The NFL offseason is in the proverbial home stretch as teams prepare for training camps around the league.
For the Buccaneers, rookies will report this Wednesday, July 18, while veterans are due to report on July 26.
As far as offseason's go, the Bucs have had an adventurous one, to say the least.
They've changed coaching staffs and paid big bucks for upgrades at several positions. Their draft haul included two highly-coveted first rounders, as well as a potential starter in the late second round.
With all that in mind, as the players begin to converge on Tampa early this week, whose stock is rising, and whose is falling?
WR, Preston Parker
Parker enters camp with the confidence of coming off a productive 2011 season in which he hauled in 40 catches for 554 yards and three touchdowns. With the addition of free agent receiver Vincent Jackson, Parker and the rest of the receiving corps stand to benefit the most from single coverage and increased attention paid to Jackson. Look for Parker to use the momentum of last season to possibly supplant Arrelious Benn as the team's third-string receiver.
LB, Mason Foster
It's hard to imagine Foster digressing from his otherwise lackluster rookie season. That said, word from One Buc Place suggests Foster is looking more and more like the linebacker the Bucs had envisioned when they selected him in the third round last offseason. The Bucs' defense style—expected to be a more-aggressive scheme this season—should put Foster in position to make more plays and excel as a young team leader.
As mentioned above, the Bucs have had an unusually high-profile offseason, accentuated by their $140 million free agency splurge in March. Coupled with the recent report that the team would soften its stance on the television blackout requirement as well, the organization has made several good faith efforts to show their once-proud fanbase that it is working hard to regain their trust and loyalty.
DT, Gerald McCoy
McCoy enters his third professional season having missed a total of 13 games combined between each of his first two campaigns. As the team's highest-paid defensive player, McCoy has the added pressure of knowing that if he is unable to stay healthy and finally perform as expected, he is likely entering his final season as a member of the Bucs.
No pressure, Geraldini.
CB, Eric Wright
Although he has yet to play a snap for the Buccaneers, Wright finds himself in the unfortunate position of already having an off-the-field issue on his Tampa Bay resume, regardless of the fact that the charges have since been dropped.
If nothing else, the fact that Wright would even put himself into that position is troubling to say the least, and undoubtedly have some wondering if the Bucs were wrong in investing so much money in him.
QB, Josh Freeman
For Free, the solution is simple: improve his decision-making and a reduction in turnovers is sure to follow. 2011 was a frustrating season on many fronts, but perhaps none-more frustrating than watching the young Buccaneers quarterback take a giant step backwards from a very successful 2010 campaign in which he threw just six interceptions.
The additions of Vincent Jackson and guard Carl Nicks should help, as should the philosophical emphasis of a run-first offensive style. Even so, Freeman enters 2012 with question marks abound, and he will have to erase all doubts that he is in fact the quarterback of the future if he intends on signing an extension next offseason.
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