Free agency in the NFL is still over a month away, but Bucs fans are already focused on how their team can make the drastic turnaround the Seattle Seahawks have made over the last few years.
Below are just 12 names of potential free agents I believe might make sense for the Buccaneers this off-season. Some of these players might be candidates for their team’s franchise tag, which would prevent them from making it to free agency.
I do not believe the Bucs will look at nor sign every player listed below. These are only names of free agents I feel might make sense for the Buccaneers and their new regime.
You’ll notice that some of these free agents might end up being bargains due to coming off of injury, age, or being at a position that is fairly deep in free agency. Last year, we saw free agents like John Abraham, Michael Bennett, and Brent Grimes all signed 1-year contracts and all went on to have very successful seasons. The Bucs need these type of players.
Here are some potential free agents that could help the Bucs:
1. Jared Allen – DE – This name should be no surprise if you’ve followed the names available and connected the dots with the Bucs. The Bucs are in need of a defensive end and of a player that could bring an attitude to their defense. Allen’s familiarity with Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier might make this a natural match. I’d look for Allen to end up with a 2-3 year contract.
2. Jeremy Maclin – WR – Maclin is coming off of a torn ACL that forced him to miss the entire 2013 season, but his questionable health might lead to an affordable 1-year “prove it” contract. Before the injury, Maclin was a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford has continued to say the phrase “speed in space,” and a healthy Maclin is a player I’d love to see with the ball in space. I think Maclin signs a 1-year contract.
3. Alex Mack – Center – Mack is the biggest question for me with the Bucs simply because of the money he could demand and that he might not even make it to free agency. The Browns might have to decide between TJ Ward and Mack as to whom might receive the team’s franchise tag. Mack played for Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford at Cal and is considered one of the smartest players in the NFL. If the Bucs target Mack, that means one of their high-priced offensive linemen (Penn, Nicks, Joseph) are likely on the way out. I expect Mack to get a 5-6 year contract.
4. Dexter McCluster – WR/RB/KR – When Lovie Smith talked about the importance of a return game in his initial press conference, it was safe to connect the dots to potential Bears free agent Devin Hester. While the 31 year old Hester is a possibility, a younger option might be Largo’s own Dexter McCluster. McCluster is an excellent return man with the ability to also bring the big play to offense. Jeff Tedford would love to get a guy like McCluster in space. I think McCluster signs a 4-year deal.
5. Brandon Pettigrew – TE – Pettigrew has been a player with all of the tools and potential to be a top tight end in the NFL. That potential has yet to be reached, but the fact is that Pettigrew can be a big boost to a team’s run and pass game. Pettigrew will likely sign a shorter contract as a “prove it” deal.
6. Michael Oher – OT – While the movie about his life might have Oher in an elite light, the fact is that Oher is far from elite and is limited to right tackle. These two factors, along with this year’s offensive tackle free agent class being fairly deep, will affect the amount of money Oher ends up getting. Demar Dotson might be ready for a shift to left tackle, which would open up a slot at right tackle. I think Oher could end up with a contract of any length, but I’ll guess 3 years.
7. Charles Tillman – CB – The Walter Payton Man of the Year is a free agent and a natural fit for Lovie Smith’s defense. He did make a comment recently about retiring as a member of the Bears, but that could simply mean a 1-day contract once he is ready to retire. Tillman could be that 3rd corner the Bucs are so desperate for. Look for the 33 year old Tillman to sign a 1-year contract.
8. Captain Munnerlyn – CB – Munnerlyn was a free agent last year and told me on my show that he was hoping the Bucs would bring him in. While he confirmed the Bucs were talking to him and his agent, he said the Bucs sole focus was on Darrelle Revis. Munnerlyn stands just 5’9”, but can be a valuable asset as a slot corner in a league that uses more 3-receiver sets than ever before. I can see Munnerlyn signing a 4-year contract.
9. Henry Melton – DT – Melton became a Pro Bowler in Lovie Smith’s last year with the Bears. Melton tore his ACL on September 22 of last season and was arrested in December for assault and public intoxication. The Bears might give up on Melton, but perhaps Lovie Smith might look at Melton as a pro bowl defensive tackle who can play next to McCoy on passing downs. Look for Melton to sign a 1-year deal.
10. Golden Tate – WR – I remember being on the air when the Bucs selected Arrelious Benn over Golden Tate a few years back. Now, the Bucs have a chance to make that right. Tate could be a nice slot receiver for the Bucs and another candidate to get the ball to in space. I do not anticipate Tate commanding big money, but he could end up with a 4-year deal.
11. Corey Wootton – DE – Wootton enters free agency coming off of arthroscopic surgery on his right hip. While Wootton will be out for 6 months, it is expected that he will be a much better player with more flexibility and explosiveness. Wootton comes from Chicago and could fit at left defensive end for Lovie Smith’s defense. Look for Wootton to sign a 1-year deal because of the surgery.
12. Willie Young – DE – With Ziggy Ansah entering year 2, the Lions might allow Young to leave in free agency. Young can be brought in as a pass rush specialist at a discounted price. While Young had just 3 sacks in 2013, Young might be the pass rushing role player Bucs GM Jason Licht is looking for. I think Young ends up with a 1-year deal.