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March 5, 2014 @ 5:09 pm
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Pewter Report 2014 Bucs' Free Agency Preview: WRs

Written by Mark
Cook
Mark Cook

Mark
Cook

Editor-In-Chief E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
With the start of 2014 NFL free agency fast approaching, PewterReport.com reviews the Bucs' current roster and previews potential fits at each position. Next up is the wide receiver position.

BUCS' WIDE RECEIVERS FREE AGENCY PREVIEW
With free agency scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m. on March 11, PewterReport.com brings you its annual free agency preview by position. Starting Monday, PewterReport.com will take a look at what Bucs will become free agents at each position, who the Bucs have under contract at the previewed position, then take a look at five players that could fit into Tampa Bay's plans, known as the Bucs' Best Bets. Today it's Tampa Bay's wide receivers, followed by tight ends tomorrow.


BUCS' PENDING FREE AGENTS
The Buccaneers have two pending free agents, in seldom-used receiver but primary kick returner Eric Page (ERFA) and Tiquan Underwood (UFA). The Bucs have decisions to make with both, although most likely either could be signed relatively cheap if management feels they have the ability to potentially earn a roster spot in 2014. Page’s future may be determined if they Buccaneers end up signing a free agent kick returner like Devin Hester or Dexter McCluster.


WHAT THE BUCS HAVE
The wide receiver position, like many of the units on the team, could use an infusion of talent and depth. Vincent Jackson is coming off of back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and will once again line up as the team’s No. 1 receiver. Jackson led the Buccaneers with 78 receptions for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013. While Jackson had several noticeable drops in 2013, the fact that Mike Williams was lost for the season with a hamstring injury made the 2012 Pro Bowler the only legitimate receiving threat on the roster and opposing teams knew that. Yet Jackson was still able to produce.

Williams, who was signed to a six-year, $40-million extension last year, was slowed early with the hamstring injury and attempted to play through it, but it was severe enough to eventually require surgery, ending his season prematurely. In his six games played, Williams managed just 22 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns. There are also some concerns about Williams’ off-the-field behavior, which has drawn the ire of head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht.

The other Bucs receivers – Skye Dawson, Chris Owusu, Russell Shepard and Tommy Streeter – are very inexperienced and are all long shots to make the roster in 2014.

WHAT THE BUCS NEED
The biggest thing lacking in Tampa Bay’s receiving corps over the last few years – going all the way back to the days of former receiver Joey Galloway – is speed. Jackson is a precise route runner and can physically out-jump and out-man most cornerbacks in the NFL, but he will never be confused with a track star. Williams is almost a mirror of Jackson, minus a couple inches in height. The Buccaneers thought they had the answer last year after signing former Cowboys receiver Kevin Ogletree as a free agent, but that experiment lasted all of three weeks. Tampa Bay re-signed Underwood but his inconsistency in catching the football and as a blocker once again reared up on a number of occasions.

Tampa Bay needs to find a game-changer, someone who can take a 5-yard pass and turn it into an 80-yard touchdown. After he was hired, new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford mentioned he wants to get players with speed in space to create mismatches, but first the team needs to acquire some players with speed.

BUCS’ BEST BETS
1. Arizona WR Andre Roberts
Licht, who came from Arizona’s front office, is obviously familiar with Roberts and could make him a target early in free agency. Roberts would instantly provide the ability to stretch the field with his 4.4 speed. Roberts has been playing in the shadows of Larry Fitzgerald during his time in Arizona and is looking to find a place he can showcase his ability a little more. Roberts is a completely different type of receiver than anyone on Tampa Bay's roster currently, and it most likely wouldn’t break the Bucs' bank to obtain his services. Roberts totaled 43 receptions for 471 yards and two touchdowns last year for the Cardinals.

