CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 20: Travis Benjamin #11 of the Cleveland Browns returns a second quarter punt for a touchdown while playing the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The Buccaneers aren’t expected to be major free agency players next week when the annual free agency frenzy kicks off on Wednesday at 4 p.m. However, that doesn’t mean the team will ignore it altogether. Bucs fans can expect more of the 2015 variety of free agency from their team, as opposed to the wild spending spree they saw in 2014 when the Bucs signed the likes of Josh McCown, Anthony Collins, Alterraun Verner and Michael Johnson. Below is a breakdown of the offensive positions, the best player available and who we think the Bucs could target. Of course at some positions, it is unlikely the Bucs will even address those units, but we included a Best Bet for continuity sake. Take a look and see if you agree, and comment on who you would like Tampa Bay to bring in via free agency.
2016 Bucs Free Agents: None
The Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston last season, still have Mike Glennon under contract for one more season, along with third stringer Ryan Griffin, and seem set at the position. At some point the team will need to address the anticipated loss of Glennon after this season, but for now that doesn’t appear to be a priority.
Top NFL Free Agent Quarterbacks Available
1. Brock Osweiler – Broncos
2. Case Keenum – Rams
3. Colt McCoy – Redskins
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick – Jets
5. Matt Hasselbeck – Colts
Outlook: With Winston and Glennon, and also Griffin, who the team likes, the chances that the Buccaneers would consider signing a free agent quarterback are very slim. That most likely changes next season if Glennon leaves in free agency, but for now the team is most likely content with what they have.
Bucs Best Bet: Colt McCoy
As usual, the crop of free agent quarterbacks isn’t very good. In a pass-happy, quarterback-starved league, quality quarterbacks hitting the free agent market just doesn’t happen very often. That is one reason Glennon may have a much better trade value than some suspect. While it is extremely unlikely Tampa Bay signs a free agent quarterback, McCoy seems to be one that would be a decent fit. Already established as a career backup, McCoy could step in for Winston and be a serviceable backup.
2016 Bucs Free Agents: Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey
As free agency approaches, more and more Bucs fans are getting nervous about the team’s leading rusher being re-signed before he tests the open market beginning next Wednesday. And they have good reason to be. Back in January at the Senior Bowl it appeared their was little chance of Martin leaving, and from what we learned at the time, the organization felt the two sides would easily find common ground and a deal would be reached. But over the last month things have changed in some capacity. Whether it was Martin’s camp believing he deserves Adrian Peterson money, or the Bucs themselves believing Charles Sims could duplicate Martin’s production, the confidence from both sides a deal will get done has slipped somewhat.
Bobby Rainey is also an unrestricted free agency and appears that he will also test the waters of free agency next week. Rainey was buried on the depth chart in 2015, and also struggled at times as the team’s primary kick returner.
Fullback Javorskie Lane, who suffered a tough leg injury in the season finale at Carolina, is not thought to be part of the Bucs future moving forward.
Top NFL Free Agent Running Backs Available
Doug Martin – Buccaneers
Lamar Miller – Dolphins
Matt Forte – Bears
Chris Ivory – Jets
Ronnie Hillman – Broncos
Outlook: A lot of course will depend on the Martin situation. If the Bucs reach an agreement prior to the start of free agency, then the likelihood of Tampa Bay signing another running back goes away. However, if a deal can’t be reached, and Martin starts getting serious consideration from other teams, the Buccaneers would be in the market to find someone to fill a void that will be created. If that happens, the question then becomes, does the team feel like Sims can carry the load and take on the role as a featured back? If so, then a second-tier back would most likely be the route the team would then pursue, but if they still aren’t convinced that Sims fits the bill then Jason Licht and his staff could be in the running for one of the top free agent backs.
Bucs Best Bet: Chris Ivory
At first thought, Ronnie Hillman makes sense and at age 24, doesn’t have a ton of mileage or wear and tear. New director of player personnel John Spytek comes over from the Broncos where he certainly knows what Hillman would be able to contribute. But Hillman is a smaller, change-of-pace type back, and Ivory would provide that tough north-south running style that that Bucs haven’t had in quite a few seasons. Ivory has had three productive seasons in New York, culminating with his first 1,000 yard season in 2015.
