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Friday, Feb 12, 2016
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

You be the Bucs' GM: Running backs

The NFL free agency period begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday. For seven consecutive days, The Tampa 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 2010, and Bucs and notable NFL players scheduled to become free agents.

OK, Bucs fans. You be the general manager.

Running back

Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham faced an unlikely opponent that limited their performances last season.

Their coaching staff.

The Bucs failed to commit to the running game for most of 2009, which did nothing to help rookie quarterback Josh Freeman.

Williams proved he could carry the workload, rushing 211 times for 823 yards and four touchdowns, but the Bucs' coaching staff struggled to integrate Ward into the offense and Graham's carries diminished when he was asked to shift to fullback in place of injured B.J. Askew.

Still, running back does not appear to be an area of great need for the Bucs. Ward and Graham are under contract and Williams is unlikely to leave after receiving a tender offer from the Bucs on Friday.

Return specialist Clifton Smith also remains an option in the backfield - if the Bucs can come up with a game plan for four running backs.

Bucs under contract for 2010

B.J. Askew - Great FB when healthy but is injury prone

Earnest Graham - Unselfish, must compete with Smith

Kareem Huggins - Has some definite upside

Chris Pressley - FB improved as season progressed

Derrick Ward - Didn't say much; production was quieter

Bucs potential free agents

Clifton Smith - Hoping Bucs will reward him

Byron Storer (RFA) - On injured reserve past two years

Cadillac Williams (RFA*) - Team's leading rusher in '09

NOTE: (RFA) - denotes restricted free agent; Bucs have chance to match any offer or receive compensation if player leaves. (RFA*) - denotes restricted free agent if no Collective Bargaining Agreement in place.

NFL potential free agents

Mike Bell, Saints (RFA) - Provides depth for Saints

Chris Brown, Texans - He's 30, on downside of career

Jerome Harrison, Browns (RFA) - Team's top threat

Willie Parker, Steelers - Has become an afterthought

Chester Taylor, Vikings - Lost his job to Adrian Peterson

Pierre Thomas, Saints (RFA) - Hard to not keep him

LaDainian Tomlinson - Wants to be on a contender

Brian Westbrook - Injury prone but still has gas in tank

The schedule:

Thursday, Feb. 25: Quarterbacks

Friday, Feb. 26: Defensive line

Saturday, Feb. 27: Offensive line

Sunday, Feb. 28: Linebackers

Monday, March 1: Running backs

Tuesday, March 2: Defensive backs

Wednesday, March 3: Receivers/tight ends

Thursday, March 4: Summary and results

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