The Buccaneers have plenty of money available and if it is not spent on at least a couple marquee individuals, a repeat of this past season would appear to be inevitable.
The Bucs definitely have many decisions to make in both free-agency and in the draft, but the first task is to figure out which players to hang on to.
It is obvious that re-signing Antonio Bryant is priority No. 1. Joey Galloway is almost done and who knows what Michael Clayton will bring to a game, let alone an entire season. The availability of T.J. Houshmandzadeh should not be passed over by Bruce Allen and the Bucs.
We all know that the Panthers like to go to battle with a “two-headed-monster” in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart. Fans in Tampa probably hope that the Bucs don’t try to duplicate this philosophy with Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn.
While both are serviceable running backs, the Bucs have not had a 1,000-yard running back since Cadillac’s rookie season in 2005—and his career is currently up in the air. He will not be running in 2009.
The Bucs have many choices relating to this position. With Brandon Jacobs available, Tampa must at least put forth an effort to acquire the bruiser--a type of player who is definitely needed in the NFC South.
Darren Sproles is also available, but there has to be a limit on sub-5’10” running backs on one team. At 5’11”, Maurice Morris may be the cheaper option as a full-time contributor.
When considering Gruden’s infatuation with quarterbacks, it is only a little far-fetched to think he may have Kerry Collins, Kurt Warner, and Jeff Garcia all at training camp together to battle with Brian Griese and Josh Johnson.
A more realistic scenario would probably see Tampa aggressively pursuing Garcia as Johnson, a project Gruden wants to work with, gains another clipboard year.
In order for this team to rise to the top in the South, they must stop the run and put some pressure on the QB with a ferocious defensive line. The emergence of Michael Turner and the work-horses in Carolina prove that the ground game success translates into playoff appearances.
The Bucs could look towards Albert Haynseworth, although prying him from the Titans may prove to be difficult. Another intriguing scenario could see the Bucs killing two birds with one stone—signing Julius Peppers if the Panthers fail to utilize the franchise tag.
Peppers has been a thorn in Tampa’s side for many years. Removing him from the Panthers would bolster the defense and help their offense during games against the Panthers.
With the 19th pick in the draft, this team has many options to choose from for the defensive line. Peria Jerry of Ole Miss will probably be available and would be an excellent selection at this point in the first round.
A bulldozer of a beast who never gives up on a play, Jerry forced a fumble, recovered another fumble, and is the best lineman on a team that sacked Tim Tebow three times in their defeat of Florida in September.
Addressing the wide-receiver mess in the second round would not be a surprise. Looking towards Hakeem Nicks of UNC or Kenny Britt of Rutgers would serve the team very well.
Some parents have experienced hearing their children say, “Is this it?” on Christmas morning. Let’s hope we don’t hear that same sentiment from Tampa fans as this offseason progresses.