In 2012, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had some extra cash to spend, and went out into the free agent market to begin re-tooling their team, signing WR Vincent Jackson, OG Carl Nicks and CB Eric Wright to deals during the off-season. First year head coach Greg Schiano took his mix of young players and free agent veterans, and nearly made a playoff run.
In 2013, the Bucs find themselves once again in a position to be able to go on a free agent spending spree due to another group of expiring deals, and the fact that they didn’t spend much in free agency in past seasons. The Buccaneers once tough-as-nails defense showed a bit of softness last season, so that might be where Tampa begins to direct some of their free cash.
According to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, the Buccaneers will be approximately $30.1 million under the 2013 salary cap, and there are some prime defensive players that will be available in the positions they have needs–specifically CB and LB–as Tampa’s pass defense was one of the worst in the league.
At CB, there is quite an impressive list of free agents that could be available, including Brent Grimes, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cary Williams and Aqib Talib, while the free agents at LB could include Brian Urlacher, Daryl Smith and Rey Maualuga.
ESPN’s NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas stated:
“I think the Bucs will be active in free agency, but the splurge might not be as big as last year when the team signed Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright. The Bucs have about $30 million in cap space, but that number will be chopped down a bit if the team re-signs defensive end Michael Bennett and defensive tackle Roy Miller.”
Even with trimming down the salary cap number by re-signing Bennett and/or Miller, the Buccaneers will still have plenty to spend on at least a couple of the above mentioned free agents. Pass defense has to be a priority, particularly playing in the NFC South where they Bucs will be faced with playing Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Drew Brees two times each.
Grimes was franchised by the Atlanta Falcons last season, but was injured at the beginning of the season. It’s doubtful Atlanta will offer Grimes the long-term deal he is looking for, so they may opt to saddle him with the franchise tag for a second consecutive year if they have any thoughts of keeping him. If that happens, you can expect Grimes to buck even harder than last season where he waited until the last possible minute to sign his tender.
It would be interesting to see if the Buccaneers wanted to take another shot at Talib, who they traded to the New England Patriots in November, 2012. After serving a four-game suspension for violation of the league’s performance enhancing drug policy (he tested positive for Adderall), the Bucs seemingly washed their hands of the oft-troubled Talib.
Rodgers-Cromartie and Williams would both be pricey, and while the former might be interested in leaving a Philadelphia Eagles team that is going to rebuild and possibly struggle in 2013, it’s highly unlikely that Williams is going to want to depart his roost with the newly crowned Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
At linebacker, Tampa’s best bet might be trying to sign veteran Daryl Smith away from the Jacksonville Jaguars, as it’s highly doubtful that the Chicago Bears are going to part ways with Urlacher, and the young Maualuga is an integral part of the Cincinnati Bengals‘ much improved defense.
The Buccaneers definitely have the money to burn, it’s just a matter of who they spend it on, and when.