For Buccaneers, free agency all but over

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were flush with cash when free agency opened up two Fridays ago. But their latest signings — Warrick Dunn, Antonio Bryant and Ben Troupe — signal that the Buccaneers' philosophy of evaluating and signing talent hasn't changed at all.

Bucsblitz.com's Editor, Matthew Postins, has published his first Buccaneers Mock Draft. See who Postins selected for every Buccaneers pick, get expert analysis and possible alternatives at each selection. Just click here and take a look.


There was hope among most Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans that a $43.7 million salary cap windfall would lead the Buccaneers to be one of the most active teams in free agency this offseason.

There was certainly cause to believe as much. General Manager Bruce Allen told reporters on several occasions that the cap space gave the Bucs the "flexibility" to do whatever they wanted.

Their actions have spoken loudly the past two weeks. The Bucs' plans to improve the talent on their roster apparently did not include a huge dose of free agency.

Now, free agency isn't over. Allen is fond of saying that free agency ends with the first day of training camp. But for all intents and purposes, it is for Tampa Bay.

Of Scout.com's 19 five-star free agents — as ranked by former NFL scout Tom Marino — only two remain available. Dallas RB Marion Barber is a restricted free agent who is expected to sign a long extension, and San Francisco tackle/guard Larry Allen's career may be over. The rest are either signed, have a franchise tag or are restricted free agents. The latter two designations make it almost impossible for Tampa Bay to sign them without giving up plenty in return, such as draft picks.

Among the rest of Scout.com's Top 50 free agents, only four are unsigned and unfettered by a franchise tag or restricted free agency — Tennessee running back Chris Brown, San Francisco defensive end Marques Douglas, Indianapolis defensive tackle — and former Buc — Anthony McFarland and Arizona wide receiver Bryant Johnson.

The Bucs reportedly met with Douglas and Johnson, but there appears to be no movement on a contract, despite needs at both of their positions.

To be fair, the Bucs have been busy. They signed RB Michael Bennett, LB Antoine Cash, CB Sammy Davis, C Jeff Faine, TE John Gilmore, LB Leon Joe, LB Teddy Lehman, LB Matt McCoy, TE Ben Troupe and DE Jimmy Wilkerson before Monday's flurry. They also traded for Chicago QB Brian Griese.

It's just not the kind of busy that Bucs fans were expecting. Faine was the only big-ticket item, netting a $37.5 million deal that could make him at least $20 million in guaranteed money (including a $12 million signing bonus).

The rest of the signings are ones Bucs fans were used to when the team was stuck under a huge salary cap bill — mid-tier and lower-tiered free agents that provide depth, but not much impact. Even Dunn only reportedly signed a two-year deal worth $6 million.

There are no more big-name players in free agency. There are players that are considered good fits for the Bucs — such as Johnson and Douglas — but it's clear that the Bucs will not overpay to acquire either player. They're sticking to their plan of acquiring players that are good fits for their system, whether fans recognize them or not.

The Buccaneers could still execute a big trade before the draft — Allen hinted last week that the Bucs will be pursuing several options — or select a big-time player in the NFL Draft with their No. 20 pick, one that could have a big impact on a key area of need.

At this point, those are the only avenues left to Tampa Bay to seriously improve the talent on their roster. After two weeks of free agency, it's hard to escape the feeling that the Bucs are just running in place.


Tampa Bay is looking for help at other positions in the NFL Draft, including cornerback. Bucsblitz.com has learned of the Bucs' attendance at last week's workout of a Top 5 cornerback in this draft. Click here to find out who the player was and how many other teams are interested.


Every Monday Matthew Postins will present his "Buccaneers Pro Day rumblings," a collection of Bucs-related news and anecdotes from pro days around the country. This week's edition features notes on Mike Jenkins, Jack Williams, Tommy Blake and Andre Woodson. Click here to find out what Bucsblitz.com learned about the workouts and the Bucs' interest in those players.


Bucsblitz.com is covering free agency and the NFL Draft every single day, not just once or twice a week like most newspaper. You can get Bucs-related insider offseason news, analysis and features every single day leading up to the NFL Draft. Just click here to find out how you can be a Bucsblitz.com insider.


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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