2. Carolina WR Ted Ginn
As mentioned in the special teams preview earlier this week, Ginn was a solid receiver for the Panthers in 2013, but also brings the ability return kicks to the table, something the Buccaneers could use. Ginn averaged 12.2 yards per punt return last year for the Panthers and has six career kick returns for touchdown. In two games against the Buccaneers last season, Ginn nabbed seven passes for 127 yards and one touchdown, something the new Bucs coaching staff must have noticed when reviewing last year’s game film.

3. Kansas City WR Dexter McCluster
McCluster, like Ginn, doesn’t just provide the Buccaneers with a nice receiving option in the passing game, but also is a difference-maker on special teams. The Largo, Fla. native contributed 53 receptions for 511 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver last year under Andy Reid in Kansas City, and also averaged 11.9 yards on punt returns while scoring two touchdowns on returns. Perhaps McCluster would give the Buccaneers a hometown discount for his services the if Tampa Bay decides to target the former Ole Miss star.

4. Seattle WR Golden Tate
As a receiver for the Seahawks Tate recorded 64 receptions for 894 yards and six touchdowns in 2013, and for his career has totaled 165 receptions for 2,195 yards and 15 touchdowns. Buccaneers fans will also remember Tate, as he helped spark the turnaround last season in the Bucs 27-24 loss to the Seahawks with his dynamic second half punt return that eventually led to a Seahawks touchdown. Tate averaged 11.5 yards on 51 punt returns in 2013. Tate has expressed an interest in returning to Seattle and likely would command a much bigger contract that Roberts or McCluster. But with Tampa Bay needing help at the receiver and returner position, Tate makes some sense and at just 25 years old, is entering the prime of his career.

5. Tampa Bay WR Tiquan Underwood
Underwood had probably reached his potential in the NFL and is most likely never going to challenge for a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver role in the league. But with that said, Underwood does have some attributes that make re-signing him not out of the question. The former Rutgers receiver is well-liked inside the locker room, is a hard worker and a team player and would come cheap. Last year, Underwood produced career highs with 24 catches for 440 yards (18.3 avg.) and four touchdowns, including a career-long 85-yarder against Detroit.

TOP FIVE WIDE RECEIVERS IN FREE AGENCY
1. Denver WR Eric Decker
Coming off an 87-reception, 1,288-yard and 11-touchdown season, Decker is set to earn a big contract in free agency and will be coveted by a number of teams. Can the Broncos afford what most likely will be an $8-9 millions dollar a season average? He's expected to leave Denver.

2. New York WR Hakeem Nicks

Nicks is a talented receiver, but has had trouble staying healthy over the last couple years with nagging injuries, and some have questioned his motivation. It is doubtful Nicks will receive a large long-term contract, but he certainly has the ability to be a top 10 receiver in the NFL when he's focused. He fell out of favor in New York last year.

3. Seattle WR Golden Tate
At 25, Tate is one of the league’s most well-rounded receivers entering his prime. The Seahawks – and quarterback Russell Wilson –  would love to have the former Notre Dame standout back in the fold, if they can find the money. Tate has told Seattle he might take a hometown discount.

4. New England WR Julian Edleman
Edleman burst onto the scene in New England last year and produced a career-high 105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns, replacing Danny Amendola as Wes Welker’s replacement. The Patriots chose not to slap the franchise tag on Edleman, but doesn’t mean they wouldn’t love to have him back.

5. Green Bay WR James Jones
Some reports have the Packers set to move on from Jones, who had a very good 2013 season, catching 59 passes for 817 yards and three touchdowns. If so, expect Jones to be a hot commodity next week when free agency opens.

