Yeah, I know. The headline is a major newsflash, huh? If you're a follower of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you know this already.
So get the visions of Julius Peppers terrorizing quarterbacks in the pewter and red out of your noggin. Forget Karlos Dansby providing the much needed leadership in the Buccaneers linebacking core. Don't even think about Vince Wilfork plugging that big ole hole in the middle of the Buccaneers defensive line.
It's not going to happen, folks.
Unless the Buccaneers are putting up the mother of all smokescreens, Tampa Bay is not going to be a big time player in free agency.
Will they sign some guys? Certainly, but you're talking Jimmy Wilkerson types. Guys like Stylz White who come in on "prove it" contracts that require little to no signing bonus or guaranteed money.
This economic reality won't prevent the Bucs from trying to find some answers in the veteran meat market.
We know the Bucs need a veteran backup quarterback, and Chad Pennington would be a perfect fit. Yet, his price tag is likely way too high, even coming off a major injury. A more likely guy the Bucs might have their eye on is someone like Mark Bulger, who, if released by the Rams, could be reunited with his old QB coach Greg Olsen, the Bucs' offensive coordinator.
Rex Grossman—yes, that one—could be another option to provide a veteran backup behind Josh Freeman.
With guard Aaron Sears a question mark, Jeremy Zuttah not strong enough in the running game, and Jeremy Trueblood a walking false start and personal foul, the Bucs could use some help along the offensive line.
Again, thanks to the new rules in the uncapped year, there's not much to choose from. Older veterans Tra Thomas and Orlando Pace aren't quite what they once were. Guys like Tony Pashos and Rex Hadnot could be bargain buys but are they really that much of an upgrade over current Buccaneers personnel?
The pickings are pretty slim at wide receiver, another need position on offense for Tampa Bay. One guy who has some good production and may not command a huge contract on the open market is Houston's wide out Kevin Walter. Walter has been solid since coming to the Texans, pulling down 178 passes for 2,310 yards and 14 touchdowns. Bobby Wade, Josh Reed, and former Giants' Super Bowl hero David Tyree could be options as well.
There's trade possibilities galore at the position with both Denver's Brandon Marshall and Arizona's Anquan Boldin on the block. Both played their "college ball" in the state of Florida and may welcome a return to a no-state tax residence. But both will be seeking new large deals from their new team. The Bucs aren't spending money, remember?
Free agency's bell cows are certainly on the defensive side of the ball, with the aforementioned Peppers, Dansby, and Wilfork leading the class.
Joining Peppers and Wilfork on the defensive line are more moderately priced Aaron Kampman, Jason Babin, Adewale Ogunleye, Derrick Burgess, and Kyle Vanden Bosche. According to Pewter Report, the Bucs have had their eye on Kampman for some time and if the price is right he could be one player they target. Gator alum Ian Scott has been a backup with the Bears for a couple seasons but is still relatively young and can play in the Tampa Two hybrid head coach Raheem Morris will be employing.
The Bucs would love competition for their starters at linebacker, and Dansby certainly fits that bill but he will likely be way out the Bucs' price range. If Gary Brackett hits the free agency scene, he'd definitely be a target for the Buccaneers. Angelo Crowell can play all three positions and wants to return to Tampa Bay. Pisa Tinoisamoa has starting experience and is still young enough to make an impact.
In the secondary, the Buccaneers definitely need some help on the outside. And the good news for Tampa Bay is that a lot of good, still young corners are available. One name that jumps off the page is the Texans' Dunta Robinson. Robinson was Houston's franchise player in 2009, but he struggled with no interceptions in 16 games this season, which could potentially bring his asking price down. He would be a little more expensive than the Bucs may be willing to part with, but he would be the perfect replacement for Ronde Barber and an excellent choice to tandem with Aquib Talib.
If Robinson commands too much money, there's Roderick Hood, Leigh Bodden (a player the Bucs had interest in last season), Gator Keiwan Ratliff, and veteran Ken Lucas.
With the regression of Sabby Piscitelli and the substance abuse issues of Tanard Jackson, safety is a huge concern. Philadelphia's Sean Jones could be a terrific addition to the safety core. Jones has had an injury-plagued start to his career but still has managed to pull down 16 interceptions and 30 passes defensed in six seasons with the Eagles. With injury concerns, his price tag may be in the Bucs range.
If the Bucs want to go a little older, Kevin Kaesviharn, Ryan Clark, and Mike Brown could provide some much needed leadership similar to the impact Darren Sharper made in New Orleans.
Competition will definitely be brought in for kicker Connor Barth and punter Josh Bidwell. Whether or not it comes from a veteran or rookie, free agency really relies on the price tag. But if the Bucs decide to test the free agent marker looking for a kicker, there are some intriguing choices.
Shayne Graham, Jeff Reed, and Tampa-native Jay Feely all have put together solid careers.
Ageless Mitch Berger and Jeff Feagles are probably too long in the tooth to replace Bidwell.
The Bucs have already gone on record saying their primary focus is on the 2010 NFL Draft. With four picks in the first 99, the team may likely choose to forego free agency all together and hope to fill most of their holes in the draft room.
It's definitely the cheaper route...and that's music to the Glazers' ears.
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