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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Blueprint for Winning Free Agency

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Blueprint for Winning Free Agency
Uncredited/Associated Press

It's time to get some new players in those new Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniforms.

The real action of the 2014 NFL offseason is set to begin as free agency opens on March 11. It will be the first opportunity for Bucs fans to see what kind of team new head coach Lovie Smith intends to build.

"Winning" free agency is something of a misnomer. A team might sign the most coveted free agents in the offseason but then lose games during the actual season. This used to be an annual tradition for Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins.

Some might claim the Bucs "won" free agency during the 2012 offseason, signing wide receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright. After years of frugality, the Bucs splurged on some of the biggest names on the market.

As Bucs fans now know, "winning" free agency is a fleeting notion. Jackson turned out to be a great signing and fulfilled his promise as the team's premier receiver.

Nicks caught the injury bug and too rarely saw game action. Eric Wright was a tremendous bust almost from the start. His play was mediocre and his suspension for using performance-enhancing substances put the team in a serious bind.

The 2012 offseason should serve as a warning to the Bucs and their fans. Truly "winning" free agency means filling the roster's round holes with round pegs, with players who fit the team philosophy.

It means retaining the team's own free agents, the guys who are peaking in their development and elevate the team's overall play. It means signing smart contracts that attract the right talent and don't jeopardize the salary cap in the coming years.

It also means staging the team for an ideal draft by meeting the roster's needs so as to take advantage of the draft's talent for the right value.

Here is the blueprint for the Buccaneers to truly "win" free agency and set the team up for success for both the remaining offseason and the regular season.

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