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Monday, Mar 19, 2018
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Bucs add several on busy first day of free agency

TAMPA — It became glaringly apparent Tuesday that the Buccaneers were not just sitting around idly twiddling their thumbs during the NFL’s three-day free-agency negotiating period.

Though attempts to work a deal that would allow them to either keep cornerback Darrelle Revis at a lesser price or trade him away for something substantial consumed a lot of their time, it obviously did not consume all of it.

Within minutes of the signing period’s 4 p.m. shotgun start, four free agents officially agreed to terms on new contracts with the Bucs while three others prepared to visit the team in the coming days, their agents or the Bucs confirmed.

Former Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, former Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, former Seahawks defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and former Giants tight end Brandon Myers agreed to terms with the Bucs.

Assuming they pass their physicals, each will sign with the team on Wednesday, with the team planning a noon news conference at One Buc Place.

Also on Wednesday, former Bears quarterback Josh McCown and former Patriots middle linebacker Dane Fletcher are expected to complete their visits with the Bucs.

And more visits could be on the horizon.

Reports circulating late Tuesday claimed former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman and former Bears return man Devin Hester were angling to reunite with Bucs coach Lovie Smith, who coached the Bears from 2004-12.

The Bucs were also expected to receive a visit in the next day or so from former Bengals swing tackle Anthony Collins, who could possibly challenge incumbent starting left tackle Donald Penn for playing time.

Amid the influx, though, there remained the strong possibility of a major exit as the Bucs are expected to decide Wednesday afternoon what to do with Revis, who is slated to earn $16 million in 2014.

Revis is due to receive a $1.5 million roster bonus at 4 p.m. Wednesday. And, if he is still on the roster at that time, the 2014 fourth-round draft pick the Bucs gave the Jets in trade a year ago becomes a third-round pick.

With only five 2014 draft picks in hand to begin with the Bucs want to avoid losing their third-round pick if at all possible, so the likelihood exists that the Bucs will simply cut Revis and make him a free agent.

Before they do that, though, the Bucs will exhaust all trade options and efforts to restructure what’s left of the six-year, $96-million contract Revis signed when he came aboard last year.

A source with knowledge of the team’s actions told the Tribune on Monday that the Bucs were struggling to achieve those objectives largely because of Revis’s unwillingness to restructure his contract.

The $16-million cap hit they would take by adding Revis in a trade was proving to be too rich for most teams, the source said, but a couple of teams with large amounts of cap room were believed to still have some interest in Revis. Several internet reports on Tuesday suggested the Raiders and Browns might do a deal with the Bucs for Revis, whose departure would come largely as a result of the financial commitment the Bucs have made to him.

Smith said recently that he could easily work Revis into his zone-based Cover 2 scheme, but he also believes the Bucs need a major overhaul of talent. The $16 million due Revis could net the team as many as three players.

The Bucs also have the option of turning Revis’ $13.5-million salary into a signing bonus. That would reduce Revis’s 2014 cap number to $6.2 million, but the Bucs appear determined to spend that in other areas.

One of those areas, of course, is the defensive line, where Smith said recently that the Bucs were without an impact defensive end who could push their pass rush to an elite level.

The Bucs are hoping the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Johnson can give the pass rush that boost, despite the fact he recorded only 3.5 sacks in 15 games (all starts) last year.

Johnson, who agreed to a five-year, $43.75-million deal with the Bucs, also recorded 41 quarterback hurries, 17 quarterback hits and seven blocked passes last year. He had 11.5 sacks in 2012, prompting the Bengals to use their franchise tag on him in 2013.

Johnson posted this on his Twitter account Tuesday: “Thankful and blessed with the opportunity to do what I love! I’m super excited to embark on this new journey.’’

The addition of Verner provides the Bucs with a potential replacement for Revis. Verner, who played in the Pro Bowl in January, is a fifth-year pro who intercepted five passes and broke up 22 more for the Titans last season. At 25, he is considered one of the more gifted and physical young corners in the league.

The addition of McDonald, who agreed to a four-year, $12-million deal, should aid the pass rush, as well. A possible replacement for 2013 starting nose tackle Akeem Spence, McDonald recorded 5.5 sacks last year.

The 6-foot-3, 256-pound Myers, meanwhile, should help the passing game. After catching 79 passes for 806 yards and four touchdowns with the Raiders in 2012, Myers moved to the Giants last year and caught 47 passes for 522 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bucs also re-signed four of their own free agents on Tuesday, completing one-year deals with return man Eric Page and cornerback Deveron Carr, and two-year deals with offensive lineman Jamon Meredith and cornerback Danny Gorrer.

The day include at least one free-agent loss, however, as former special teams captain and backup middle linebacker Adam Hayward signed a three-year deal with the Washington Redskins.

The Bucs also released Lawrence Tynes, the kicker whose 2013 season was ruined after he contracted a MRSA infection in his kicking foot during training camp. The move allows Tynes to become an unrestricted free agent.

The Bucs could lose special teams standout and backup strongside linebacker Dekoda Watson, who is scheduled to visit the Jacksonville Jaguars today.

Fletcher, who made the switch from defensive tackle to middle linebacker after signing with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2010, could replace Hayward should he opt to sign with the Bucs.

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Bucs add several on busy first day of free agency