Up Next: Tight Ends
Last modified on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 22:56
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COMMENTS

  • avatar

    But tat or mcCluster are bed in this crew
  • avatar

    I think we should pass them all and draft Sammy Watkins
  • avatar

    I like Jason avant from the eagles. but if we don't get him I would want either tate or roberts
  • avatar


    @pinkstob Roberts did play behind Floyd and Fitz true enough but that wasnt my point. He had double the catches, double the targets yet almost equal yards, less touchdowns and his avg was less. If you have double the catches and targets yet your numbers are that close, then he doesnt represent a real upgrade IMO. Carson Palmer does suck but I dont think Glennon was any better so i'd actually give the nod to Palmer if im comparing their QBs and you know how Schiano and Co stack up when compared to other staffs.
  • avatar


    I would be a fan of bringing in Roberts, Ginn or McCluster from the "Best Bets" list. Roberts played behind Fitzgerald and Floyd who I think are both great WR's. Besides V. Jackson, who was Underwood playing behind that hampered his production last season? Besides, Palmer sucks. As for the top 5 WR's I'm a big fan of Decker but I don't think it's wise to allocate that kind of money to the #2 WR postion without a trustworthy QB, even if we release M. Williams. I don't think Tate is worth the money he would command, so the only person on that list I think worth bringing in is J. Jones.
  • avatar

    Getting Golden Tate or Ted Ginn would be HUGE acquisitions, however I feel TB is not the only team looking out for these players. Would be huge considering both these players burned the Bucs last season. Where Hester is practically a Buc already because him and Lovie are besties, McCluster is not going to be an option. Would love to see any Roberts on the team, quality receiver with a good chance of chemistry with Glennon. I also think Edelman is a great receiver, but doubtful he makes it to TB.
  • avatar


    Living in KC I got to watch a lot of McCluster and he is fast. He would be a great fit in the slot and also returning kicks. He is probably a better Kick Returner then receiver though and if we sign Hester we probably wont sign McCluster. Although our special teams coach was with KC last year so you never know. I personally believe Hester is getting old and would be a waste of money. His best attribute is his speed which is on the decline this late in his career. I would much rather have a younger faster McCluster returning kicks and working out of the slot. He has great hands and is a burner.
  • avatar


    Not sure why Andre Roberts is a best fit, maybe the most familiar but certainly not the best. Roberts only has 30 more yards than Underwood and thats with him having about 20 more catches. Underwood had more TDs and obviously and higher average. This isn't meant to be a ringing endorsement on Underwood but to show that Roberts may have the measurables but his production isnt up to par and on this team I think we have enough of those players. Get us McCluster or address this need in the draft our FA dollars should be spent on impact players not guys who have underwhelmed.
  • avatar


    You emphasized speed as a need but fail to mention which one if any of the FAs have that attribute. Also, you did not give an opinion on which FA you think best fits the Bucs.
  • avatar


    No mention of Emmanuel Sanders? I like Andre Roberts and Sanders. Surprised Sanders name wasn't even mentioned. Makes me wonder why.
  • avatar


    I was hoping the Bucs would have a chance to draft McCluster but it wasn't to be. Maybe now we can acquire his services as a "joker" as Jon Gruden would say. Underwood is as Owlykat described. I'd be surprised if he is re-signed. Let's hope Mike Williams doesn't become the next Michael Clayborn. I thought Chris Owusu might develop but it never happened. Receivers are plentiful. Just need to find the right ones. We sure have had bad luck drafting them over the years.
  • avatar


    Underwood is very fast and when he gets wide open he has reliable hands. His problem is he lacks toughness and drops balls in close quarters because he is scared of getting hit and is a poor route runner. My choice would be McCluster because he is both fast and tough and can return kicks and be the slot receiver we need to get first downs but be a deep threat to help the running game as well. He is a local boy and could be a value free agent for us. I would keep last years' returner as his backup and give him reps in preseason to develop him as a receiver. He has a lot of upside. I would cut Underwood. I would take our other receivers through preseason to see how they can develop and play special teams with expert coaching. I think Lovie will work wonders with Williams who will take pressure off of Jackson.
  • avatar


    I like Ginn, Edleman, Jones , but I would really go after Tate because of his age. I would find the money at our present way overpaid starting OL. I sure hope we seriously take a hard look at Williams at the mini camp because we might have to release him and chalk it up to the old regime for paying him so much money.
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