Who's out there to help the Bucs?

Tampa Bay may not be done making roster moves, even though they've cut their team down to the mandatory 53 players. Who could the Bucs sign that would give them a helping hand? Matthew Postins examines the best free agents released from teams in the last 48 hours.

More than 700 NFL players will be available for employment by the end of Saturday. The final roster cuts before the regular season represents the largest bloodletting of talent in the NFL every year.

Could some of these players be headed for Tampa Bay? The Bucs appear to have needs, depth-wise, on the defensive line, linebacker and possibly the offensive line, as both Arron Sears and Jeremy Trueblood are nursing minor injuries.

Plus, Tampa Bay has $15 million in cap space this season and can afford to add a few players, if they so choose. Understand that most of the players out there aren't difference makers. They're young players with some upside, veterans with injury issues or aging vets with just a little left in the tank. But if the Bucs feel uncomfortable with their depth, there are ways to shore those areas up.

So, who's out there that could make a difference on this team. There are some interesting possibilities among players that have been cut in the last 48 hours (note that there are no reports of the Bucs contacting these players as of Saturday night):

Byron Leftwich, quarterback. The Jaguars unceremoniously cut him Saturday. The Bucs, one would think, would have to take a look at him given the relative inexperience behind Jeff Garcia. Acquiring a player like Leftwich for the veteran minimum — with some incentives — would be a nice coup for this team and some peace of mind for Jon Gruden.

Ed Hartwell, linebacker. Cincinnati released the former Ravens starter this week. After three straight seasons as a starter inside for Baltimore, he moved to Atlanta and Cincinnati, where injuries made him strictly a part-time player. If he's healthy, the six-year vet could be a nice backup to Barrett Ruud and Ryan Nece inside.

Keenan McCardell, wide receiver. Seems strange to even consider the notion, but the 17-year vet (17!) is now a free agent after being released by the Texans. He looked like he still had some game when the Texans played the Bucs on Thursday. Any team would love to grab a player of his ability for the veteran minimum this close to the regular season. But given their history, it seems unrealistic that it would happen in Tampa.

Tyrone Poole, Dexter McCleon, Will Poole and Omar Stoutmire, cornerbacks. I've said for a couple of weeks that the fourth and fifth cornerback positions are unsteady. The Pooles (not related), Stoutmire and McCleon are vets that could add some peace of mind, and some serviceable play, behind Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly and Phillip Buchanon.

Dhani Jones, linebacker. He's an outside linebacker I've always liked. But he could be a hard sell to any team right now as two teams have released Jones in less than three months.

Reynaldo Wynn, defensive end. Washington released the 10-year veteran. He's more of a base end (read left defensive end), but he might be able to help on the right side, where the condition of Patrick Chukwurah is unknown and Gaines Adams is now the likely starter.

Jeremy Bloom, returner. The former snowboarder is flat-out fast, but was injured all of last year and couldn't win the job this year. If the Bucs were out to see if someone could challenge Mark Jones, this would be the guy.

Zach Crockett and Corey Schlesinger, fullback. I can tell you that in looking back at Gruden's history in Oakland that he used Crockett quite a bit. He's more of an Alstott-type fullback, with blocking, rushing and pass-catching ability. Plus, Gruden loves to surround himself with former players. Miami released Schlesinger and the Bucs saw plenty of him during the preseason game. He can still be a serviceable fullback in this league.

Marquand Manuel, safety. The Bucs appear happy with their safety play, but Manuel started in Super Bowl XL for Seattle.

Simeon Rice, defensive end. He likely won't be back in Tampa Bay, no matter what the Bucs decided to offer him.


Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.


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