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Thursday, Sep 29, 2016
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs have many needs, free-agent possibilities

TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' approach to free agency the past few years has been largely a defensive one. Instead of attacking the market and adding pieces, the Bucs sought mostly to keep their own free agents from jumping to other teams. That could be about change. With more than $42.7 million in available salary cap space, a roster full of holes and a fan base anxious to see the team's owners renew their commitment to winning after hiring coach Greg Schiano, the Bucs have reason this free-agency season to be one of the market's bigger players. Whether they will depends largely on opportunity.
General manager Mark Dominik has vowed to be a more aggressive shopper this year than last year, when the Bucs' biggest addition was punter Michael Koenen. He also said he won't spend just to spend and will only take on players that address a need or fit into the Bucs' scheme. With that in mind, here's a look at Tampa Bay's most pressing areas of need and some of the free agents that could possibly fill the voids when the market opens for business. Cornerback The Bucs are in danger of losing starting right corner Ronde Barber to retirement or another team and starting left corner Aqib Talib to a possible jail sentence, league suspension or both as a result of his involvement in a shooting in Texas last year. The lack of starting-caliber players among the reserves makes this an area the team is sure to address, with young talents such as Cortland Finnegan (Tennessee), Tracy Porter (New Orleans) and William Middleton (Jacksonville) available. Linebacker The Bucs are looking to replace WLB Geno Hayes, but can't forget that SLB Quincy Black was a disappointment last season or that Mason Foster played only adequately as a rookie manning the middle. The Bucs believe Foster has plenty of upside and versatility, so might move him to weakside linebacker and add a middle linebacker such as Stephen Tulloch (Detroit) or David Hawthorne (Seattle). There are a couple of ways the Bucs can go here, including adding a weakside linebacker such as Erin Henderson (Minnesota) and leaving Foster in the middle, but this is a spot the Bucs are likely to address before the draft. Wide receiver The Bucs like their collection of young receivers, but don't have a legitimate vertical threat with the ability to stretch a defense and offer the offense a big-play option. The Bucs have the cash and the need to make a run at Vincent Jackson, the prize of the free-agent wide receiver crop from San Diego. Other options include Marques Colston (New Orleans), Pierre Garcon (Indianapolis) and Laurent Robinson (Dallas). Running back The Bucs haven't soured on LeGarrette Blount, but they need someone better than Kregg Lumpkin to serve as their third-down back and they could use a capable reserve to replace Blount, just in case. The best of a thin group may be Michael Bush (Oakland), but the better fit for the Bucs may be Mike Tolbert (San Diego). Tolbert is a power runner, just like Blount, who has excellent pass-catching skills. In other words, he could fill all the Bucs needs at this spot all by himself. Tight end Kellen Winslow and Luke Stocker failed to play at the level the Bucs expected them to last year and the team lacks a legitimate blocking option here. The talent at this spot is rather thin, but the Bucs could upgrade themselves and even get a discount by targeting Martellus Bennett (Dallas). He's DE Michael Bennett's brother and tight end on the rise, according to a lot of scouts. Bucs free agents Unrestricted Players are free to negotiate with any team. CB Ronde Barber LB Geno Hayes S Sean Jones RB Earnest Graham RB Kregg Lumpkin QB Josh Johnson WR Micheal Spurlock CB Elbert Mack OT James Lee S Corey Lynch DT Frank Okam Restricted Bucs retain right to match any offer from rival team DE Michael Bennett Exclusive rights Bucs hold exclusive negotiating rights RB LeGarrette Blount WR Preston Parker