The Buccaneers hit free agency big with Jackson in 2012.
Historically, there are teams that are not very active in the unrestricted free-agent market. The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers are two perfect examples. While each team will sign its “homegrown” players, rarely do the Packers or Steelers spend big money on other teams’ free agents.
Then there are organizations like last year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. General manager Mark Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano knew they needed to do something to get the fans fired up again. So the Buccaneers spent heavy in free agency, locking up wide receiver Vincent Jackson, offensive guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright.
Jackson was one of the best receivers in football, and Nicks was a dominant player until he was placed on injured reserve.
Here are 10 teams that need to be players in free agency in 2013. These franchises either need more talent or need to spend big to show their fans they are serious about winning now.
The first move new Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim should make is getting a quarterback who can win some games. Then, he should sign some offensive linemen that can block for said quarterback.
The Cardinals were terrible in the passing game and blocking last season and need quick upgrades to compete in one of the best divisions in the NFL. The market for a starting quarterback is not good, so Keim will have to work to trade for a player like Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers.
The quality of free-agent offensive linemen is very high, though, so look for the Cardinals to sign at least two players. Offensive tackles Jake Long, Branden Albert, Ryan Clady and Andre Smith are instant upgrades. At offensive guard, there is quality depth for the Cardinals front office to choose from.
The Buffalo Bills went out last season and made a splash by signing defensive end Mario Williams to a mega-contract. Williams got a $19 million signing bonus and $50 million guaranteed. The Bills need to do that same thing again.
The Bills have two of their own free agents they need to sign: offensive guard Andy Levitre and safety Jairus Byrd. If they can lock those two players up, the Bills should still have enough cap space to acquire a top-tier wide receiver or a linebacker.
Stevie Johnson is a solid player, but the Bills could use another playmaker alongside him. New England's Wes Welker would be a great stabilizer for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. At linebacker, the Bills have a steady group, but they do not have a difference-maker.
A player like Oakland's Philip Wheeler or Baltimore's Dannell Ellerbe would give that unit some juice.
Former general manager Marty Hurney spent a lot of money on his own players, and only linebacker Jon Beason and defensive end Charles Johnson earned their paydays. That being said, both probably would never have gotten those contracts on the open market.
The Carolina Panthers front office needs to hit on this free-agent class to stay competitive in the NFC South. The team could especially use an upgrade in the secondary.
Neither starting cornerback Josh Norman nor Chris Gamble are elite. Both safeties, Haruki Nakamura and Charles Godfrey, are solid players, but are not game-changers. The Panthers need to add a cornerback like the Steelers' Keenan Lewis or the Falcons' Brent Grimes.
At safety, the 49ers' Dashon Goldson would be the perfect addition.
The Cleveland Browns have a new head coach in Rob Chudzinski and a new "pseudo" general manager in Mike Lombardi. The Browns need to win more games, and hitting big in free agency will help bring some fire back to fans that deserve a contender.
The Browns have good young playmakers in place on offense, but a complementary running back to spell Trent Richardson is a must. The Dolphins' Reggie Bush would be a great fit. Bush does not need to take a beating, but would add a fantastic dimension to the Browns' offensive attack.
On the defensive side of the football, the Browns need a dynamic right rush end. Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin are beasts up front, but the Browns need another player that can press the edge.
New defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who will run a hybrid 3-4 defense, would love to add a player like the Chargers' Shaun Phillips, the Bengals' Michael Johnson, the Lions' Cliff Avril or Osi Umenyiora from the New York Giants.
The Detroit Lions released defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch this week. While that is not huge news, the cut is a big move, as the Lions have 13 players who are unrestricted free agents on defense.
With Vanden Bosch gone, the Lions could be without seven starters from 2012, according to Ourlads.com.
The Lions need to hit free agency hard on the defensive side of the football, but will have to be smart. Before this week’s cuts, the team did not have any room in cap space.
The Lions will gain more space once Cliff Avril’s franchise tag is lifted. They can add value and get good players by signing the likes of Raiders defensive end Matt Shaughnessy or the Texans' Connor Barwin. Green Bay Packers linebacker Brad Jones or the Vikings' Erin Henderson make the Lions better while making an NFC North opponent weaker.
The Indianapolis Colts were the Cinderella team of the NFL in 2012 and rallied behind head coach Chuck Pagano. But the Colts are not a deep team and will need to add some quality players in free agency.
Indianapolis needs a major upgrade at defensive tackle, and a perfect fit is Henry Melton of the Chicago Bears. The former Texas Longhorn brings instant pass rush to the interior of the Colts.
The Colts also need to replace outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, and who better than a player Pagano coached in Baltimore, Paul Kruger? If the Colts can add those two pass-rushers, they will take pressure off the team's linebackers and secondary.
Do not be surprised if Indianapolis adds a cornerback like the Dolphins' Sean Smith as well.
The Jacksonville Jaguars need to find players who can get the fans back in the stands. A healthy Maurice Jones-Drew will help, but the Jaguars need quarterback Blaine Gabbert to step up his game as well.
They also need help along the offensive line and at cornerback. They could lose starting center Brad Meester and left guard Eben Britton to retirement and free agency, respectively.
Jacksonville needs to hope the Bills do not sign re-sign Andy Levitre. It should pay him top dollar to get blocking for Gabbert.
At cornerback, both Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox are free agents. The Jaguars have a players' coach in Gus Bradley running the ship and should make a run at the best cornerback in the class, Aqib Talib.
Bradley helped nurture Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner into two of the best in the NFL. Surely, he can handle Talib.
General manager Jeff Ireland needs to get more playmakers at wide receiver, so look for him to make a run at the Steelers' Mike Wallace and the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe.
Many pundits will say the Miami Dolphins have already pegged Green Bay's Greg Jennings for Miami, but Jennings has an extensive injury history and might price himself out of the Dolphins' market.
Others believe there is no way Bowe fits due to head coach Joe Philbin’s disciplinary system that ran off Brandon Marshall and Chad Johnson. Bowe may be moody at times, but when made a vital part of the game plan, he has proved he is as good as any receiver in the NFL.
The Dolphins have plenty of room under the cap to get both Wallace and Bowe. Those moves would excite the Dolphins fans and give second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill support to grow as a player in 2013.
No team in the NFL needs a makeover more than the New York Jets. New general manager John Idzik understands how making the right moves can take a team like the Seattle Seahawks from the bottom to the top almost overnight. Look for Idzik to be cautiously aggressive in free agency.
The Jets have the whole Darrelle Revis issue to deal with, but before that is solved, finding a playmaking safety is vital. Look for the Jets to pursue the Ravens' Ed Reed, who had tons of success under Rex Ryan in Baltimore. New York could also weaken an AFC East rival by signing Jairus Byrd at safety.
Running back Shonn Greene is a free agent and does not look to be in the Jets' plans. The Rams' Steven Jackson, the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw or the Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall will all get strong consideration to line up in New York's backfield in 2013.
New general manager Tom Telesco earned his stripes under Bill Polian, and last year, learned from Ryan Grigson in Indianapolis. Telesco understands drafting will build for the future, but winning now keeps fans coming back to the stadium. In a city where most games are blacked out, Telesco knows he needs to win this year.
The San Diego Chargers need depth at running back behind oft-injured Ryan Mathews, so look for them to add a player like Peyton Hillis of the Chiefs or Felix Jones of the Cowboys.
The defense could lose both starting cornerbacks and three starters along the defensive line. Dallas' Anthony Spencer would fit nicely at the outside linebacker position. Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks and the Raiders' Richard Seymour have had success in the 3-4 defense and add veteran leadership to that side of the football.