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With busy offseason looming, Buccaneers face myriad questions about re-signing players

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — At first glance, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers look flush with salary cap space — nearly $49 million below the recently announced total of $255.4 million.

But with the potential of five key players including Pro Bowl quarterback Baker Mayfield and star wide receiver Mike Evans becoming free agents March 13, general manager Jason Licht is racing against time to pinch pennies.

“We're focused on signing our own right now,” Licht said Tuesday as the NFL's annual scouting combine kicked off in Indianapolis. “If we can re-sign Mike and Baker and Lavonte (David) and Antoine (Winfield Jr.) and Tristan (Wirfs), I mean we should be throwing another boat parade. That's a pretty good (free agent) class there.”

Spotrac projects the annual average market value for the trio of Mayfield, Evans and Winfield, an All-Pro safety, would be $69.3 million. It does not project contract values for David, a linebacker, Chase Edmonds, a running back, or Wirfs, the left tackle who is scheduled to play on his fifth-year option this fall.

While Licht would like to keep them all, it's still going to be a challenge.

One possibility could be releasing 31-year-old linebacker Shaquil Barrett, a two-time Super Bowl champion, to avoid paying him a $15.04 million option bonus next month. The Bucs could designate Barrett a post June 1 cut, which would save them about $5 million on this year’s cap, while pushing $17.4 million in dead cap charges to 2025.

It's not the move they want to make.

“From a business side, in order for us to get better and bring in new talent and upgrade the team, we have to get some of these things done, and they’re hard decisions,” coach Todd Bowles said on NFL Network's “Good Morning Football.”

“Shaq has been great for us over the past five years. He came in, (and) he made a heck of a name for himself. He’s one of the best human beings you could ever meet.”

LOUDER, PLEASE

When Miami coach Mike McDaniel walked to the podium Tuesday, he found himself sandwiched between two general managers — John Schneider of Seattle and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah of Minnesota — inside the typically loud interview room.

And with Adofo-Mensah's voice booming over the speaker directly to McDaniel's left, the Dolphins coach decided to deal with the situation humorously. He blew into the microphone, tapped it a couple of times and told the crowd “I'm going to have to talk loud," before turning his head in both directions.

It quickly became apparent McDaniel would have no trouble being heard, so Adofo-Mensah returned the friendly jab by noting McDaniel was talking as loudly as he ever had.

DAN CAMPBELL'S REGRET

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell was under almost immediate criticism following some risky and costly fourth down calls in their NFC championship game loss at San Francisco.

But after having a month to contemplate whether he would have done anything different and initially saying he wouldn't have, Campbell changed his answer.

“The only thing I felt greedy on was instead of just deciding what we were going to do on third down was to hold the timeout, I should have waited till fourth down (to run it),” he said. “At least if he scores, we have that last timeout, but I thought we were just going to pop it in there. But the smarter thing is at least you know the clock stops when you score, so you hold the timeout.”

WORKING ON IT

New Commanders general manager Adam Peters was fully aware of complaints stemming from the most recent NFL Players Association survey, giving the Commanders the lowest marks in the league, when he took the job in January.

He's heard plenty more since then. But Peters has been so busy going through tape, meeting new people and preparing for free agency and the draft, he hasn't had time to fix much — yet. On Tuesday, he simply asked for more patience to put his plan in place.

“We just got here, right? So you guys know how construction goes. It doesn’t go really fast," Peters said. “But we’ve listened to a lot of the players. We’ve met with a lot of the players, trying to understand where we can improve in the building and I think we have a lot of really good people in the building. It’s just trying to make the player experience better as good as we can. That’s not easy, but we’re going to make every effort to.”

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

Michael Marot, The Associated Press