Ranking Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Best Remaining Free-Agency Options
The first wave of free agency swept through the NFL with such intensity and upheaval that I expected Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt to make an appearance in the Twitter feed of Adam Schefter, Ian Rapoport or Rand Getlin.
But despite the long list of transactions that have taken place since last Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have quietly cruised through free agency without making much of a splash, as they'd been known to do over the past few offseasons.
Aside from re-signing a few of their own, the Bucs have inked just three new players off the open market, all on defense. Bruce Carter will likely be the team's new starter at middle linebacker, while defensive tackle Henry Melton and safety Chris Conte will help provide Tampa Bay with some much-needed depth.
Many fans have grown impatient with the Bucs' calm, measured approach to free agency this year, but there are still some players on the market who could come in and have a sizable impact for the team in 2015.
Here's my take on the top five names the Bucs should consider signing in the coming days.
5. OL Stefen Wisniewski
Poor offensive line play was one of the biggest reasons Tampa Bay struggled in 2014, whether because of failed big-money signings in free agency or a lack of emphasis put on improving the unit in last year's draft.
If the Bucs want to improve this group, Wisniewski is one of their best options still on the market. A versatile blocker with experience at both guard and center, Wisniewski has 61 NFL starts under his belt and is still just 25 years old.
He's already made a visit to One Buc Place, but he left without a contract. If he makes his rounds and the Bucs are still in the running, it would be a solid signing for a team desperate for quality depth up front.
4. QB Matt Moore
This signing would be the precursor to a likely draft-day trade of Mike Glennon, which would make plenty of sense if the Bucs end up selecting a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick.
If Tampa Bay plans to start their top pick from day one, having an experienced veteran to back him up will be a must. Moore is the best option left on the market at this point.
Though his 11-12 career record as a starter or 33-to-28 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio won't exactly wow any fanbase, Moore is a capable backup who could be counted on for the occasional spot start, if needed.
3. WR Cecil Shorts
Tampa Bay's offense is full of capable weapons, but an experienced slot receiver who can make plays after the catch is still one of their offense's biggest needs.
Injuries are the biggest red flag for Shorts, who has hauled in at least 50 passes in each of the last three seasons. In 2012, Shorts grabbed a career-high seven touchdown passes, despite making just nine starts on the season.
The ceiling has always been high for Shorts, but his durability is a major concern. However, that could make him a bargain if he stays healthy, which is a risk the Bucs should take at the right price.
2. OT Joe Barksdale
Demar Dotson moved from right to left tackle down the stretch in 2014, and it's possible that switch could be permanent. If so, the Bucs need to make a serious upgrade at right tackle before Week 1 of the 2015 season, and Barksdale is their best chance to do that via free agency.
A better run-blocker than pass protector, Barskdale has made 29 starts over the past two seasons and still has plenty of tread on his tires at just 27 years old.
It's a bit of a surprise that a capable tackle still in his prime is available this far into free agency, but Tampa Bay would be wise to take him off the market, as long as the price isn't too steep.
1. DE Greg Hardy
This is obviously a tough one. Hardy is easily one of the most talented players available on the market, but the domestic-violence charges that cut his 2014 season short are extremely concerning.
Hardy racked up 26 sacks over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, proving himself to be one of the best young pass-rushers in the entire NFL. Tampa Bay is desperate for a player who can get after the quarterback with such regularity, especially after admitting a colossal mistake by cutting Michael Johnson, whom the Buccaneers signed to a big free-agent deal last offseason.
Hardy's status for 2015 is still up in the air, as a suspension could sideline him for a lengthy amount of time. Combined with the public-relations difficulty of signing a player charged with domestic violence and you have a recipe for a very delicate situation for the Bucs.
Nobody would blame the Bucs for steering clear of Hardy because of his off-field issues, but he's definitely worth investigating because of his on-field prowess at a position of dire need. He's a Pro Bowl talent, which puts him at the top of this list.