Bucs Free Agent Rumor Mill, Part 1

Asante Samuel. Jeff Faine. Alge Crumpler. D.J. Hackett. These are names that have been linked to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in recent days. As free agency begins on Friday, what are the chances these players could end up in the Bay Area? Bucsblitz.com examines the possibilities in the first part of our "Free Agency Rumor Mill" feature.

Asante Samuel: The Patriots cornerback and UCF grad is reportedly interested in the Buccaneers. He may be interested in returning to South Florida, but I don't think he'll get the contract he wants out of the Bucs. Our Scout.com Senior NFL Reporter Adam Caplan told me on Tuesday that Samuel is seeking a deal featuring 20 percent more guaranteed money than Nate Clemens received from the 49ers last year. Clemens received about $23 million. Yikes. The Bucs have cap space, but they've never been big spenders before. I don't think that will change, even with $41 million under the cap now that they've released Kevin Carter and Greg Spires.

Don't just take it from me. Take it from Patriotsinsider.com's Jon Scott, who filed this just for us on Wednesday:

New England CB Asante Samuel signs an autograph at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. (Marco Garcia/AP Photo)
"Samuel is unlikely to re-sign in New England. With salary demands skyrocketing, there's little chance the team is interested in talking seriously with Samuel's agent if the $10 million per year asking price is real. Samuel isn't a shut down corner on par with the Champ Baileys of the league. The Patriots defender is often the beneficiary of the defensive scheme the Patriots employ with safety help over the top enabling Samuel to aggressively jump routes.

"Reports of the teams looking to sign Samuel include the Jets, the Saints and the Browns. Eric Mangini (Jets) and Romeo Crennel (Browns) are familiar with Samuel's style of play. Both coaches held the position of defensive coordinator in New England prior to leaving to become head coaches. Both coached Samuel. The Jets would love to land Samuel, strengthening their defense while weakening their division rival Patriots. The Saints, desperate for defensive help, are most likely to be the ones to overpay for Samuel's services."

Let them overpay. There are some solid corners on the market that would fit just as well for the Bucs.

Chargers wide receivers: While there's nothing publicly connecting the Bucs and the Chargers — aside from the dinner I saw Bucs GM Bruce Allen and Chargers GM A.J. Smith having Sunday in Indianapolis — don't discount it just yet. The Chargers have a nice problem — too many receivers. The Bucs have a big problem — not enough receivers. Chris Chambers, Malcolm Floyd, Kassim Osgood, Vincent Jackson, Buster Davis and Antonio Gates litter the Chargers' roster, and the Sporting News reported this week that there is some intrigue about how head coach Norv Turner will distribute the football among the Chargers' "overloaded" receiving unit. The two teams have been trade partners before, and Caplan believes there will be more trading this offseason because the free agency class simply isn't that great. Keep an eye on any rumor you hear out of San Diego, especially if a receiver is involved.

Alge Crumpler: I love the guy, but rumor has it that Crumpler is headed for Tennessee, where both the GM and head coach (Jeff Fisher) have showered Crumpler with praise. Crumpler's agent, James D. Williams, told me his client was probably going to meet with the Bucs on Tuesday, but he hadn't updated me as of Wednesday night. If the Bucs fail to sign Crumpler, tight end becomes a much bigger need in this draft, as incumbent Alex Smith is set to enter the final year of his contract. The free agent market is pretty bare beyond Crumpler, so there will be competition.

Jeff Faine: This one is a new one, fresh off the Internet on Wednesday night. Reportedly the Bucs may be interested in signing Jeff Faine to replace John Wade, who is on his way out. Faine is considered the top center on the market and scouts rave that he's a great tactician up front. He's about five years younger than Wade and had plenty more experience than Wade's potential replacement, Dan Buenning. I'm a proponent for experience at the center position, and Buenning simply has none. I'll say this — if the Bucs sign Faine and re-sign Lehr, Buenning could be out of a job by the end of the preseason.

Matt Lehr: This deal sounds like it's going to happen for Lehr and the Bucs. His agent Robert Lattinville, sounded pretty confident when I talked to him on the phone two weeks ago. Now he's telling the Tampa media that it's only a "matter of time" before a deal is one. The Bucs need Lehr's experience with Wade heading out the door. Lehr will probably get the league minimum and maybe a small bonus. It'll be less than a million to keep Lehr, which is a pretty wise investment whether they sign Faine or not.

D.J. Hackett: Don't get attached to the Seattle wide receiver in free agency. My sources tell me that the Bucs will drop out of the Hackett derby early because the potential cost — a five-year deal with at least $15-20 million guaranteed — will be too rich for Tampa Bay's blood.

Javon Walker: If he comes to Tampa Bay it will be as a free agent. NFL teams are smart enough to know when they need to trade and when they don't, and all the NFL has to do is wait for the Broncos to cut Walker before March 4. It would be cost-prohibitive to keep Walker (he's due a $5.4 million bonus). But, Walker is a big risk because he's now found himself unhappy in two offenses — Green Bay and Denver — that are receiver friendly. It makes you wonder what it takes for the guy to be happy. I don't think he'll find it in Tampa Bay.

Coming later today: The second part of our Rumor Mill feature.


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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