Flynn's Focus: Let The Bidding Begin

June 2 – The NFL waiver wire had the weekend off, which is why no players were released on June 1. On Monday, the waiver wire will see plenty of action as teams start to release players in salary camp maneuvers. So, will the Bucs land WR Keenan McCardell, MLB Hardy Nickerson, or both? This installment of Flynn's Focus explains why the Pewter Pirates may not land either player in the upcoming wave of free agency.

Flynn's Focus appears weekly on PewterReport.com
Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com
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Do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to sign wide receiver Keenan McCardell and middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson after Jacksonville releases them both? Yes. Will the Bucs land one or both of these players? Maybe, or maybe not.

Don't Count Your Chickens Before They've Hatched
The Buccaneers are interested in signing one or two players after teams start to release players in salary cap maneuvers on Monday. Some have already pencilled McCardell and Nickerson's names onto Tampa Bay's roster, which could lead to a huge let down as there is absolutely no guarantee that one or both of those players will sign with the Bucs.

There are a lot of things that could keep one or both of these players from boarding the Pewter Pirates' ship. Let's take a look.

The Auction?
Well, maybe June 1 in the NFL isn't exactly an auction. After all, the highest bidder doesn't always necessarily get to purchase the item, or in this case, the player.

The Bucs are not the only team interested in obtaining McCardell and Nickerson's services. The Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans will reportedly make a run at McCardell. If McCardell is indeed the player the Bucs want, the Texans could rain on the Bucs' parade as the league's newest team has the most money to spend out of any of the teams interested in McCardell.

Even if the Bucs had the cap room to compete with the Texans, Tampa Bay has stated that they are not willing to break their bank in order to sign a player(s) after June 1, especially for a wide receiver.

"It's been written and talked about that we'll look at the receiver position post-June 1 and we will," Bucs general manager Rich McKay said. "I think the nice thing is, when we were able to add (Joe) Jurevicius and Marquis Walker, we now like the depth we have for six wide receivers, if you will from top to bottom. We got into the season and we can start the season and I think Jon (Gruden) is comfortable saying we're good enough. But if one or two guys were available that would fit what we need, or like to have, we'll go after them."

As for Nickerson, the Green Bay Packers will reportedly pursue the 36-year-old linebacker. The Packers don't have the type of cap room that the Texans have, but Green Bay may be willing to overpay Nickerson. Although the Bucs will take a look at bringing Nickerson back to Tampa Bay, they are not willing to overpay him at this point in his career.

The more teams bid for these player's services, the more the player's asking price rises, which may eliminate Tampa Bay from contention rather quickly. The Bucs have approximately $2.5 million to spend in free agency, which would make it extremely tough for Tampa Bay to sign one of these players, never mind both of them.

Yes, all of the above information might have put a damper on the June 1 hype surrounding the Bucs, but if you are really hoping McCardell and/or Nickerson will land in Tampa Bay, you might like the second half of this column better than the first half.

Free Agency Is A Two-Way Street
As my colleague Scott Reynolds always says, free agency is a two-way street. With that said, the Bucs still could sign both McCardell and Nickerson.

McCardell has reportedly expressed an interest in playing for Bucs head coach Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay. If McCardell is indeed interested in playing with the Bucs, he might be willing to take less money to play in Tampa Bay, just as free agent players like tight end Ken Dilger, quarterback Rob Johnson and wide receiver Joe Jurevicius did this offseason.

Nickerson will turn 37 in September and the only thing he's missing at this point in his career is a Super Bowl ring. If Nickerson does not retire after the Jags release him, it would certainly make sense for him to finish his career in Tampa Bay. Nickerson played for the Bucs for seven years (1993-99'). Nickerson thrived in Tampa Bay's defensive scheme and he may not want to enter a new system at this point in his career. Nickerson left Tampa Bay and their two-year contract offer for a bigger payday in Jacksonville when he became an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 1999 season. If the Bucs are to sign Nickerson, he will likely have to take less money than he could earn elsewhere. How much is finishing his career in Tampa Bay worth to Nickerson? We'll find out soon enough.

Salary Cap Tricks For Treats
Tampa Bay may not have a lot of money to play with in terms of base salary, but they do have some options when it comes to signing bonuses. McCardell, 32, will likely seek a three-or four-year contract. The Bucs could push the signing bonus back into the final year of that contract in order to sign McCardell. By doing this, McCardell will have guaranteed money and the Bucs will be able to afford his services. This option is certainly a possibility as McKay has been known to backload player's contracts from time to time.

There Are Plenty Of Fish In The Sea
Let's just say the Bucs don't sign McCardell or Nickerson. It wouldn't be the end of the world. Tampa Bay has a chart full of players that they are prepared to pursue.

Some of the other names at the wide receiver position could include Derrick Alexander (Kansas City), Antonio Freeman (Green Bay), Herman Moore (Detroit) and Darnay Scott (Cincinnati). And as McKay mentioned, the Bucs feel pretty good about the wide receiver corps they have now.

As for the linebacker position, some of the players that might join Nickerson in free agency include Mike Jones (Pittsburgh), Keith Mitchell (New Orleans), Ed McDaniel (already a free agent) and Andy Katzenmoyer (New England).

Although the Bucs could use another experienced middle linebacker, don't be surprised if they add a player like Jones, who plays strongside linebacker. Jones (6-1, 245) would add depth at that position and he could push Al Singleton for the starting job on the strongside of Tampa Bay's defense. Jones, 32, recorded seven interceptions and averaged 78 tackles per season during his four-year tenure in St. Louis. He played with Pittsburgh last season, but the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense in Pittsburgh apparently didn't sit well with him. He recorded just 13 tackles in 15 games as a backup with the Steelers. For those of you who are not familiar with Jones, he is the linebacker who made the touchdown-saving tackle against wide receiver Kevin Dyson in the Rams-Titans Super Bowl.

Yes, the Bucs would like to sign a Derrick Alexander, Keenan McCardell and/or Hardy Nickerson, but there's a chance that none of these players will be sporting red and pewter any time soon. We can sit here and speculate on this topic forever, but why do that? The real fun is in watching the entire dang thing unfold in front of us. So, sit back and let the bidding begin, and watch the pieces, err, players fall into place.


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Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com

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