Bucs Free Agent Rumor Mill, Part II

Bryant Johnson. Shaun Rogers. Jevon Kearse. The league's most recent cuts. How might those play into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' free agency plans? And how do their own free agents fit in to the equation? Bucsblitz.com examines the possibilities in the second part of our "Free Agency Rumor Mill" feature. Plus, an update on Chicago's Bernard Berrian.

Bernard Berrian: Jon Crist of Bearreport.com just told me that wide receiver Bernard Berrian has turned down a five-year, $25 million offer from the Bears that was described as a take it or leave it offer. So Berrian should be a free agent tonight. He's the top receiver on the market and will command top dollar, perhaps $8 million per. I'm unsure if the Bucs will pursue him. Our NFL reporter, Adam Caplan, told me last week he believes the asking price will be too much for Tampa Bay.

Bryant Johnson: I think this has a good shot at happening. Johnson doesn't have the stats to come in and break the bank, but he has the skills to make an immediate impact on the offense. His top skills — good hands, yards after the catch and downfield speed — are exactly what the Bucs are in need of right now. He would easily be the No. 3 wide receiver entering camp and could surpass No. 2 Ike Hilliard in the preseason. Johnson averages 40 receptions a year and did great work as a spot starter for Larry Fitzgerald two years ago.

DeShaun Foster As you read this, he may already by in San Francisco signing on the dotted line. I'm not sure how in-depth the discussions were between Foster and the Bucs (Foster's agent and the Bucs reportedly met at the Combine). But he would have made a nice third back in the Bucs' offense.

Shaun Rogers: The Lions are actively seeking a trade for the defensive tackle, and at least half a dozen teams are interested, according to the Detroit Free Press. Rogers comes with a pretty big contract, but he's still one of the better run stoppers in the NFL, and the Bucs are in need of that. The extra cap space they cleared on Wednesday could be used to make such a trade, and the Bucs have said they're willing to deal. But it's not known if the Bucs are one of the teams interested. But, given their relationship with head coach Rod Marinelli, it wouldn't surprise me if a phone call was made.

The Bucs' restricted free agents: Kalvin Pearson is caught in the age-old question of just how important special teams players are. The Bucs apparently don't see his 21 special teams tackles last season as that important, as they are gambling that he can't find a better deal than the 1-year, $927,000 tender they've offered. Pearson's agent, Michael Hawthorne, feels pretty confident Pearson can find a better deal, and I think he will. Pearson made 16 tackles in the season finale last year and that may lure teams into thinking he can be a No. 3 safety too. DT Jovan Haye hasn't received a tender either (as of Thursday morning) and that's disturbing. Even if the Bucs sign DT Rod Coleman, Haye can be a productive swing tackle-end in that defense. If your offseason aim was to add talent, why subtract it? LB Antoine Cash is also a restricted free agent and I don't see him returning. The Bucs will look at his knee injury as a risk and move on, since they have Adam Hayward and Quincy Black under contract for three more years and both were solid special teams performers in 2007.

The Bucs' unrestricted free agents: Among the players that can move anywhere, I would expect Matt Lehr to return. And that may be it. John Wade is a goner. Michael Pittman is looking for a larger role. Jeremiah Trotter wants to start. Mark Jones won't be ready to play for a while. Anthony Becht opted out to seek a new deal. Kevin Carter, who was just cut, may return (reports say he and his agent have already talked to the Bucs about it). But that could just be talk.

The wildcards are CB Sammy Davis, who did some solid work in a gap-filling role at times last season, and TE Jerramy Stevens, who came on strong at the end of last year but has taken a P.R. hit after a Seattle Times article resurrected Stevens' troubles in the Pacific Northwest. It's unclear how the Bucs feel about that (GM Bruce Allen told the media that most of the story had already been reported, but we've heard otherwise). But corner and tight end are two key positions this offseason and I could see the Bucs re-signing both a couple of weeks into free agency if they don't sign their primary targets.

Jevon Kearse: The Eagles just cut Kearse in a cap move on Thursday. This is of interest to the Bucs because they just cut their two left ends, Kevin Carter and Greg Spires. Now, Kearse isn't exactly a spring chicken himself — he's 31. Plus, his statistics have taken a serious downturn in Philadelphia. And he's an injury risk. I mention Kearse because he could be had at a discount, perhaps a 1-year, incentive-laden deal, that allows "The Freak" to rejuvenate his career and give whichever team signs him a productive, motivated player. The Bucs benefited from that with Chris Hovan a few years ago. They could do the same with Kearse.

The fresh cuts: Among the players released this week that could be of some interest to the Bucs are Detroit CB Fernando Bryant (the Bucs could do worse for a third cornerback), Jets CB Andre Dyson (I like Bryant better) and Jets WR Justin McCariens (he's always been a tough receiver with good downfield skills). But I would not expect the Bucs to pursue any of them early. They're second-tier free agents who will have to wait until the bigger ticket items set the market.

Did you miss Part 1 of our "Rumor Mill" series? Click right here to access


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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