Bucs Free Agency report card

Bucsblitz.com offers its analysis and review of the 2007 season with our analysis of the notable free agents signed or players traded for by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including player grades and an outlook to 2008. It's a premium service from Bucsblitz.com.

QB JEFF GARCIA (signed on March 3)

THE REASON?: The Bucs needed a veteran quarterback.

ANALYSIS: Garcia completed nearly 64 percent of his passes, gave the offense a heavy dose of leadership and piloted the team to their third NFC South title in six years.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: Absolutely. Imagine the offense in the hands of Luke McCown or Bruce Gradkowski at the start of the season. On second thought, don't.

FINAL GRADE: B+

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: Firmly entrenched as the starter, Garcia is signed through 2008 and scheduled to count $3.5 million against the salary cap. Look for him to get an extension.

DE/LB PATRICK CHUKWURAH (Signed on March 3)

THE REASON?: The Bucs needed depth at the pass rushing position with Simeon Rice still rehabbing his injured shoulder.

ANALYSIS: Chukwurah missed nearly half of the games with a litany of injuries that sapped his effectiveness and nudged him out of the starting lineup.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: Not sure. He's fast and physical, but we just didn't see enough of him to get an accurate gauge of his true worth.

FINAL GRADE: D.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He has four more years on a contract that will count $760,000 against the salary cap in 2008. He's low-cost depth. The Bucs will likely keep him around.

QB JAKE PLUMMER (Traded for on March 3)

THE REASON?: The Bucs needed a veteran quarterback.

ANALYSIS: The Bucs eventually gave up a seventh-round pick for Plummer, who never showed up for training camp.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: No. Now the Bucs are stuck with a contract they can't get out from under.

FINAL GRADE: F.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: Plummer will count $6.252 million against the cap in 2008. That's the largest cap figure on the team. For a guy who never showed up. Problem is, if the Bucs release him, they'll take a substantial cap hit as a result because Plummer is signed through 2009.

FB B.J. ASKEW (Signed on March 4)

Tampa Bay fullback B.J. Askew turned out to be a fortuitous signing for the Bucs in 2007. (Paul Sancya/Getty Images)
THE REASON?: The Bucs needed a backup for Mike Alstott.

ANALYSIS: When Alstott went on injured reserve, that paved the way for Askew's best statistical season, setting a career-high for receptions and proving to be an Alstott-esque player with above-average blocking skills.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: If the Bucs were looking ahead to life with the A-Train, they did a fine job. Askew would like more carries, but he won't complain and has all the skills to be the long-term answer at the position.

FINAL GRADE: B.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He'll be the starter — unless you think Alstott is coming back. Askew counts about $625,000 against the salary cap.

DE KEVIN CARTER (Signed on March 5)

THE REASON?: The Bucs were looking to shore up their defensive line depth.

ANALYSIS: When the Bucs released Rice, Carter quickly became a team leader on defense and proved he can be effective, both inside and outside, at age 34.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: Yes. Especially when you consider how the Bucs structured his contract — all base salary, no bonus. If they ever have to release Carter, they'll take no cap hit. But he's worth his weight in how he's influenced the Bucs' younger defenders.

FINAL GRADE: B.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: Has two more years left on a deal that will pay him $3.8 million in 2008. He'll remain in his swing end/tackle role.

T LUKE PETITGOUT (Signed on March 6)

Tampa Bay LT Luke Petitgout stabilized his position before his season-ending knee injury. (Getty Images)
THE REASON?: The Bucs wanted to upgrade their left tackle position.

ANALYSIS: He appeared to do that before he left the Carolina game on Sept. 30 with a knee injury that ended his season.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: Criticized in training camp for missing nearly a week of full workouts, Petitgout proved he could overcome his lingering back issues and stabilize the left side of the line.

FINAL GRADE: C. I have to dock him for missing more than half the season with an injury, as unfair as that sounds. The Bucs didn't get the full payoff of their investment.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He'll count $3.5 million against the cap in 2008 — and he'll have to compete with Donald Penn for the starting job.

CB SAMMY DAVIS (Signed on March 13)

THE REASON?: The Bucs sought to shore up their cornerback depth.

ANALYSIS: He didn't make the final roster, but still spent most of the season with the team. He played some early, then faded once Brian Kelly returned to health.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: He didn't cost the Bucs much and he made a few nice plays as the fourth cornerback.

FINAL GRADE: C-.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He's a free agent. He can be had for the veteran minimum.

LB CATO JUNE (Signed on March 17)

THE REASON?: The Bucs sought to find Derrick Brooks' eventual replacement.

ANALYSIS: He finished as the third-leading tackler while playing at the strong side position.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: I think so. Of course, if Brooks retires at the end of his contract and the Bucs see June as his replacement, June will need a new contract. It expires in 2009.

FINAL GRADE: B-.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He is in the second year of a three-year contract that will count $2.67 million against the cap.

