"I like competition," said Gruden. "I heard a guy on TV say that maybe I put a little too much pressure on some of the guys. But I think pressure brings out the best in all of us –coaches and players. I don't think you ever get totally satisfied with any aspect of your football. You can never have enough talented men to play this game and wide receiver is just part of that whole picture."
Tampa Bay re-signed WR Karl Williams last week and they added veteran wide receivers Joe Jurevicius, Keith Poole and E.G. Green to their roster earlier this offseason. Last weekend, the parade of receivers continued through One Buc Place when the Bucs selected WR Marquise Walker in the third round of the draft. They all join Pro Bowl WR Keyshawn Johnson and young prospects like Frank Murphy, Milton Wynn and Darryl Daniel.
Sure, the Bucs have significantly upgraded the wide receiver position from a year ago, but with several free agent wide receivers still available and others scheduled to join them on June 1, don't think the Pewter Pirates are done shopping for receivers just yet.
"(Joe) Jurevicius, Marquise Walker and Keyshawn Johnson give us three of the biggest guys in the league," said Gruden. "We're not done addressing that position. There's still a chance we could add to that group."
By June 1, there will be at least a handful of veteran wide receivers available in the free agent market. It's not that teams don't want to sign these players, they just can't afford them. Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson wouldn't be surprised if Tampa Bay added another receiver to the roster between now and training camp.
"All indications tell me they'll (the Bucs) probably try to go out and try to get another guy to come in and give us a hand," Johnson said.
The Bucs would be in the same boat as most of the league in terms of limited salary cap room, but by restructuring cornerback Ronde Barber's contract and signing fullback Mike Alstott to a new and more cap-friendly four-year contract, Tampa Bay still has some room to maneuver under the salary cap.
Let's take a look at two of the wide receivers that could interest the Bucs if they remain out on the free agent market
Cris Carter (6-3, 208) Ohio State 36-years-old
Carter should be a St. Louis Ram or a Cleveland Brown, but he had some sort of miscommunication while negotiating with both teams, which caused them to lose interest in Carter. He's not getting any younger, but Carter is still a very durable and productive player at 36 (turns 37 in November). He has 129 career touchdowns along with 1,093 receptions. Last season, Carter caught just 68 passes and six touchdowns as the Vikings imploded. Some whispers from around the league have labeled Carter as a malcontent, which could be one reason why he's still unemployed.
Michael Westbrook (6-3, 221) Colorado 29-years-old (turns 30 in July)
Westbrook's recent injuries have hurt his value out on the free agent market, but he played in all 16 of Washington's regular season games last season. He also hauled in the second highest reception total of his career with 57 in 2001. Westbrook has some character issues as well, which might be the reason why the Bucs have not expressed interest in obtaining his services.
As for June 1 cap casualties, it looks like there could be at least four of them.
Marcus Robinson (Chicago) (6-3, 215) South Carolina 27-years-old.
Robinson hasn't been the same since the 1999 season, when he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. Injuries have been the main reason for the decline in his production. He only played 11 games in 2000 and just five games last season. If Robinson doesn't agree to restructure his contract, the Bears could release him on June 1.
Antonio Freeman (Green Bay) (6-1, 198) Virginia Tech 29-years-old.
Freeman has been labeled by some as a locker room cancer. His production has declined since the 1999 season. Over the last two seasons, he's averaged 57 catches per season. Freeman has not attended any of the team's offseason workouts and will not attend the mini-camps. All signs suggest Freeman will be released or traded by June 1.
Derrick Alexander (Kansas City) (6-2, 206) Michigan 30-years-old
Alexander, who is probably the fastest of all of the soon-to-be-available receivers, has 39 career touchdowns and caught a career-high 78 passes in 2000, but he only played in 13 games last season and caught just 27 passes. The Chiefs have given Alexander permission to start negotiating with other teams while he awaits his June 1 release. Alexander is reportedly negotiating with the Minnesota Vikings.
Keenan McCardell (Jacksonville) (6-1, 191) UNLV 32-years-old
McCardell is likely Tampa Bay's best bet. As a current Florida resident, McCardell has expressed an interest in playing for the Bucs, but once McCardell becomes a free agent, others teams will likely express interest in McCardell, too, which may drive up his asking price past what the Bucs are willing to pay. McCardell has 38 career touchdowns and has hauled in 90 or more receptions in each of the last two seasons.
By drafting Walker last weekend, Tampa Bay doesn't feel the need to acquire any of these receivers. But with so few teams able to afford them, expect the Bucs to make a serious push to add one more veteran receiver to their roster before training camp starts in mid-July.
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