Bucs to get assistance from free agency?
We all watched on in disbelief as the Bucs went through one of the most spectacular NFL meltdowns you will ever see waiting for the bad dream to end. It didn't. When you look at some of the mediocre teams that will be playing in the playoffs it is hard to grasp why our beloved Bucs aren't there. Are the likes of Carolina, Philadelphia and Minnesota any better than the Buccaneers? No but the difference is these teams have BIG playmakers, something the Bucs have very few of.
Whether its Adrian Peterson, Steve Smith or Brian Westbrook the teams going into the post season have players in their ranks that make things happen. Take away Antonio Bryant, and maybe Ronde Barber, and the cupboard looks pretty rare. No running game, no past rush and a one dimensional passing attack, all things that need serious attention.
Rumours around the NFL have the Bucs anything up to $10 million under the salary cap and this needs to be filled with top quality NFL star talents. Below I've had a look at some of the top free agents that will be looking around for a payday in the close season. Obviously some will resign at 0:01am when free agency opens but others will be there for the taking...
Albert Haynesworth - Tennessee Titans
Haynesworth has had his share of controversy surrounding him, but lately he’s turned things around and has focused on simply playing the game. He has improved upon his ’07 season when he made six sacks and 40 tackles in 13 games. The Titans look like a different team on defence depending on whether or not Haynesworth is on the field; with him on the field they are one of the best defences in the league because of the pressure he took off of others. Tennessee will be busting a gut to keep him hoping he continues to bolster their defensive play as a whole. Resign Jovan Haye and add Albert to the rotation with Chris Hovan and all of a sudden we're getting somewhere!
Kurt Warner - Arizona Cardinals
The former MVP and Super Bowl winner is having an MVP standard season in Arizona. His yardage total is second in all of the NFL, while his touchdown total is second in the league and the passer rating is easily tops in the game. Warner may look for an extension from Arizona, but if both sides can’t agree to a deal, Warner will demand good money in free agency. With Jeff Garcia no guarantee to return Warner would offer a solid experienced "Garcia-esque" QB to fill the void.
Darren Sproles - San Diego Chargers
Sproles is a electrifying player, who loves to bang heads and has excellent speed. He has done a sterling job returning kicks for the Chargers, where he is averaging more than 25 yards per kick return and almost 11 yards per punt return. Sproles has been a number two back while doing the special teams work with the Chargers. Sproles will likely stay unless a team offers him a chance at a starting role. Michael Turner has found considerable success having left San Diego, but Sproles doesn’t have quite the same skill set. A younger Warrick Dunn in my eyes and is ready to step out of LT's shadow. Signing Sproles would probably ensure that Clifton Smith is used almost exclusively as a kick returner but I do think he would add something to our rushing offence.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh - Cincinnati Bengals
A blue chip marquee player, and arguably the best receiver in the entire NFL. TJ has been able to put up strong numbers this season even without Carson Palmer throwing to him for most of this season. He may once again reach a triple-digit total for receptions and might also break the 1,000-yard level for the third straight season. Losing Houshmandzadeh would be a major setback for Cincinnati and so I think the Bengals will make every effort to retain him. This would make us a very different offence, just for once the Bucs would have 2 big play receivers (assuming we keep hold of Antonio Bryant).
Bobby Engram - Seattle Seahawks
Engram likely won’t be the most wanted receiver in free agency, but would give the Bucs an experienced receiver to help develop Stovall, Clark and the like. I see Engram filling the Muhsin Mohammed-Steve Smith role opposite Antonio Bryant. His 2007 campaign was the best of his career. His 94 receptions helped him rack up 1,147 yards and six touchdowns, this year the Seahawks have been so bad I don't think Randy Moss and TO would have had good numbers! With his history of injury and a struggling offensive unit not helping his numbers, he’ll likely wind up back in Seattle with his career closer to the end than the beginning but if the Bucs want a solid Ike Hilliard replacement they could do worse that looking at Engram.
Nnamdi Asomugha - Oakland Raiders
Asomugha’s numbers aren't overwhelming other than his eight interceptions in ’06, but the big reason that he has only 241 career tackles and 10 interceptions is because opponents attack the side of the field that Asomugha isn’t on. He has 40 passes defended over the past three seasons prior to ‘08 and he’s one of the NFL’s best in coverage. He’s held some of the game’s best receivers in check in single coverage and when he becomes a free agent, he may command the most attention of anyone in free agency. Quite simply a young Ronde Barber.
If I had to pick one I'd snap your hand off at Houshmandzadeh as it means we could outscore teams in tight games. A close second would be Haynesworth as gods knows we need to get some pressure on QBs next year or they'll all be having career games against us. Who knows who'll leave, who'll stay and who will join the Bucs during free agency but I just hope we get something to excite the fans who've put up with so much this season.