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Cutting Alterraun Verner latest in Bucs' failed free-agent signings

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut cornerback Alterraun Verner on Thursday, freeing up $6.5 million in salary-cap space two weeks before the start of NFL free agency. The move also frees the Bucs from another big free-agent contract that never quite panned out for general manager Jason Licht.

The wheels had been in motion for this move for some time with Verner, who signed a four-year deal worth $25.5 million in 2014, and was scheduled to make $6.5 million in 2017, the final year of his contract in which there was no more guaranteed money. The Bucs could cut him without penalty, which wasn't the case last season, when $2 million of his $6.75 million contract became guaranteed on March 13.

In three years, Verner saw action in 46 games for the Bucs, finishing with four interceptions and 20 pass breakups. But he started just three games in 2016 and nine in 2015 as he struggled in Lovie Smith's defense. The arrival of Vernon Hargeaves III, who was drafted 11th overall last year, signified the Bucs would likely part ways with him under defensive coordinator Mike Smith.

When Hargreaves began lining up on both the outside and inside and became a Week 1 starter, it reaffirmed the notion that Verner was on his way out. That only intensified when Jude Adjei-Barimah and then Javien Elliott began taking snaps as the starting nickel back, a position Verner was not naturally suited for because he wasn't a "quick-twitch" player and didn't play low enough, bending his knees so he could react quicker to the ball.

Verner's best game came this season when, just 48 hours after his father died unexpectedly of a heart attack, he recorded and interception and two pass breakups in the Bucs' 14-5 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Verner was the seventh-highest paid player on the Bucs, who now have about $68 million in cap space.

Verner is the latest high-priced free-agent signing that has not panned out early in Licht's tenure. Defensive end Michael Johnson, offensive tackle Anthony Collins and linebacker Bruce Carter all were released one year into multiyear deals. At least in Verner's case, he stuck around for three years, although he never lived up to expectations.

These failed signings might explain why the Bucs were far more conservative with free-agent contracts in 2016.