MATT LEHR (Signed on April 3)

THE REASON?: The Bucs were shoring up their depth on the offensive line.

ANALYSIS: He played one game in place of Arron Sears against Carolina in the season finale.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: The Bucs could have placed Anthony Davis as Sears' backup and they would have been fine. I didn't think Lehr brought that much to the table.

FINAL GRADE: C-

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He's a free agent who is unlikely to return — unless John Wade opts out of his contract. So stay tuned.

JERRAMY STEVENS (Signed on April 29)

Tampa Bay TE Jerramy Stevens came on at season's end to earn a look from the Bucs in 2008. (Getty Images)
THE REASON?: The Bucs wanted to add to their tight end rotation.

ANALYSIS: He really came on at the end of the year, catching 10 passes, three of which went for touchdowns.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: Not at first. But as Stevens put his personal problems behind him and grasped the offense, it turned into a move that made more sense.

FINAL GRADE: C.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He's a free agent I think the Bucs should re-sign — but not for a lot of money. The veteran minimum is fine.

RYAN SIMS (Traded for on May 1)

THE REASON?: The Bucs wanted to create depth at defensive tackle.

ANALYSIS: As it turned out, they really didn't need Sims. They could have gotten by inside without him. The change of environment didn't help and giving up a draft pick for him now seems, well, a waste.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: No.

FINAL GRADE: D.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He's due to make $900,000 in 2008. For now, he's a Buc.

BYRON STORER (Signed on May 3)

THE REASON?: They must have liked what he showed them at rookie camp.

ANALYSIS: He actually started three games for B.J. Askew and acquitted himself well. He didn't make many mistakes, showed he could catch passes and still worked his special teams duties.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: Not a bad pickup for the team, though the only reason he played was due to Askew's injury.

FINAL GRADE: C.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He could be a suitable backup to Askew. My records say he's due $370,000 in 2008.

GREG WHITE (Signed on Aug. 4)

THE REASON?: The Bucs desperately needed some pass rushing in the wake of Simeon Rice's release.

ANALYSIS: He led the team with eight sacks. Enough said.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: Absolutely, though the Bucs surely never thought signing the Arena Football vet would work out that well.

FINAL GRADE: B+.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He'll be a pass rush specialist in 2008. Oh, but guess what? He has no contract, according to the NFLPA database. But as an exclusive rights free agent, the Bucs can tender him an offer to keep him. And they likely will.

JERRY MACKEY (Traded for on Aug. 21)

THE REASON?: The season-ending injury to Antoine Cash.

ANALYSIS: Mackey was released after the preseason.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: No. The Bucs gave up a draft pick for this guy?

FINAL GRADE: F.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: None.

JEREMIAH TROTTER (Signed on Sept. 4)

THE REASON?: Depth at middle linebacker and insurance for the untested Barrett Ruud.

ANALYSIS: Trotter earned high marks from everyone for his presence in the locker room and accepting a lesser role on the field (the $1 million probably didn't hurt).

THE RIGHT MOVE?: Some decried it when it happened, but what many lost in the translation was that the Bucs were rightly protecting themselves if Ruud faltered. It was easy to see why the Bucs signed Trotter if you watched the final two games of the season.

FINAL GRADE: D. I can't give him an average grade when he's inactive for 13 games.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He's a free agent looking for a starting job. See ya, Jeremiah.

MICHEAL SPURLOCK (Signed to the practice squad on Sept. 4)

Tampa Bay KR Micheal Spurlock earned a place in team lore in 2007, but not much else. (Associated Press)
THE REASON?: Special teams coach Richard Bisaccia had liked Spurlock since he saw the former quarterback at Ole Miss.

ANALYSIS: Ended the Bucs' 32-year drought of kickoff returns without a touchdown.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: He'll exist forever in team lore.

FINAL GRADE: C-.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: I assume the Bucs will offer him a new contract to come back and compete for the return jobs.

ZACK CROCKETT (Signed on Oct. 10)

THE REASON?: The Bucs had a ton of running back issues at the time.

ANALYSIS: The Bucs thought he would make a smooth transition, since he worked with Gruden in Oakland.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: No. Turns out he was never needed. At least they didn't trade a draft pick for him.

FINAL GRADE: F.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: A free agent who may have difficulty finding a job in 2008.

MICHAEL BENNETT (Traded for on Oct. 16)

THE REASON?: More running back issues.

ANALYSIS: He showed flashes of talent in the system, but it took him too long to learn the Byzantine offensive playbook of Jon Gruden.

THE RIGHT MOVE?: It would have been more worth it if Gruden had trusted the speedy back a little more and given him more to do. But giving up two draft picks? No, not worth it.

FINAL GRADE: C-. I would love to see what he could do in this offense with a year in the system. He could be dangerous.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He's a free agent the Bucs should investigate re-signing.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.


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