The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are only a few weeks away from reaching the 2013 NFL free-agency signing period, when unrestricted free agents who were not re-signed will be free to test the waters and join what ever team they would like.
Last year, the Bucs made a huge splash in free agency, signing receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright, who all made big contributions in 2012.
This slideshow will take a look at the latest free-agency buzz surrounding the Bucs and whether we can believe it or not.
All stats provided by ESPN.com.
This makes sense, but only if Tampa manages to re-sign Michael Bennett, brother of Martellus.
At this point, that's a big if (more on that later).
Martellus on his own could make sense, however. Always a strong blocker, Bennett also had his best season as a receiver last season, recording career highs of 55 receptions and 628 receiving yards. Don't count out his 35 first downs either.
Signing Martellus would benefit the run game, but he would not be that much of a step above Dallas Clark, the Bucs' current tight end, if at all better.
For that reason this rumor sounds like a fairly large:
Where to begin with Michael Bennett?
Let's start off by describing his on-field performance; it's fantastic and incredibly underrated.
In 2012, Bennett totaled nine sacks, 10 stuffed runs, three forced fumbles and 34 solo tackles. The stats don't tell you that in his 16 starts, Bennett was the bedrock of the Buccaneers defensive line and a major factor in Tampa having the league's best run defense.
Bennett is clearly important to the Buccaneers' success.
He'll be re-signed for sure, right?
Not so fast.
According to Stephen Holder of The Tampa Bay Times, Bennett will likely test free agency.
Yet, the Bucs could always use the franchise tag on him.
So what is it?
Will Bennett stay or will he go?
Considering how vital Bennett has been to any defensive success the Bucs have had, it's hard to imagine the front office letting him walk.
For those who don't know, Roy Miller was Tampa's other starting defensive tackle (the one who's not Gerald McCoy) for much of 2012.
He was pretty solid against the sun, but had zero impact as a pass-rusher, failing to pick up a single sack over 15 games.
As the NFL becomes more and more pass-happy, it doesn't make sense to pay guys who can't rush the quarterback on a consistent basis.
Because of that, the Bucs should let Miller walk and try to pick up a pass-rushing interior lineman.
Direct from Mark Dominik (via Roy Cummings of The Tampa Tribune), we have a rumor that the Bucs will be big players in free agency.
The Tampa Tribune reports that Tampa's general manager said the following:
That has actually opened a lot of cap room for us going into 2013 – a tremendous amount. We've got a chance to be (heavily) involved in free agency again.
But we also have a chance to try to retain this nucleus of players. So (the contract restructuring) was a big commitment that our owners made and I think that should be encouraging for all fans about our football team.
With $30.1 million of cap room to spend and an already proved commitment to improving the franchise (see: 2012 NFL Free Agency), there's no reason not to believe the Bucs will open their wallets once again and sign some elite talent.