Given that 2020 first-round pick Tristan Wirfs performed well as a rookie, that’s a possibility.
Moving on from the likes of center Ryan Jensen, tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard as well as defensive end William Gholston would save another combined $28.1 million. Heck, Tom Brady is looking to restructure/extend his contract to lower the quarterback’s $28.38 million cap hit for next season.
Looking at the math, it’s in no way financially impossible for the Buccaneers to pull off a trade for one of the most-talented receivers in the game. That includes saving roughly $15 million more by restructuring the contracts of wide receiver Mike Evans and guard Ali Marpet. It’s now simply about roster building.
Would an Odell Beckham Jr. trade make sense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Godwin fits into the team’s future. Fellow Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans is going nowhere. The idea of having a trio that consists of those two and OBJ would be scary news for teams attempting to avert a Buccaneers repeat next season.
But as I mentioned above, it’s an open question whether this even makes sense. Antonio Brown wants to return to the Buccaneers after turning his career around last season. He has a great relationship with Brady. If Beckham Jr. were to join the Bucs, Brown is as good as gone.
It’s also an open question whether Cleveland is even interested in trading Beckham Jr. Sure Baker Mayfield performed better with him sidelined last season. But the team exhausted financial and draft capital to add the star receiver to the mix ahead of the 2019 season.
The Browns would also demand a nice return for the three-time Pro Bowler. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be interested in someone like Donovan Smith given that Cleveland has two book-end tackles. O.J. Howard also wouldn’t be of interest with Cleveland looking to move off David Njoku and seemingly in on Kyle Rudolph.
What does this all mean? Sure an Odell Beckham Jr. trade to the Buccaneers is possible. It would also be all sorts of sexy. It’s just not all that likely right now. In no way does that mean Tampa Bay’s current cap situation would preclude it from happening. It’s almost like Monopoly money at this point.