The Buccaneers are interested in re-signing former Tampa Bay defensive back Dwight Smith, who was released by New Orleans after receiving a $3.5 million signing bonus and playing just one season with the Saints. But the Bucs aren't the only team after the versatile Smith, who has played cornerback and safety in his five years in the NFL, and is one of the league's best special teams contributors.
Sources tell PewterReport.com that the Minnesota Vikings have also entered the picture and have put a lucrative offer on the table after speaking with Smith's agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Rosenhaus has also spoken with the Buccaneers regarding Smith, but the financial package that Minnesota has put forth is believed to be more than what Tampa Bay is currently offering.
The Vikings' interest in Smith stems from his relationship with former Bucs secondary coach Mike Tomlin, who is Minnesota's new defensive coordinator. Tomlin and Smith had a great rapport during their four-year stint together in Tampa Bay from 2001-04. But Minnesota's secondary boasts veterans at safety - Darren Sharper and free agent acquisition Tank Williams - and at cornerback - Fred Smoot and Antoine Winfield.
However, the Vikings lack a solid nickel corner, and that's where Smith, who was Tampa Bay's nickel cornerback for three years, could fit in. Second-year player Will Hunter now occupies that role for Minnesota. Willie Offord is the Vikings' third safety.
While Tampa Bay is loaded at cornerback with Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly, Juran Bolden and Alan Zemaitis, this year's fourth-round pick, the Bucs could use Smith to shore up the safety spots as Jermaine Phillips and third-year player Will Allen are the only two players with real experience at the position. Kalvin Pearson has shown promise, but the Bucs could use Smith's veteran savvy and playmaking ability.
With training camp opening league-wide next week, Smith's fate will likely be decided in the next couple of days. For Smith, it could come down to taking more money and reuniting with Tomlin in Minnesota, or perhaps taking less money and playing for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin again. It may also come down to which position Smith would prefer to play - cornerback or safety.
Smith has several close friends on the Bucs, including quarterback Chris Simms and wide receiver Michael Clayton. Smith recently took part in Clayton's charity celebrity basketball game and commented that he would like to play for the Bucs again.
The 5-foot-10, 201-pound Smith, who was drafted by Tampa Bay in the third round of the 2001 draft out of Akron, is entering his sixth season in the NFL. He has recorded 295 tackles, 14 interceptions, eight forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one sack in his career. Smith set an NFL record by returning two interceptions for touchdowns in Super Bowl XXXVII against the Oakland Raiders in the Bucs' 48-21 victory.
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