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March 10, 2014 @ 1:29 pm
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Bucs Targeting McCluster; Poised To Make A Splash In Free Agency

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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While the Buccaneers could still ultimately sign Bears free agent kick returner Devin Hester as many have predicted, a league source told PewterReport.com that Tampa Bay is prepared to sign Chiefs free agent Dexter McCluster when free agency opens on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. and also potentially a number of others high-profile free agents.
Most have had Bears return specialist Devin Hester pegged as the top special teams free agent to be targeted by the Buccaneers in free agency, and rightly so, as Hester and new Bucs head coach Lovie Smith spent seven seasons together in Chicago. It was Smith, in fact, who drafted Hester in the second round back in 2006, and Hester was vocal in his dismay when Smith was fired following a 10-6 record after the 2012 season.

However, a league source told PewterReport.com on Monday that Tampa Bay is turning its attention to Chiefs free agent receiver and kick returner Dexter McCluster. The source said McCluster, a Largo, Fla. native, "wants to come back home and will give the Bucs a bit of a hometown discount.”

The source also told PewterReport.com that Tampa Bay is poised to make “more than one splash move in free agency,” and that the team has had dialogue with as many as four players who could command as much as $10 million per season. The source said that the Buccaneers won’t “get them all, but will make a splash.”

While the Bucs appear to be hot and heavy in pursuit of McCluster, it doesn’t rule out Hester rejoining his former head coach. The Buccaneers could be looking at McCluster to upgrade the wide receiver position that could use an infusion of speed, talent and depth. Hester, depending on his salary demands and interest from other teams, could also be signed to handle the return duties.

As a receiver for the Chiefs, McCluster set a career high with 53 receptions for 511 yards and two touchdowns last year. Over his four-year career in Kansas City, McCluster has totaled 172 catches for 1,500 yards and TDs. The dual threat is also an accomplished punt returner with a 12.1-yard career average and three punts returned for touchdowns, including an 89-yard TD return last year for the Chiefs.

New Tampa Bay special teams coordinator Kevin O'Dea, who coached with Smith in Chicago, also coached McCluster last year in Kansas City as part of Andy Reid's staff.

The Buccaneers have been rumored to be the front-runners for a number of other high-profile free agents. The Baltimore Sun reported on Sunday that the Bucs and tackle Anthony Collins have worked out parameters on a deal worth between $6-7 million per season. The Buccaneers offensive line was the most expensive in football last year and struggled mightily last year. As a result, other players besides Joseph could end up ultimately pay the price.

Also late Sunday, it was reported that the Buccaneers had interest in the versatile, but oft-injured Rodger Saffold, who can play guard or tackle. According to reports, Saffold has told the Rams he will sign elsewhere. Later, reports have the Oakland Raiders as the favorite to obtain his service. The Raiders have the most salary cap space available with approximately $60 million of room.

Early Sunday morning, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, reported that the Buccaneers are making a big push to pursue a very big defensive end in Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Johnson was franchised last year by the Bengals following a career-high 11.5-sack campaign, but underwhelmed with just 56 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. That prompted Cincinnati to opt to re-sign fellow defensive end Carlos Dunlap to a big contract extension instead of Johnson. The Bengals drafted Johnson’s replacement last year in second-rounder Margus Hunt and will not be re-signing him.

Johnson, a former third-round pick in 2009, is only 27 years old and has plenty of upside. He’s also one of the hottest free agents this year as seven teams, including the Minnesota Vikings, who hired former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as the team’s head coach this offseason, have already shown interest in Johnson. Apparently Tampa Bay is one of the most interested teams. 

Tampa Bay’s chances of signing Johnson was thought to be helped when Minnesota agreed to terms with their own defensive end, Everson Griffen on Sunday afternoon.

 Johnson, who entered the league with 4.69 speed in the 40-yard dash, has recorded 26.5 sacks, 205 tackles, 25 passes defensed, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in five years, but only has one double-digit sack season, which came in 2012. His previous best was a six-sack campaign in 2011.

Another source told PewterReport.com that the Collins and Johnson reports are the "real deal," and are very much in the works.
Last modified on Monday, 10 March 2014 18:28

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    Hope all the talk about SPLASH in free agency is not the rumors about Revis.
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    This is such a fun topic. When McCluster first hit the Combine he was a bad idea. A small guy across the middle. Are you kidding me? Is it Christmas already?? (I'm a defensive guy at heart) But, the rules have changed. These guys get a step after they get set. If only Peanut had the same luxury. Small and quick in space is the new NFL. McCluster is a viable threat now. So is the Oregon kid, Cooks?, in the draft. I still think we need BEEF. We are not physical. We are not able to impose our will as a football team. That is Still Football. But, if we get there, we need these quick twitch guys to provide home-run threat offense. No reason we can't address multiple needs simultaneously. Go Bucs. I make it part of my personal philosophy not to wish time away. BRUCE LEE: Those who love life should not waste time. Life is made of time. But, I can't help being excited for 4'oclock tomorrow. Encouraging on a personal level. After watching so much bad football from us, it's good to be excited.
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    A lot of great reports coming out in a short period of time. I'm glad the Bucs are interested in at least kicking the tires on so many good FA's.
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    Neither McCluster nor Hester should break the bank. McCluster could be the 3rd WR and back up returner. Hester could be the returner and a back up WR. It would address weakness in two areas and they may be signed for less than $4M for both of them. That leaves plenty for DE and OT. If they do not target a QB in FA, take note that the three most mentioned positions in the draft for us, other than QB are DE and OT. With both being addressed in FA it opens the door to draft a QB if one is available. Or we could trade down and draft a Tight End. We will not get all of the pieces in one year but I think we will be better because of who we get and who we have coaching. I am optimistic. If I lived in Tampa I would be buying season tickets.
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    As much as I would love to get Hester, McCluster would be the better choice. He is younger, and at this point in their careers, probably faster than Hester. He is also more versatile than Hester and can help out our WR corps. Only going by what i read but Hester may also be fumbling more now too. McCluster should be the #1 ST priority with Hester only as a back-up plan. LOVE the fact that McCluster would give us a hometown discount, that should make it a no brainer! I'm trying not to get too excited, but I am really liking these reports. If we can land some of these guys, it will really be a good start in improving our team. McCluster, Collins, Saffold, and M. Johnson is a great start. Very glad to hear that Collins and Johnson seem to be solid possibilities, and hopefully McCluster too. Those three would be a great start. Would just need more O-line help and maybe solid depth at other positions before the draft.
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    I don't see this happening unless the price is right. I would pass on this for awhile. A DE or OL is where I see where the money should go.
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    Mccluster would give Tampa a weapon on offense as well. Think of it...Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Dexter McCluster, Tim Wright with Glennon/Bortles/Manziel/Bridgewater throwing and/or handing it to them. Add Michael Johnson on D and add a CB or two in the draft. I like how things are starting to add up.
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    Do the Bucs take a QB in round 1 or 2-4? Manziel/Bridgewater/Bortles could still be available in the 1st round when the Bucs pick or McCarron/Murray/Garropolo in later rounds. Murray from Ga has a nice deep pass and looks pretty solid against SEC competition.
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    I would think Josh McCown would be number one priority, second priority would be Ot, then maybe special teams. It would definitely be a splash if McCluster and Hester accept role player money.
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