Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs Beat: Team stays true to rebuilding strategy
TAMPA While the Eagles have used free agency to build what some are referring to as football's "dream team,'' the Buccaneers have continued to follow their own dream for building another Super Bowl contender. That means adding players primarily through the draft, claiming them off waivers and stealing them from other team's practice squads. While some fans clearly question the approach, the Bucs deserve credit for sticking to it. One of the worst things a team in any sport can do is alter its plan for success in the middle of the process. The Bucs have so far ignored the pressures from fans and outsiders. At the same time, they have passed a critical integrity test. By concentrating primarily on re-signing their own players in free agency, the Bucs made good on a promise to their fans and players.The Bucs hierarchy, from co-chairmen Joel and Bryan Glazer to general manager Mark Dominik, said for two years their plan was to draft players, develop them and re-sign those deemed to be core contributors. By re-signing RG Davin Joseph, RT Jeremy Trueblood, LB Quincy Black and special teams standout Adam Hayward, the Bucs kept that promise and truly put their money where their mouth was. Lots of money, too. Data compiled by the NFL last week revealed the Bucs have already spent more than $100 million on free agents this year. That figure puts them in the top 10 spenders in free agency. So, the Bucs are in fact spending. Just like they said they would. No, they're not spending the way some want them to – by signing big-name, veteran free agents – partly because they don't have to. This time last year, the Bucs clearly had some holes to fill in their lineup. They needed a starting left guard, a lead running back and a better pair of defensive ends. They got left guard Ted Larsen off waivers from the Patriots, running back LeGarrette Blount off waivers from the Titans and defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. In other words, they followed their game plan. And while it hasn't won them a bunch of splash headlines and notoriety, it did win 10 football games last season. At the end of the day, that's the goal. Waving goodbye Many Bucs fans are still wondering why a team bent on re-signing its own players would allow critical components such as MLB Barrett Ruud and RB Cadillac Williams to get away. In the cases of Ruud and Williams, the Bucs wanted to go with younger players with more upside and athleticism, such as middle linebackers Tyrone McKenzie and Mason Foster and running back Kregg Lumpkin. Also, the team is looking for a physically aggressive middle linebacker, something Ruud was not. Finally, in the case of Williams, the Bucs wanted a player truly capable of filling in as a backup should Blount be lost, Williams, who ran for just 2.5 yards per carry as a lead back and 3.5 yards per carry overall last season, wasn't the answer. Going deep If you're still wondering why the Bucs signed punter/kickoff specialist Michael Koenen to a $19.5 million contract, all you have to do is look at the number of touchbacks the Bucs had on kickoffs last year. According to Dominik, that number was one. Koenen, meanwhile, ranked third in the league kickoffs reaching the end zone (48), seventh in percentage of kickoffs that reached the end zone (55.2) and seventh in percentage of touchbacks (26.4).