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March 21, 2012 @ 8:00 pm
Current rating: 4.80 Stars/5 Votes

Buccaneers 2012 Free Agency Grades

Written by Andrew
Andrew Scavelli


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How did Tampa Bay fare in free agency thus far? Bucs beat writer Andrew Scavelli gives his analysis and impressions on Tampa Bay's big offseason signings as he recaps the team's 2012 free agency efforts.

Going into the offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers promised their fan base that they would be an active participant in free agency and made it no secret of their plans to acquire this year's top talent on the free agent market. The first wave of free agency and big money spending is now over and the Bucs lived up to their guarantee, making two of the best free agent signings in franchise history. With the first week of free agency in the books, beat writer Andrew Scavelli offers up his grades and opinions on the team’s early 2012 free agency class.

Tampa Bay landed the best free agent wide receiver on the market when they signed Jackson to a five-year, $55.55 million contract on Tuesday, March 13. Jackson's contract numbers were a nod to quarterback Josh Freeman and showed that this move was all about number five. The 6-foot-5, 230 pound Jackson gives Freeman a legitimate number one receiving option and a much needed vertical deep threat for new offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan's offense, which will allow Freeman to take plenty of shots down the field.

The signing of Jackson will not only help Freeman, but will also aid all of his other receiving options. On the field, Jackson is a polished route runner and is great at getting separation, which will help to take away double teams from receiver Mike Williams and tight end Kellen Winlsow, providing them with more one-on-one opportunities. Off the field, Jackson will provide leadership in the wide receiver room that Tampa Bay's young receivers have not yet had in their first two years with the team and the eight-year pro will be a great mentor and teacher to them.

Jackson was the team's first free agent signing and the Bucs reached a deal with the Pro Bowl receiver within the first few hours of the start of free agency period. Jackson had been looking for a payday for a long time and was finally rewarded in Tampa, getting $26 million in guaranteed money in his new deal and a lot of money early on in his contract. The Bucs may have had to pay Jackson more for his services than other teams to get him to Tampa Bay, but it could prove to be worth it in the long run if he helps revamp the passing game and builds up Freeman's confidence like the team is expecting him to do. The Bucs get a near perfect grade for acquiring Jackson.


Aside from Peyton Manning, Carl Nicks may have been the best free agent available on the market. Nicks is arguably one of the top interior offensive linemen in the game and Tampa Bay paid him accordingly, signing the two-time Pro Bowler to a five-year, $47.5 million contract with $31 million in guaranteed money.

The 6-foot-5, 343-pound Nicks will help shore up the offensive line and gives Tampa Bay the solution at left guard that they have been trying to find for years. Pairing Nicks with Pro Bowl right guard Davin Joseph also gives the Bucs the best offensive guard tandem in the league. Head coach Greg Schiano's offensive strategy calls for the Bucs to have a physical ground attack and Nicks is one of the best run blockers in the game. The five-year pro enjoys run blocking the most and the Bucs' new offensive philosophy helped lure the division rival to Tampa Bay.

Nicks, like Jackson, made a business move in leaving his former team to cash in on the biggest pay check he could get, but the contract he received was well-deserved and fair for both sides, as he should be the highest paid guard in the league. The Bucs helped Josh Freeman and the offense big time with this signing and the team also deserves credit for trying to hurt a division rival in the process, although the Saints won't feel the loss as they landed Pro Bowler Ben Grubbs to replace Nicks. The Bucs receive top marks for this signing.

The Bucs helped to fill a big need a cornerback with the signing of Eric Wright, but this signing came at too high of a price. Tampa Bay signed Wright to a five-year, $37.5 million contract on March 14 and guaranteed the veteran corner $15.5 million. Wright's big contract comes just one year after he signed a one-year, $2 million "prove it" contract with the Lions last offseason. Wright is by no means a top-flight corner, but he is getting paid like one by the Bucs.

