Salary cap, coaching issues on front burner

The Bucs would do well to consider adding another running back to their stable during free agency. Our experts point out that the team has plenty of cap space to do just that. And NFL reporter Adam Caplan and expert Matthew Postins discuss some coaching options for Tampa.

With the exception of Jeff Faine, the Bucs haven't spent much money in free agency the last few years. Will this year be the exception to that? Will they put in a heftier investment this year?

Adam Caplan: As noted in the previous story, they will have a lot of cap space to spend for next season so it's certainly possible they make a run at a few key free agents or trade for a player that could start.

Matthew Postins: The Bucs have always played by their own rules in free agency. In other words, they don't spend a lot of money just to spend it. There has to be a good reason, and that player has to be a good fit for the team. The Bucs have the money to be competitive with any NFL team, given their frugality in recent years. The Bucs need help at wide receiver and on the defensive line, and both positions feature high-caliber player that can make a difference and, more importantly, be a good fit in Tampa Bay. There isn't much depth at the high end of free agency, but if the Bucs spend the money they'll get that talent. This would be a good year to try, as the Bucs aren't that far away from contention.

With Raheem Morris receiving interest from NFL teams about head coaching jobs, what are the Bucs' options at defensive coordinator?

Adam Caplan: They would have to find a coach who has worked with a team that ran a cover-2 scheme. I don't see anyone who is ready to take over that job with the current staff. They could look at the staffs from Minnesota, Chicago, and Indianapolis as those teams run the same scheme.

Matthew Postins: The Bucs could go after a couple of former coaches – deposed Lions head coach Rod Marinelli and defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Barry might be a harder sell, as the Bucs would not release him from his contract to go with his father-in-law to Detroit in 2006. Marinelli spent 10 years with the Bucs and would bring the toughness Gruden desires. If they lose Morris, the Bucs will have to pursue a defensive coach with plenty of Cover 2 experience. I don't believe Morris will get the job in Denver, though, as he doesn't have any coordinator experience in the NFL, which is pretty much a job requirement in the NFL.

With Larry Coyer departing, do you think the Bucs could make an offer to fired Detroit coach Rod Marinelli to return to his post in Tampa?

Adam Caplan: It appears they won't get him as Chicago or Seattle is trying to secure him at this point.

Matthew Postins: That's possible, if Marinelli doesn't have any hard feelings left over from his 10 years in Tampa Bay. He may harbor some ill feelings after the Bucs failed to allow his son-in-law, Joe Barry, to follow him to Detroit. Marinelli would be a great hire. However, if they can't get Marinelli, they must find a coach with Coyer's no-nonsense approach and teaching ability. When the Bucs lost that in 2006, their defensive line foundered.

With Carnell Williams facing yet another offseason of rehab, should the Bucs pursue a running back to add to Ernest Graham and Warrick Dunn?

Adam Caplan: It would probably be a wise idea. Possibilities are: Maurice Morris (UFA/Seattle), LaMont Jordan (UFA/New England), DeShaun Foster (UFA/San Francisco), and Correll Buckhalter (UFA/Tampa Bay).

Matthew Postins: The Bucs have Dunn, Graham and Clifton Smith under contract for 2009, along with Williams. It doesn't sound as if Williams' injury is as serious as his patellar tendon tear in 2007. Former Bucs kickoff returner Mark Jones returned from the injury in less than a year. So it's possible Williams could be back by opening day 2009. The Bucs could stand pat at the position and feel comfortable going into the regular season, barring further injuries.

Strong safety Jermaine Phillips should be a free agent this year. What are the Bucs' options at free agency should they decide not to resign Phillips?

Adam Caplan: Sean Jones (Cleveland/UFA), Darren Sharper (UFA/Minnesota), and Mike Brown (UFA/Chicago) are possibilities. Jones is much younger than the other two players.

Matthew Postins: Well, there's Piscitelli, who many consider to be the incumbent strong safety. If the Bucs aren't sold on him, they could look to St. Louis' Oshiomogho Atogwe and Cleveland's Sean Jones to replace Phillips. sees Phillips as the No. 1 safety on the free agent market and he's likely to get a bigger payday from another team than from the Bucs. When the dust settles, the Bucs will likely put their trust in Piscitelli in 2009.

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