2016 Bucs Free Agents: Russell Shepard
Shepard, saw some action at receiver in 2015, but his primary role during his NFL career has been on special teams where he has excelled for Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay most likely wants Shepard back, and as a restricted free agent, the Bucs can easily make that happen.
Top NFL Free Agent Wide Receivers Available
Travis Benjamin – Browns
Marvin Jones – Bengals
Rueben Randle – Giants
Anquan Boldin – 49ers
Kamar Aiken – Ravens
Outlook: Tampa Bay would preferably love to add some speed to their wide receiving corps, but with more pressing needs at other positions, it doesn’t appear to be a priority in this year’s free agency period. However, that doesn’t mean some lesser known players won’t be brought in to compete with the current group of starters and backups. And while not many people are thinking the Buccaneers will make a big splash, their new head coach is obviously an offensive guy, and could be banging on Jason Licht’s desk, begging for more talent to help Jameis Winston to continue to develop.
Bucs Best Bet: Travis Benjamin
While the Browns want to keep Benjamin in Cleveland, he, like Doug Martin, appears to be destined to at least see what is available in free agency. Benjamin won’t come cheap, but with this most likely Vincent Jackson’s last season with the Bucs, the addition of the speedy wide receiver would fill a need a year early in a sense, while also providing Jameis Winston with another talented target, and Benjamin would also solve the problem of needing a punt returner.
2016 Bucs Free Agents: None
Like at quarterback, Tampa Bay appears set at the tight end position. With the emergence of Cameron Brate and the potential of Austin Seferain-Jenkins still not fully tapped, the Bucs most likely won’t be in the free agent market for another tight end, especially with Luke Stocker and Brandon Myers under contract.
Top NFL Free Agent Tight Ends Available
1. Ladarius Green – Chargers
2. Zach Miller – Bears
3. Antonio Gates – Chargers
4. Colby Fleener – Colts
5. Jermaine Gresham – Cardinals
Outlook: Tampa Bay most likely pursues other positions in free agency rather than spend money on a position that on paper at least, looks very solid. There will be a couple brought in prior to training camp just for numbers sake, but the chances one is signed over the next couple weeks appears to be slim.
Bucs Best Bet: Jermaine Gresham
Gresham had some solid and productive seasons with the Bengals prior to signing a one-year deal with the Cardinals in 2015. The former Sooner standout is still a very good blocker, and had good hands. Still, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Buccaneers to bring another tight end, but Gresham could possibly be looked at as an upgrade to Brandon Myers.
2016 Bucs Free Agents: None
The Buccaneers were very pleased with their offensive line’s performance in 2015, and while not perfect, it was miles ahead of a unit that was terrible the previous year. Not only is the line better, for the first time in a long time, there is actual depth. Of course if Logan Mankins decides to hang up his cleats, there would be one less piece to the depth puzzle, and it could persuade the Bucs to look at adding some players in free agency.
Top NFL Free Agent Offensive Linemen Available
Alex Mack C – Browns
Ryan Schraeder – OT – Falcons
Mitchell Schwartz OT- Browns
Kelechi Osemele – G – Raven
Alex Boone – G – 49ers
Outlook: Still, that won’t prevent the Buccaneers from looking for some good fits if they find a player they covet. The problem with free agent offensive linemen is, the market tends to go crazy and teams sometimes end up overpaying veterans, and even younger linemen they believe have potential to develop. However if Schwartz doesn’t find the money he is looking for, the Bucs could be in play for the talented right tackle. The Bucs have Gosder Cherilus and Demar Dotson, but both are on the wrong side of 30. With Donovan Smith established as the team’s long-term left tackle, adding another talented player on the other side could provide the team with two bookends to protect Jameis Winston for the next few years.
Bucs Best Bet: Mitchell Schwartz
As noted above, Schwartz or even Schraeder would be long term solutions for the Bucs who obviously want to keep their franchise quarterback healthy. While isn’t a pressing need, Jason Licht and Co. most likely have begun thinking about it for some point down the road.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
Mankins’ decision will impact a lot.
The 2016 league year and the free agency period starts Wednesday, March 9th at 4pm. According to OTC, 2016 cap space is 49.46mil, 7th most in the NFL. And I’m here to help them spend it. Lol.
