Woodson likely to sign with Bucs

Tampa Bay has familiar faces and is a contender

Charles Woodson is perhaps the best remaining unrestricted free agent on the market, as far as the Green Bay Packers are concerned. The Packers need a veteran cornerback to stabilize the secondary in the worst way, but so do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

While the Packers are in the thick of the hunt for Woodson with the Bucs, look for the Bucs to win this battle, just like the New York Giants did with LaVar Arrington. Why? The Bucs and Giants are in position to contend for division titles while the Packers are trying to field a team to be better than 4-12.

Tampa Bay's status as a division champion and Woodson's familiarity with head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen could prove to be critical factors in his choosing between the Bucs and Packers, according to the agent for the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback.

"Charles wants to win, and that's the bottom line," said Woodson's representative, Carl Poston, recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He went 12-0 his last year at Michigan and won a national championship. Now, he wants that Super Bowl ring and he wants to join a team that's committed to winning."

The NFL Network reported that Woodson may make his decision in the next day or two.

Woodson, who turns 30 in October, earned a combined $19.3 million as Oakland's franchise player the past two seasons before hitting the open market. He has visited with the Bucs, Green Bay, and Seattle.

"I would think the familiarity between Charles, Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen is a big plus for the Bucs," Poston said. "We want to get a deal done, but it has to be the right fit at the right numbers. Green Bay probably is in better shape cap-wise, but you never know. Sometimes, those things can be deceiving."

A broken leg sidelined Woodson for the final 10 games in 2005, but he is still considered one of the league's elite defensive backs. The Packers likely would use Woodson at cornerback in place of the inconsistent Ahmad Carroll. The Bucs probably would use him at safety behind cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly.

After leaving the Wolverines after his junior year, Woodson was the fourth player drafted in 1998, Gruden's first season on the Raiders sideline.

"As a football player, Woodson is such a unique guy," Gruden told reporters. "He can stand in there and play man-to-man, old-school bump-and-run coverage with the best of them, and he will knock you out."

That's exactly the kind of defensive back the Packers need, but the Bucs likely will sign.

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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