Although Wright is not an ideal starter, the team loves his versatility and his ability to play both outside and in the slot at the nickel cornerback position. The sixth-year pro Wright's career and skill set compare to Philip Buchannon when the Bucs signed him and Wright should have a similar role as Buchannon did with Tampa Bay, playing any cornerback spot the team needs him to.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Wright excels playing in the slot as a nickel cornerback and upon signing with the Bucs said that he would love to learn from legendary cornerback Ronde Barber. Now that Barber is making his return for another season, Wright will get to learn that position from one of the best and perhaps Barber can also inspire him to be more willing to tackle for a smaller cornerback.

With the Lions in 2011, Wright allowed a league-high 75 receptions to be completed against him, but also intercepted four passes and broke up another 16. Sometimes a change of scenery and a different defensive scheme can benefit a player and the Bucs have to hope that is the case with Wright. The Nevada-Las Vegas product flashed a lot of potential and impressed early in his career with the Browns, but hasn't quite taken his game to the next level yet.

The Bucs front office has shown in the past that they are not afraid to give up a lot and overpay to get the guy they want, just as they did with tight end Luke Stocker in the draft last year, and this is no different with the Wright signing. From a signing standpoint, this compares to the Quincy Black deal of last offseason. While Black flashed moments of brilliance and potential, he never showed that he could be a consistent player even though his contract was one of a proven, quality NFL linebacker.

At the end of the day, the Bucs are getting a serviceable, startable cornerback that is an upgrade over E.J. Biggers and Myron Lewis. In no way should Wright keep the Bucs from drafting LSU corner Morris Claiborne, but it does provide the team with a better option than last season's cornerbacks in case Aqib Talib is not on the opening day roster.

If new Bucs defensive backs coach Ron Cooper can harness Wright's talent and skill set and turn him into a consistent cover corner, the Bucs may be able to get their money's worth. Head coach Greg Schiano talked about how the team was going to spend its money cautiously and responsibly before free agency and Wright’s contract was an irresponsible use of money by the front office as the team could have signed a cornerback on the same level as Wright and a solid linebacker with the money they spent on him. That's why a low grade is required here until Wright proves otherwise.

The Bucs signed Dan Orlovsky to a two-year, $2.5 million contract on Thursday, March 15. The Connecticut product is expected backup quarterback Josh Freeman and the team obtained Orlovsky for a great value.

While Orlovsky isn’t exactly an upgrade over Josh Johnson, he is a serviceable player that is a better fit for offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan's offense. Orlovsky also worked with Bucs quarterbacks coach Ron Turner in Indianapolis, so the two already have a familiarity and good comfort level with each other.

Ideally, Orlovsky would be a team's third string quarterback or face competition for the backup job, so the Bucs should bring in another quarterback to compete at some point this offseason just to be safe. If Orlovsky does win the backup job, he certainly wouldn't be the greatest backup QB in the league, but this is a solid signing nonetheless.

As a whole, the early stages of the 2012 free agency period were a massive success for the Bucs. Tampa Bay acquired a top flight receiver in Vincent Jackson, one of the best offensive linemen in the game in Carl Nicks, a startable cornerback in Eric Wright and a backup quarterback to Josh Freeman in Dan Orlovsky. The team addressed three very important needs and filled a couple of major holes on their roster.

What's even more impressive is the flawless execution of the Bucs plan to acquire the players they wanted to sign and not miss out on their potential targets. The team sent private jets to pick up these players in a first class fashion and acted quickly to get deals done that the players couldn't refuse. The Bucs used the free agency process the best they ever have since they won the Super Bowl ten years ago and hope these signings can help to produce similar results down the road.

Tampa Bay has a long way to go until they can get to that competitive level again, but the Greg Schiano-Mark Dominik regime is off to a great start in giving the team the opportunity to produce better results than last year. Besides helping the team on the field, these signings have also helped the team off the field, generating a positive buzz around the team in the community that it hasn't had in years as the team has shown that they are committed to putting a winning product on the field.

Check back to PewterReport.com later in the week to find out which players the Bucs should continue to target in the second and third waves of free agency.

For a complete and detailed list of free agent signings and remaining available players on the open market, visit PewterReport.com’s 2012 Free Agency Tracker.

