After the way the Bucs have thrown Monopoly money around the past few off-seasons, I'm sure there are some disappointed that same spending did not take place this free agency period. Hell, I might have been one of those fans, but maybe the Bucs, as an organization, have figured out this whole free agency thing. I'm here to tell you that the Bucs approach this off-season might be their best approach in five years.
The Bucs haven't given us much to cheer about during the regular season, so for Bucs fans like me, the only cheering we've done is during the off-season. The Bucs have been the off-season champions over the past few years. It's been the most exciting part of the organization over that time. Well, with free agents come overpaid contracts and average talent. The Bucs have nailed it with both of those aspects.
Look at the Bucs prized free agency signings over the past few years:
Remember in 2012 when the Bucs finally became active and won free agency by signing Vincent Jackson, but also broke the bank on Carl Nicks and Eric Wright? We'll get to Jackson, an anomaly in a second, but neither Nicks or Wright lasted two seasons with the Bucs.
In 2013, the Bucs crushed the off-season with the signing of safety Dashon Goldson to a huge contract and traded for Darrelle Revis and also signed him to a new huge contract. A year later, Revis was flat-out released with the Bucs losing their 2013 1st round pick and a 4th round pick in 2014. Goldson has been under fire since signing his big contract, but due to guaranteed money, releasing him didn't make much sense until now. There are still rumors that Goldson will be released this off-season.
The Bucs might have been the biggest off-season winners they ever were after they attacked free agency in 2014. The initial wave of signings included DE Michael Johnson, DT Clinton McDonald, and CB Alterraun Verner. Those moves were followed quickly by QB Josh McCown and OT Anthony Collins. Johnson, McCown, and Collins have all been released already. That "great" off-season of last year led to the Bucs having a 2-14 record and the 1st pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Coming off of one of their worst seasons in franchise history, many thought it would be another busy off-season for the Bucs. Instead, the Bucs have smartly played it safe. The Bucs didn't overpay for free agents like Mike Iupati, DeMarco Murray, Ndamukong Suh, or others. The Bucs got a player in Bruce Carter, whom they hope can be their middle linebacker on a 4-year deal worth $17 million and just $4.25 million in guaranteed money. Both Chris Conte and Henry Melton were signed to just 1-year deals. This is how teams should approach free agency.
There can always be diamonds in the rough when it comes to free agency. Vincent Jackson has lived up to what the Bucs wanted when they signed him. Julius Peppers was everything the Bears wanted. Elvis Dumervil has been great for the Ravens. The Saints have had no complaints about Drew Brees. Free agency is not a negative way to build your team, but it should be used to supplement your team, not completely build it.
If you want your team to be successful, focus more on the draft, the development of those drafted players, and resigning those players once their initial contracts near their end. Let's not forget that the Bucs locked Gerald McCoy into an 8-year contract, and they'll be locking up Lavonte David soon as well.
That's how you build a championship team!
That's how you "win the off-season."
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