Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM: Tight ends
The NFL free agency period begins at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. That means the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 31 other teams have only a few precious days left to decide which of their own free agents to bring back and who to pursue — and how much money to spend — when players hit the open market. The Bucs are about $33 million under the 2013 salary cap of $123 million. Fifth-year general manager Mark Dominik is in charge of shaping the roster, and there are plenty of needs and variables to consider. For eight straight days, the Tribune and TBO.com will feature one position each day. We’ll provide an analysis of the position and list the players to consider: Bucs under contract for 2013, plus Bucs and notable NFL players scheduled to become free agents.So, Bucs fans, what would you do? Now is your chance. You be the GM.
For the first time in three seasons, the Buccaneers’ leading pass catcher last year was not a tight end named Kellen Winslow.
Winslow’s departure and the arrival of wideout Vincent Jackson were the biggest reasons for that, but coordinator Mike Sullivan’s reduced emphasis on the tight end also played a part. Tampa Bay’s emphasis on the run means tight ends are used more as blockers than pass-catchers, but every team needs a receiving threat there.
The likely departure of Dallas Clark as a free agent could make this a top priority. Luke Stocker is a solid blocker and adequate pass-catcher who is improving, but he appears to lack the ability to be a dynamic playmaker.
The draft could offer several options, including Zach Ertz of Stanford, Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame and Jordan Reed of Florida.
Tampa Bay wants to add either a dynamic slot receiver or a tight end during the free-agent signing period. There’s a chance they could land both, but one or the other is a must.
BUCS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2013
Nate Byham: Good size, good route runner, but only adequate speed and quickness.
Drake Dunsmore: A good collection of skills, but injuries have slowed career.
Luke Stocker: Solid blocker and pass-catcher but not a difference-maker.
Zach Miller: Has the speed and pass-catching skills to be a playmaker.
Danny Noble: Flashed some promise last year before a season-ending injury.
BUCS POTENTIAL FREE AGENTS
Dallas Clark: Feeling at One Buc Place is he wants to reunite with Peyton Manning.
NFL POTENTIAL FREE AGENTS
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta: Expected to retire, but could return for one more year.
Martellus Bennett, N.Y. Giants: Worked for new Bucs receivers coach John Garrett in Dallas
Dustin Keller, N.Y. Jets: After career year in 2011, injuries washed out 2012.
Brandon Myers, Oakland: Might be the best young pass-catcher on the market
Jared Cook, Tennessee: Loads of potential, but has yet to put it all together.
Kevin Boss, Kansas City: Concussions kept this solid player off the field in 2012.
Monday: Defensive line
Wednesday: Defensive back
Today: Tight end
Saturday: Offensive line
Sunday: Running back
St. Petersburg's ballooning sewage debt could threaten credit rating (but there's a Hail Mary plan to avoid that)