5 Available Free Agents Still Within Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Reach
The early bird may get the worm, but I'm willing to bet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are tired of of the fish-bait free agents they've broken the bank for over the past few offseasons.
This time around, the Bucs have taken a more conservative approach, only making a handful of under-the-radar signings that shouldn't lead to the same level of disappointment brought on by the likes of Michael Johnson, Anthony Collins, Josh McCown, Dashon Goldson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright.
Most of the dust has settled on the open market, but the Bucs still have a few needs to fill and could use more depth across the roster, and there are still a handful of players available who could end up being good fits.
Which available free agents would make sense for Tampa Bay this year? Let's take a look.
OT Joe Barksdale
The Bucs need some serious help along the offensive line but have yet to make any moves in free agency to address neither the starting spots at right guard and tackle nor their need for added depth across the board.
If the Bucs are comfortable making Demar Dotson's move to left tackle permanent, bringing in Barksdale to handle the duties on the right side should be an option.
He's not a flashy name, but Barksdale would be an upgrade over what the Bucs currently have at the position and would give them added flexibility in the early rounds of the draft.
WR Jerrel Jernigan
A former third-round pick out of Troy, Jernigan never delivered on high expectations for the Giants, thanks in part to injuries. Missing most of the 2014 season to a mid-foot sprain, the former Trojan managed just six receptions for 40 yards before landing on injured reserve.
Jernigan flashed some ability in 2013, catching 29 passes for 329 yards and a pair of touchdowns and adding another score on the ground.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported Jernigan recently had a tryout with the Bucs but remains unsigned. He has the potential to be useful as a slot receiver if he's able to stay healthy, and clearly the Bucs have some interest.
If they're not able to address that role in the draft, Jernigan could be a worthwhile option.
OL Stefen Wisniewski
Injuries are inevitable in the NFL, making depth and versatility two huge factors for teams trying to build a successful offensive line.
That being the case, a player like Wisniewski—who has the ability to play either guard or center—could be a useful addition for the Bucs.
Evan Dietrich-Smith should return as the Bucs' starting center, but he wasn't terribly effective last season and could use some young depth behind him. At the same time, Tampa Bay's starting right guard spot is still up in the air, and Wisniewski could end up being an upgrade there should the Bucs not address the position early in the draft.
The former Raider has already met with the Bucs and other teams but has yet to sign anywhere. At this point in free agency, he should come fairly cheap and would be an upgrade in more than one way for the Bucs.
LB Jacquian Williams
Another former Giant on the Bucs' radar, Williams is a special teams standout who could also help improve depth in a thin linebacker group.
A Tampa native who played his college ball at South Florida, Williams was having the best season of his career in 2014 before landing on injured reserve following a concussion. In nine starts last season, Williams tallied 77 tackles and knocked away three passes.
According to Justin Pawlowski of BucsBlitz.com, Tampa Bay has already shown interest in Williams, who wouldn't need to start for the Bucs but would provide improved depth behind starters Lavonte David, Danny Lansanah and the newly signed Bruce Carter.
G Dan Connolly
Just before the start of the 2014 regular season, the Bucs swung a trade with the Patriots to bring in a veteran guard. This year, it's possible Tampa Bay could bring in another experienced name from New England to man the other guard spot.
Connolly has already visited with the Bucs but remains available, likely due to his being 32 years old. Still, the Bucs have an extremely young roster that could potentially use another veteran presence in the locker room.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht spent plenty of time working in the Pats' front office, where he had a front-row seat to watch Connolly. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Bucs bring him in on a one-year deal to help solidify their weakness on the right side of the line.