Tampa Bay Buccaneers: What the Bold Free Agency Moves Mean for the Future

Caleb AbnerContributor IIIMarch 14, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers runs after a catch against the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on November 27, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

What an eventful period of free agency.

First, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed the best wide receiver of the 2012 free agent class, in Vincent Jackson, for five years and $55 million dollars. Next, cornerback Eric Wright was signed to another five-year contract, this time for only $37.5 million dollars. Last but not least, the Bucs agreed to pay superstar guard Carl Nicks $47.5 million over a (guess how long) five-year contract. 

So the Glazers made good on their promise to spend the big bucks. 

Despite these signings accounting for about $25-30 million against the cap, there is still at least double that left in cap space, due to roll-over room from 2011. Assuming that the Glazers aren't bankrupt yet, a few more surprises wouldn't be impossible.

In the course of a day, Tampa Bay eliminated three of their biggest needs.This gives the franchise a huge amount of freedom to move in any direction it pleases until the end of the offseason. 

Given that, expect center Jeff Faine to be cut. If not, he will cost just under $17 million through 2014, when his contract expires. The Bucs already had Davin Joseph,a Pro Bowl guard, before signing Carl Nicks, and a less lauded but equally effective guard in Jeremy Zuttah, who was re-signed on March 5th. One of the current offensive guards will probably switch to center, and Faine will be cut. 

Morris Claiborne no longer looks like a surefire No. 5 pick. When the Washington Redskins traded three first-round and one second-round pick to the St. Louis for the Rams' No. 2 overall pick, the Cleveland Browns were left in a tricky spot. Like the Redskins, they wanted to be able to pick quarterback Robert Griffin III, and are now left sitting two spots below the other RG3 suitor.

No. 4 overall, where the Browns currently are set to pick, is too early to select QB Ryan Tannehill or WR Justin Blackmon. Unless Cleveland wants to reach, the team won't draft Tannehill, and Blackmon will not be to produce as long as Colt McCoy is throwing to him. Trent Richardson, a running back, would be an impact performer, but as of late, teams that draft running backs in the Top 10 don't usually fare too well. The only remaining worthy prospect is cornerback Morris Claiborne. 

Many thought the Bucs would draft Claiborne at No. 5, though that probably won't happen. Even if he is left on the board, they have Eric Wright. Neither will Tampa pick a wide receiver in the draft, since they acquired one of the NFL's best.

With needs at linebacker and running back, it is wholly possible that Mark Dominik will draft Trent Richardson, or even trade down for future picks. 

No matter what happens in the draft, Tampa Bay is still set for a good 2012.