Free Agent Focus: John Wade

In "Free Agent Focus," Bucsblitz.com takes a look at several key Tampa Bay Buccaneers free agents and how they could impact the Bucs' plans. In this edition, Scout.com Senior NFL Reporter Adam Caplan and Bucsblitz.com's Matthew Postins talk about C John Wade, who can opt out of his deal this offseason. It's a premium service from Bucsblitz.com.

The following is an e-mail exchange back and forth between Bucsblitz.com Buccaneers beat writer Matthew Postins and Scout.com Senior NFL Reporter Adam Caplan. The subject? John Wade's future in Tampa Bay ...

Matthew Postins: Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting center John Wade has two years left on his contract, but they are voidable years, so there's potential for Wade to be a free agent this spring. First, let's start by explaining what "voidable" means. Is that as simple as it sounds, or is there more to it? And is there a set deadline for the team or the player to void the contract? Must it come before free agency begins?

Adam Caplan: I haven't seen his contract so I can't comment on what's in there but in general terms, players must meet certain incentives in their contract to void it. If they meet them (it could be the player only has to achieve the level in just one season), they can void the deal. It's usually based on playing time (amount of snaps they take/certain percentage).

As for the deadline, yes, there's usually a certain date they have to give written notice that they will be voiding their contract.

If Wade becomes a free agent, he should find some interest because the list of available free agents at his position is pretty weak.

Matthew Postins: I thought about that. Should Wade test free agency, do you think he would be considered the most attractive option on the market? He's 32 and, for the most part, he's been durable in Tampa Bay. Plus, his intelligence about the position appears to be above average. If he were to leave Tampa Bay, how big a hole would that leave for the Buccaneers and what would be their options, in your opinion?

Adam Caplan: He would easily be the top center in free agency based on the projected list of players at the position. I haven't really looked at what teams might be looking for a center so it's unknown what the demand is at this point. I know that Miami was looking for one recently though.

Wade is seen as an above average center but what helps him is RB Earnest Graham is coming off of a surprisingly good season so that should show up on tape when teams evaluate Wade.

Matthew Postins: It sounds to me if the Bucs and Wade part ways, they would be in a pickle. They've identified Dan Buenning — a former guard — as their center of the future. Their backup swing guard/center, Matt Lehr, is an unrestricted free agent. What would you see as the potential pitfalls in handing over the center chores to a player like Buenning, albeit talented, but who has never started at center?

Adam Caplan: When Buenning was selected in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, it was believed he was one of the top guards of that class but injury and inconsistency has plagued his young career. Still, he's very talented and should be able to make the transition over one spot to center. That's not usually a big issue. Moving inside to left tackle is usually the toughest transition to make for an offensive lineman.

My final analysis: It's my belief that allowing Wade to get away could be a mistake for Tampa Bay. Wade anchored a young offensive line in 2007 that needed guidance and entering 2008 will still be one of the league's youngest units, even if Luke Petitgout returns to the starting lineup. Buenning may be able to handle the position, but sometimes the devil that you know is better than the devil that you don't know, if you know what I mean. The Bucs know what Wade can do. Buenning is another story. Now, the Bucs may have no choice in the matter. But even if Wade does choose to test free agency, the Bucs should make a play to keep him, even if it's just for an extra year or two.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.


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