Last modified on Friday, 23 March 2012 01:12

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  • avatar

    you know every time i turn on sports center i see all these other teams who by the way had better records than we didnt continuing to sign top free agents at positions we currently have a need i dont understand that i guess the glazers are saying "lets just pacify these fans to make it look like we are trying to do something"
  • avatar

    @jrogers i didnt get 2 see all the games but i really dont remember talib playing out of position. h actually was having a pretty good year until he got hurt. No the safties yes they stayed in the wrong spot. But like i say i didn't get 2 c all the games.
  • avatar

    Your right Tailb had a good year. The only receiver he had a bad game against was Megatron from Detroit, but he made everyone look bad last year so I didn't hold that against him. Biggers on the other hand??!!
  • avatar

    Las Vegas gave us a "zero" grade; no movement is Bucs success this season.
  • avatar

    Hey Andrew - Any inclination of the Bucs getting a Veteran LB or S to come in here this year? From what I remember Talib and our safeties were constantly out of position last year. I believe this to be a HUGE area of concern. Or do you think we will just draft them and hope we strike gold?
  • avatar

    From what I understand they Lions were burned in the last 6 games of the year when 2 of their corners were hurt. If we run a zone defense he could actually be very good, he has the speed and can pick the ball if he is facing the QB more. It is very possible they reached for this guy but you usually dont sign smart on 2 guys and totally dumb on another. They let Lofton walk but not wright. There has to be a reason for that.
  • avatar

    This takes away the sting from WalterFootball's grades on us. When I hear Orlovski, I think of the guy running out of the endzone for a safety. Laugh every time... now after I laugh, I cry a little bit as I realize he's our backup. - 3sk
  • avatar

    If we can just get Lofton in the fold, it will really be a Dream Free Agency Haul. I note that Cadillac Williams is not signed with anyone yet. We should never have let him go last year and should get him back to be our 3rd down back this year. If Earnest Graham does not get a job somewhere, out of respect for what he has meant to our team, we should offer him a scouting job with the Bucs. If an opening develops on the coaching staff for a running backs coach, he could then be elevated, and would do a great job. Blount loves him too. We need to make sure we do not let Michael Spurlock or Corey Lynch get away. They are invaluable to our special teams and both of them have proven they can play when called upon to step up; so they are valuable backups too. We also need to save a TE slot on the roster and grab Daniel Hardy back from the Saints Practice Squad. Hardy has the hands and height and speed to be a young Kevin Winslow, and at 9 pounds heavier than Winslow, could be taught to be a much better blocker too. He was phenomenol in the preseason last year, and if Winslow's knees do not hold up, Hardy needs to be on the roster
  • avatar

    Well Andrew you're probably not going to get an interview with Eric Wright after that piece. You made a statement that our newest CB had a whopping 75 passes completed against him. If accurate, that's nearly 5 passes a game. My question would be; who made that calculation when I doubt they were all in man to man coverage? Maybe you could check with Dominik and Hickey. I'd also point out that Ollovsky must be an upgrade over Josh Johnson since our new clipboard holder has actually won games.
  • avatar

    l believe it was our pick they traded for ryan
  • avatar

    Agreed. I'm still really wondering what's going on with Curtis Lofton? The fact that he hasn't signed with anyone yet is strange. Some say its because he was waiting to see the Saints punishment. I know the Bucs have put in an off to him. Ive heard it was between the Bucs, Saints, and Eagles for him but we know the Eagles are out now, and who would want to go to the Saints now???
  • avatar

    gg720, I think you are mistaken about Trueblood. He's not that bad especially since we got rid of Faine and the whole OL got a lot bigger so Trueblood will not be on his own island by himself anymore. I am not sure yet if the Bucs are thru willing and dealing for a LB. We could trade down several spots if someone throws in a decent LB instead of a draft pick.
  • avatar

    Agree with you and will have to see what Wright does this next year before I see it as a mistake for the money. What is really discouraging is seeing the linebacker from the Texans go to the Eagles for a 4th round pick. I know we didn't have one, but we couldn't have packaged a couple of DB's like Biggers and Lewis and thrown in Trueblood to get him. Great move by the Eagles in getting him for a 4th rounder. Dominick, you were asleep at the wheel on that one!
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