Experts consider Bucs' free agency options

Along with the usual QB issues this offseason, Tampa Bay should look to free agency to pick up a wide receiver with speed. And plenty of salary cap space means the Bucs could beef up their defense. Scout.com reporter Adam Caplan and BucsBlitz.com expert Matthew Postins answer those questions and more in this exclusive Q&A.

Is there any chance the Bucs will try to retain Jeff Garcia or Luke McCown with both being free agents now?

Adam Caplan: I think McCown has a better chance at getting re-signed than Garcia. Garcia didn't have a good season and is viewed around the league as a solid backup at this point. As for McCown, he has an above average arm and has enough upside to bring back.

Matthew Postins: It will depend greatly on how the Bucs view their future at the position. It's clear that head coach Jon Gruden is quite willing to go with the hot hand and likes to have options. But think about the Bucs' collapse down the stretch this season; Garcia was a part of it. He presided over three of the Bucs' final four losses of the season and threw three interceptions in his final two games. He had similar struggles last season, plus injuries forced him to sit out most of the final two games and play with rust in the postseason. The Bucs can't ignore his issues in December. My gut tells me that Garcia won't be back in 2009 because the Bucs will feel secure enough in Brian Griese and Josh Johnson that they won't need to re-sign him. That doesn't even take into account the strained relations between Garcia and Gruden. As for McCown, he's a serviceable QB who won't command much attention on the free agent market, and therefore will be an affordable third quarterback for the Bucs.

What do you think the odds are that the Bucs will make a serious push Donovan McNabb if he makes it to free agency?

Adam Caplan: He's signed through 2013, but the last three years will void as long as he's on the roster at the end of the 2010 season. The feeling is Philadelphia will either give in to his demands for an extension or will trade him. I'm sure the Buccaneers will inquire as to what their plans are with McNabb.

Matthew Postins: First, I don't think he'll make it to the open market. His play down the stretch for the Eagles makes it nearly impossible for the Eagles to not give him some sort of contract extension. But, if for some reason he does, I think the Bucs could be serious players. They have the cap space, they have the passer-friendly offense (don't forget Gruden and Eagles coach Andy Reid run the same type of offense) and the Bucs don't have a quarterback near McNabb's equal. Gruden always talks about having a game-changing talent at QB. McNabb would be that talent, and he would give Johnson plenty of time to develop.

Wide receiver is always a hot topic around the Bucs. This will be no exception. What potential free agents should interest Tampa come March?

Adam Caplan: The first thing they have to do is re-sign Antonio Bryant who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. If they could get him back in the fold, they must then get a receiver with speed. Dexter Jackson proved he wasn't ready to contribute as a rookie so he can't be counted upon. I don't see any of the projected free agents being a great fit for what they need. T.J. Housmandzadeh and Bryant Johnson aren't seen as speed receivers and those are the two best free agent receivers available.

Matthew Postins: If the Bucs are smart, they'll make a strong push for Bengals WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who has basically been the 1A receiver in Cincinnati the past few years. Houshmanzadeh will command top dollar, and for good reason. The Bucs have no financial excuses not to get involved. Plus, Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard will be another year older and Michael Clayton could opt out of the final year of his contract. That would leave resurgent Antonio Bryant – who is a free agent himself -- and the disappointing Dexter Jackson. The Bucs need to get involved. If the Bucs can re-sign Bryant and not sign Houshmandazeh, then San Francisco's Bryant Johnson, Tennessee's Justin McCariens and New Orleans' Henderson are options. The fact is, though the talent drops markedly after Houshmandzadeh.

Which defensive free agents might interest the Bucs, particularly defensive linemen and defensive ends?

Adam Caplan: Other than Julius Peppers and Suggs, there really aren't any really any solid ends that are projected to be free agents. One player that is intriguing is Dallas' Chris Canty. He's played in a 3-4 scheme since he was drafted, but he might have an upside as a pass rusher in Tampa's 4-3 scheme.

Matthew Postins: At tackle, Albert Haynesworth will be out there again. The Titans can't franchise him this time, so if he makes it to the open market the Bucs could trade in their own free agent tackle, Jovan Haye, and make a push for Haynewsorth, who could change the way the Bucs play defense in the middle. After Haynesworth, I'd rather have Haye back. There are two game-changers at end – Carolina's Julius Peppers and Baltimore's Terrell Suggs (who is actually an outside linebacker in Baltimore's 3-4 defense). Peppers might be a better fit opposite speed rusher Gaines Adams. Dallas 3-4 end Chris Canty could be a valuable, and relatively inexpensive, selection.

Do you feel the Bucs will be interested in any of Scout.com's top 10 free agents?

Adam Caplan: The good news is sources say Tampa Bay has currently more than $40 million projected cap space for 2009 so they could spend pretty much what they want to sign a few key free agents. They have enough cap space to go after an impact defensive end such as Terrell Suggs who has the versatility to move to either side or to drop into coverage if need be. They could also make a run at Tennessee's DT Albert Haynesworth or Seattle's DT Rocky Bernard. I would think Tampa Bay will try to re-sign DT Jovan Haye.

Matthew Postins: Houshmandzadeh (No. 6) and Peppers (No. 8) are the two more realistic possibilities. Both probably won't entertain offers from their current teams. I think Haynesworth (No. 1) and Suggs (No. 3) will remain in their current cities. Safety Karlos Dansby (No. 10) could be in the mix, if the Bucs choose not to re-sign Phillips and don't believe Sabby Piscitelli can fill his shoes on the strong side.


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