Do not expect the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to repeat 2012 's
economy-boosting stimulus package free agency spending extravaganza..
No, the team will most likely not fork up multiple eight-figure contracts this free agency period.
Instead, expect the Bucs to sign a few under-the-radar players, and maybe, just maybe, one elite performer with their $30 million (roughly) in cap space.
This slideshow will provide you with predictions for Tampa's 2013 free-agent signings, complete with cap contract values.
So here we go.
As bad as the Bucs pass defense was in 2012 (worst in the league), cornerback E.J. Biggers actually had his moments in the secondary.
Starting 12 out of the 13 games he played, Biggers recorded 41 solo tackles, one sack, seven pass deflections, and one interception.
He was perhaps the best defensive back Tampa had outside of Ronde Barber, which should give the Bucs a very strong incentive to make sure he stays in 2013.
Considering how Eric Wright's contract gives him an annual average $7.5 million, it wouldn't be a stretch to think that Biggers could command that type of money.
But when you consider how Eric Wright hasn't come close to earning that annual average, you'd think the Bucs might be wary of overpaying for a cornerback.
Expect a contract worth a few million less than Wright's on a yearly basis.
CONTRACT: $4.5 million/year, three years, $13.5 million total
Assuming Ronde Barber doesn't retire, it's nearly impossible to imagine him ending up anywhere other than Tampa Bay, where he has spent his entire professional career.
Even in his 16th season, Barber was still the keystone for the Buccaneer defense, and his four interceptions and 71 tackles stand as testament to that fact.
Last year he made $3 million dollars, and seeing as there wasn't any drop-off in his play, it's more likely than not a 2013 contract would be for the same amount.
CONTRACT: $3 million per year, one year
Roscoe Parrish may not have done a thing as a wide receiver, but he was solid as a punt returner, racking up a 9.9 yard average on 30 returns.
For his special teams talent, the Bucs should try to keep Parrish.
CONTRACT: $800,000 per year, two years, $1.6 million total
In his first year as a Buccaneer, defensive end Daniel Te'O-Nesheim started 14 games and recorded four sacks.
As a restricted free agent, the third-year man's services will come cheap, depending on how much the Bucs are willing to spend on his tender.
I'd predict they tender him for the $1.26 million minimum.
CONTRACT: $1.26 million per year, one year
Even if the Bucs re-sign Dallas Clark (I predict they won't), tight end is still not a strength for Tampa.
To remedy that, the team should try to sign James Casey of the Houston Texans.
Casey can play either fullback or tight end and in a run-heavy scheme like the Bucs have, and such versatility can go a long way. He can block and catch (330 receiving yards in 2012), so he could stay on the field for all three downs.
It's hard to say how much a fullback/tight end hybrid would go for on the free-agent market, but anywhere from $2-5 million dollars a year sounds about right for a player of Casey's skill level.
CONTRACT: $3.5 million per year, four years, $14 million total
Until this slide, I hadn't predicted the Bucs spending more than $5 million per year on a free agent once.
With Sean Smith, that will change.
The four-year veteran enters free agency with youth and buckets of potential, so he will get paid as much as he wants.
Smith stands tall at 6'3'', weighs 218 pounds and is just the kind of physical cornerback Greg Schiano loves. In the Bucs defensive scheme, the former Dolphin would make a big splash.
Some fans might worry about his meager five career interceptions, but be assured that Smith plays well even without catching balls not intended for him. In 2012, he forced three fumbles and defended 12 passes, meaning he creates defensive stops in a variety of ways.
Smith would be a great addition to the Tampa Bay secondary, and though the team may be wary of spending big bucks on a cornerback after Eric Wright's struggles, signing the ex-Dolphin would be too good an opportunity to pass up.
CONTRACT: $8 million per year, five years, $40 million total
The six contracts I predict the Bucs to ink will leave the team with around $5 million left in cap space, not including any roster cuts Tampa may make in the coming weeks.
Needs at cornerback and tight end have been fixed, while the departure of unrestricted free agents Michael Bennett and Roy Miller creates holes at defensive end and defensive tackle, which will be filled in the draft.
Though the Bucs don't make any huge moves in this hypothetical scenario, they still emerge with a solid free-agent class.
And that's good enough.