3 Moves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Should Make in Free Agency
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to need to do a lot of revamping to compete in the AFC South.
Though the Buccaneers increased their win total from four in 2011 to seven in 2012, there is room for improvement.
They have good prospects for the future, with quarterback Josh Freeman having a nice rebound season, rookie sensation Doug Martin rushing for over 1,400 yards and Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson forming a formidable receiving duo. The Bucs also featured the No. 1 run defense in 2012, based on yards allowed.
But in a division as competitive as the NFC South, the Bucs will need to make the most of their $32.2 million in cap space.
If the Bucs make the right moves, they could be in contention for a playoff spot in 2013 in a great division.
Grab Brent Grimes from Atlanta
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The secondary is the biggest area of need for the Buccaneers. Without a question, their pass defense was a disaster in 2012.
After it traded Aqib Talib to New England, Tampa Bay just had no legitimate cornerbacks besides Eric Wright.
The Bucs allowed opposing quarterbacks to pass for 297.4 yard per game on average, which ranked dead last in the NFL. Included in those 300 yards are the 76.7 yards opposing No. 1 receivers averaged against them.
Brent Grimes is a perfect solution to the Buccaneers' woes. After facing Grimes the last six seasons with the divisional rival Falcons, the Bucs are familiar with what he brings to the table. Though he is not the biggest or most talented corner in the league, he is quick and plays well on the ball, shown by his 11 interceptions from 2009-10.
Grimes will likely command less money this offseason than he would have any other year due to an Achilles injury that caused him to miss almost the entire 2012 season. If the Bucs can get him at a reasonable deal, it will leave them plenty of cap space to address their other areas of need.
Former Eagles corner back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should come at a reasonable price. He struggled in 2012 in Philadelphia, but during his three seasons with the Cardinals from 2008-10, he played in every game and intercepted 13 passes.
Sign Martellus Bennett
The possible departure of last year's starting tight end, Dallas Clark, creates a void at that position for Tampa Bay.
Martellus Bennett burst into prominence last year as the Giants' primary tight end. He established himself as one of the most versatile tight ends in the game. He reeled in 55 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns.
The 6'6" Bennett would give Josh Freeman a great receiving threat to go along with Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.
As a blocker, Bennett was a huge asset to the Giants last season. He helped out immensely in both pass and run blocking. If he can help give Freeman even more protection, that would be nice. Additionally, he could help running back Doug Martin in his sophomore season.
Daniel Fells of the Patriots could be a nice tight end to make a trade for. The Patriots are loaded at the position, with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski already on the roster and Jake Ballard due back from injury in 2013. Fells should come cheap, and is a great blocker, though not much of a factor in the pass game.
Re-Sign Michael Bennett
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The Buccaneers got very little production from their pass rushing in 2012, finishing the season with just 26.0 sacks, tied for 29th in the NFL.
That low total is a big reason why the Bucs struggled so much defending the pass. Once they fill their need at cornerback, they should look to getting guys who can get pressure on the quarterback.
The good news is that they will get back Adrian Clayborn, who missed most of last season due to injury, but showed promise with 7.5 sacks in his rookie campaign of 2011.
The bad news is they may be without unrestricted free agent Michael Bennett. Bennett, still just 27 years old, led the team with nine sacks in 2012. Though good pass rushers are at a premium, and Bennett will likely command a big contract, the Buccaneers need to do what they can to keep him in Tampa Bay.
Beyond Bennett, the Bucs are pretty thin at defensive end. Their other sack leaders at the position were Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Da'Quan Bowers, who combined for just seven sacks in 2012. Without Bennett, that unit will be even less frightful than it was last season.
If the Bucs lose Bennett to free agency, they could consider longtime Giants defensive end, Osi Umeyiora. Because he is 31 years old and recorded just 6.0 sacks last season, his price tag will be a little cheaper than it was in the past.