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Leftwich, Winslow Head Short List of Bucs Signings

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Leftwich, Winslow Head Short List of Bucs Signings
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

If you are looking for holes in the 2009 Tampa Bay Bucs, picture the pirate ship in the Bucs home end zone taking on water.

There are a lot of holes for a team that claims it is trying to make it back to the playoffs in a difficult NFC South.

New coach Raheem Morris said that he took the Bucs job, after the firing of former coach Jon Gruden, because he believed he was inheriting a team that was committed to winning.

That may be true, but the Bucs tried to fill a slew of holes with a marginal running back and an injury-prone tight end while dumping the contracts of wide receiver Joey Galloway, potential Hall-of-Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks, starting linebacker Kato June, and running back Warrick Dunn.

They also let quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese walk away, so the pirate ship is definitely taking on water

The Bucs didn't address their biggest immediate needs in the draft. They went with Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman, trading up to get him in the first round.

Freeman can throw and has the chance to be a solid NFL quarterback. The problem is that it may take until 2011 before he takes the field. Until then, journeyman Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich will battle it out for the top spot.

McCown feels it is his job to lose. Leftwich, one of the few free agent pickups for the Bucs, claims he was brought in to compete for the starting job. Whoever wins out is only keeping the spot warm for Freeman in two years.

Wide receiver is another problem. Antonio Bryant and Mark Clayton are at the top of the depth chart, mostly because there's not much behind them.

Anquon Boldin, a local player from Florida State, has been asking for a trade, but Bucs General Manager Mark Dominik has denied any interest in Boldin. Boldin, like Clayton and Bryant, is not a speed merchant, but McCown has to have someone to throw to.

The Bucs needed a quick defensive lineman to play the role that Warren Sapp perfected during his stint with the Bucs. They also needed a strong wide receiver and a defensive back to complement last year's breakout rookie Aquib Talib. A running back would have been nice on draft day, but Dominik said he thinks they solved that witt the signing of Ward.

As far as filling the receiver hole, Winslow is a stretch. He caused problems in Cleveland and, while the Bucs have always been a home to wayward football players, Winslow is also injury-prone and joining a team that has never looked for its tight ends to catch a lot of passes since Jimmie Giles back in the late 1970s.

The Bucs rolled the dice taking a quarterback with so many holes to fill elsewhere and knowing they had no second round draft pick.

They finally chose defensive tackle Roy Miller in the third round. Miller, who starred at Texas, is a 300 lbs load who can stuff the round and has the strength and attitude to resemble a young Sapp, but he doesn't have the kind of speed that goes well with the Tampa Two defense. He won't get a lot of sacks, but he can stop the run and may start immediately.

In the fourth round, the Bucs took defensive end Kyle Moore from USC, but he is also a run tackle who critics say may have been a product of his program.

The Bucs still haven't addressed the defensive backfield or wide receiver problems. Boldin may be available at a cost, Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer are still on the free agent block and Burriss might be worth a gamble for a team that is known to take gambles on players with problems off the field.

A longshot might be Joe Jurevicius, a throwback to the 2002 Super Bowl championship team.

As for defensive back, Ty Law is out there once again and Lawyer Malloy is a leader that might fit with a young backfield

The Bucs have money. They are currently $31 million under the salary cap and $15 million under the salary cap floor. It's a matter of Dominik deciding whether the Bucs should spend it now or later.

Count on at least one more signing between now and June. It likely won't be a blockbuster but just someone to allow the Bucs to meet the floor. There's simply not a lot of players still asking for work that fit the needs of the Bucs.

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