One had to wonder if it was spin or the real deal.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Bruce Allen doesn't emerge from his offseason shelter very often to talk to the media, so the fact that he did on Wednesday was meaningful. He's likely heard the chatter all over Tampa Bay that the Buccaneers have allowed free agency to pass them by. Don't believe me? Check out this post at Bucsblitz.com's message board after the Brian Griese trade:
"Free agency is basically over. The best (players) are taken, have the franchise tag or are restricted free agents, which means we have to give compensation. (The) only thing left is a trade. We have the cap space for 5 or 6 studs/game breakers and we would still have money left for the rookie class. Most disappointing." — Woof69
Ouch. Allen preached patience to the masses and implied to one news outlet that the Buccaneers could pursue trades to make the team better as the offseason progressed. Remember — the Bucs did start the offseason with $43.7 million to spend and in January Allen said that cap space gave them the flexibility to make deals and take on large contracts.
So if the Bucs were to pursue a trade, are there likely suspects? I put that question to our Scout.com Senior NFL Reporter, Adam Caplan. I asked him to outline four veteran players the Buccaneers could pursue via trade that would be good fits for the system on both sides of the ball. Here are Caplan's selections, plus his reasoning for each selection:
The veteran end has two years remaining on his contract and is due $15.5 million in base salary over the next two seasons. Taylor is still an outstanding pass rusher and he can also play standing up as he did when Miami used a 3-4 defensive scheme at times over the last few years.
Tampa Bay's pass rush could use a boost and he could give them a short-term boost if they traded for him. Despite what Miami's executive of football operations Bill Parcells said, look for Taylor to be dealt before the NFL draft.
The team placed their franchise tag on Smith, which means any team that signed him to an offer sheet would have to surrender two first-round picks to Philadelphia as compensation. Since that won't happen, it's not out of the question that Philadelphia trades him. They're high on second-year TE Brent Celek, so this could be Smith's last season in an Eagle uniform.
It's not a secret that the Buccaneers would like TE Alex Smith to be more consistent and acquiring L.J. Smith could alleviate that problem. L.J. Smith is an athletic tight end who is a decent red zone option in the passing game.
The team is still trying to restructure his contract by signing him to an extension. Fitzgerald is due over $31 million in base salary over the next two seasons. Fitzgerald has tremendous ball skills and is what scouts call a "ball snatcher." There's really no ball he can't catch that's near him, scouts say. And Fitzgerald, for a receiver of his large frame, runs quite well.
Tampa Bay badly needs help at the receiver position opposite Joey Galloway so Fitzgerald would fit in quite well.
Lito Sheppard/CB/Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia will be looking for probably a second-round pick in return for the 26-year old defensive back and Tampa Bay could use an upgrade over veteran CB Phillip Buchanon who would be best used in nickel situations.
Postins' take: Fitzgerald is intriguing because of his size and flat-out athletic ability. He's Randy Moss without the attitude. The Buccaneers would likely have to commit several years to Fitzgerald and restructure his contract. But don't forget Fitzgerald is just 24 years old and has plenty of good years ahead of him. In terms of need and talent, Fitzgerald would be the best match. He would also likely cost the most. The Bucs would probably have to deal players and picks to the Cards, and they only have five draft picks this year, so they would have to sacrifice some picks in 2009. But it might just be worth it to put Fitzgerald on one side, Galloway on the other and Ike Hilliard or a mid-round pick this year in the slot.
I'm not opposed to Taylor, either, though the contract is pretty big and he is in his 30s. He's still talented and can still get you double-digit sacks. Plus, his presence on the left side would take heat off last year's first-round pick, Gaines Adams, and open up more pass rush opportunities for the youngster.
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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.