With free agency just one week away the Tampa Bay front office and
coaching staff are busy scouting potential free agents to target on
March 12 to help improve the Buccaneers. In this feature,
PewterReport.com lists five defensive linemen who are unrestricted free agents
that the Buccaneers may consider signing.
While the recent revelation that the Buccaneers are prepared to replace free agent Michael Bennett with Da’Quan Bowers may be a case of Bucs general manager Mark Dominik bluffing to agent Drew Rosenhaus, Tampa Bay must still add some talent to the defensive line.
Along with Bennett, Roy Miller is also slated to be a free agent and so far there have been no reports of negotiations with Miller. Bennett and Miller combined to help Tampa Bay lead the NFL in rush defense and the loss of either or both would certainly make it difficult to defend their No.1 run defense ranking in 2013.
Daniel T’eo- Nesheim is a restricted free agent, but it is thought that Tampa Bay is very interested in keeping Nesheim in the fold, and most likely will tender an offer to the former Washington Huskie star.
Besides Bennett and Miller, the Buccaneers currently have Bowers, Gerald McCoy, Gary Gibson, Adrian Clayborn, Richard Clebert, Corey Irvin, Lavarius Levingston, Matthey Masifilo, Ernest Owusu, and Markus White on their roster.
This year the NFL is allowing a three-day window prior to the March 12 star time, allowing free agents to enter into discussions with prospective teams. The change is most likely a way for teams to avoid being hit with tampering allegations, as prior to this season NFL teams were not allowed to speak to players or agents of the players who were set to become free agents.
Monday was the deadline for teams to designate one player as their franchise player. The franchise tag guarantees the selected player a one-year contract that equals the average of the top-10 players at their position.
Three of the top free agents, Chicago’s Henry Melton, the Bengals’ Michael Johnson and the Cowboys’ Anthony Spencer all received the franchise-tag designation. The Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik recently stated publicly that Tampa Bay will not use the franchise tag this season, and was true to his word. Tagging Bennett would have cost the Bucs $11,175,000 in 2013.
Kruger was a crucial part of the Ravens’ success in 2012, capping off with a Super Bowl victory last month against the 49ers. Kruger played both as a defensive end and an edge-rushing linebacker, but was a defensive end during his college career. Does he want to convert back to primarily a defensive end or will he prefer to go play for another 3-4 defense as a standup rush linebacker? That will be the biggest question when free agency opens next Tuesday. Kruger was a second-round draft pick by the Ravens in the 2009 draft and after an outstanding second half of the 2012 season, many wondered if the Ravens would use the franchise tag on the former Utah star, which they chose not to and are bracing for the possibility of losing him in free agency. Kruger doesn't have elite pass rushing moves in his repertoire, but has an incredible motor and comes up huge in big games, including two sacks in the Super Bowl that forced the 49ers to kick field goals.Osi Umenyiora
Umenyiora is on the wrong side of 30 (31) but certainly could bring a leadership role inside the Bucs locker room in addition to possibly becoming a situational pass rusher. With 75 career sacks, Umenyiora has a proven track record at getting to the quarterback. His production dipped in 2012 with just 6 sacks in 16 games, but had he played for Tampa Bay with those numbers he would have been second on the team behind Bennett. Umenyiora has expressed an interest to return to New York but with the lack of cap space that appears unlikely. Again, two Super Bowl rings would get the attention of the young Bucs defensive linemen in the meeting rooms, if in fact Umenyiora were to choose to be a leader. The motivation to prove the Giants wrong could bode well for whatever team gives the former Giant a shot in 2013.Cliff Avril
There is no question that Avril is in his prime and is a dynamic pass rusher, but the Lions free agent is hoping for huge money on the free agent market. Avril recently told Sirius/XM NFL Radio that he didn’t regret turning down the Lions offer of three-years, $30 million before the start of the 2012 season. Avril signed a one-year, $10.6 million deal as the team’s franchise player. Since being selected in the 2008 draft, Avril has collected 39.5 sacks, including 9.5 in 2012, while also adding 35 tackles. Again, Avril is one of the better pass rushers in the league but also mentioned Mario Williams money which will price him out of most team’s future if he sticks to those demands.Dwight Freeney
Freeney, like Umenyiora, most like has seen his better days, and after an illustrious career in Indy, Freeney will be wearing new colors in 2013. While it is the rude, tough business of the NFL, players playing their entire careers for the same team is becoming more and more of a rarity. The Colts, which had Freeney playing as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme under new head coach Chuck Pagano, broke the news to Freeney recently that they aren’t interested in bringing their all-time sack leader back. While Indianapolis may not want Freeney there will be several suitors, with rumors abounding that the Patriots and Broncos are interested in having Freeney aboard as a situational third-down pass rusher. Freeney was banged up to a degree in 2012 and not comfortable in his role and he finished with a career-low in sacks with just five QB takedowns.John Abraham
Abraham is also well past his prime but recently stated he thinks he has a couple years left in the tank. Obviously the Falcons disagreed, and Abraham signing with Tampa Bay would certainly help ease the sting of being cut. Abraham will be 35 when the 2013 season kicks off and most likely wont find a tremendous market in free agency but with 122 career sacks, Abraham could potentially be a leader and mentor to the younger members of the defensive line. Even at age 34 in Atlanta last season Abraham managed 10 sacks and an amazing six forced fumbles.
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