The network of pro and college talent evaluators that came together to form ESPN’s Scouts Inc. graded out more than 2,500 NFL players, including 187 cornerbacks.
If you scroll down that list of corners you eventually will find, at No. 30, the biggest reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have yet to fill their need for cornerback help by signing a free agent.
When the free agency signing period opened last week, the cornerback rated 30th overall by Scouts Inc., Antoine Cason, also was the cornerback rated first in the Scouts Inc. free agency rankings.
With a grade of 79, Cason is at the top of the class of what Scouts Inc. considers a “good’’ or “solid’’ starter. But the former San Diego Charger who signed with Arizona on Friday is not in their “outstanding’’ or “elite’’ class.
The same can be said for the rest of the free agent corners. It’s a good class, a solid class, but NFL executives will tell you there’s no one in the outstanding or elite class who doesn’t carry some heavy baggage.
The deals struck so far by some of the top corners are proof. Sean Smith signed a three-year, $16.5 million deal with the Chiefs, but only the first year payout of $7.45 million is guaranteed.
Cary Williams signed a three-year, $17-million deal with the Eagles, but only the first year payout of $5.75 million is fully guaranteed.
And Dominique Rodgers Cromartie received only a one-year, $5-million “prove it’’ deal from the Broncos.
The Bucs are sure to address their needy situation at cornerback at some point this offseason. But after overpaying for free agent Eric Wright a year ago, they’re going to be more prudent.
Will they eventually sign a free agent corner? Maybe, if the price is right.
Will they eventually trade for Darrelle Revis? They will if the Jets’ asking price comes down and Revis can assure them he is healthy and committed to the Bucs.
But a deal for Revis, should it happen at all, probably won’t occur until after Revis has been through another few weeks of rehab on his reconstructed left knee, say around the NFl draft in late April.
The Bucs will have a much better idea then of their actual need for Revis, because they’ll have a better idea of whether they can get a starting caliber corner in the draft.
Until then, the Bucs will remain patient. It’s only March. And with some of the best corners in free agency still available, Revis still on the trade block and the draft still ahead, they see no reason to rush into making a mistake.
Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik broke with a personal business trend last week to get free safety Dashon Goldson’s signature on a five-year, $41.5 million contract.
For the past couple years, Dominik limited the number of guaranteed years on free-agent contracts to two so he could quickly get out of a deal if a player proved to be a dud.
To sign Goldson, however, Dominik agreed to guaranteed payouts totaling $25.5 million over the first three years, according to details of the contract filed with the NFL.
Broken down, the guarantees include a $4.5 million salary and $4.5 million roster bonus in 2013, a $6 million salary and $3 million roster bonus in 2014 and a $7.5 million salary in 2015.
The deal includes no signing bonus, but calls for Goldson to receive a $7.5 million salary and $500,000 workout bonus in 2016, as well as a $5.75 million salary in 2017.
Lost amid the departure of DE Michael Bennett in free agency and the release of LB Quincy Black last week was the arrival of what might be the team’s new slot receiver, Kevin Ogletree.
A four-year pro out of Virginia who was with the Cowboys since entering the league in 2009, Ogletree began each of the past two seasons as Dallas’ third receiver before eventually losing the job.
Inconsistency has been a problem. But scouts like Ogletree’s blend of size (6-foot-1, 198 pounds) and athleticism and say he is fast improving as a route runner and could be in for a breakout year.