I have 3 targets for Bucs Free Agency – Offense
WR Travis Benjamin – replaces Donteea Dye
C Stefen Wisniewski replaces Evan Smith
OT Mitchell Schwartz – replaces Gosder Cherilus or Demar Dotson
–Wide Receiver (preference)
Travis Benjamin, Browns, 26
The Bucs have a dilemma because they have decided to keep Vincent Jackson for the final year of his contract – a decision I agree with BTW. But Jackson’s contract is a big one and a Benjamin contract could be in the same stratosphere. But it’s all about #3 and that slot speed receiver that stretches the field and catches the long ball – the long ball that Koetter wants Winston to improve on is an important and missing piece of the offense. Well if you want Winston to throw it, you have got to have somebody to catch it and that Benjamin can do. Knowing that we get the cap space back next year when Jackson leaves or re-up for a lesser salary, I would try to sign Benjamin, now!
Mitchell Schwartz, OT, Cleveland Browns, 26
ProFootballFocus.com gave Schwartz It’s best rating at right tackle. Schwartz ranks seventh among all tackles, first among those on the right side. He has given up 12 total pressures in 260 drop backs, about one in every 22 plays. Denver’s Von Miller leads the league in pressures. Against Schwartz, he got just one pressure. Schwartz is not a dominant run blocker, but he’s better than average, ranking ninth in the league at his position. Schwartz is younger and a definite improvement over both Dotson and Cherilus. We keep one, but not both. The decision will be made in training camp.
Stefen Wisniewski, C, Jaguars, 26
Finally healthy after an injury-ridden 2014 campaign, Stefen Wisniewski played well in his first year with the Jaguars. He’s especially strong in pass protection. Jags OC Greg Olson said, “Wis is a solid player. Nothing flashy about him there he just comes to work and does his job.”
*Parts of Analysis courtesy of WalterFootball and other rating agencies.
I’m definitely with you on two of these three, although maybe not some of the details. I’d LOVE to have Benjamin, but there’s no way he should get VJ money. If he’s going to, I hope it’s somewhere else. I like the guy a lot, but come on, man. He has ONE career season with more than 18 measly catches. Now, I love his skill set, but that’s a bet that’s waaaaaay too big to place based primarily on a guy’s work over exactly one season. And in truth, that season wasn’t even THAT awesome. 68 catches, less than 1,000 yards, not built to be much of a red zone target. Now, don’t get me wrong – like I said, I really like the guy. He’s young, is a major factor on special teams, and has a skill set we don’t currently really feature within our group of receivers. But that’s too much money.
As for Schwartz, I like him a lot. I have some concern because I tend to prefer my RT to be a mauler in the running game, but much like Dotson of yesterday, he’s still good there even if he’s not truly GREAT. But I also think he’ll be veeeeeery expensive, so that’s tough. I don’t want to overpay on him, especially not when I still think Demar can be the guy he was before he got hurt – actually, very similar to what Schwartz was last year – an elite pass blocker at RT who’s good but not great in the running game. And he costs a fraction of what Schwartz would. If Dotson isn’t in the team’s plans, though, I’d be on board, I think.
I’d be happy to have Wiz, but it isn’t a huge priority for me. I’d prefer to find a center who’s more dynamic in the running game. He is clearly far better than everything else we have at the position, though, so if the deal was right, I’d be game.
Lastly, I pray that Cherilus is either gone or here at 1/3 the price no matter what. There’s no sense whatsoever in him getting the money he’s scheduled to get. He’s just not very good. He either needs to be somebody else’s backup on something near or at the veteran minimum, or looking for work elsewhere.
Does Wisniewski play guard also? I would like to see EDS gone also, but the new player needs to be a guard/center
Read professional career beginning with Hue Jackson at Oakland Raiders.
Alex Mack over Wis. Really like Schwartz.
Alex Mack is the best center in FA. He opted out in Cleveland where he was guaranteed 8.4mil/yr for 16 and 17. Will take at least 10mil to get him. The Bucs won’t spend that on O-Line not a LOT. They’re not even going to go after Wis, they will keep Evan Smith. That’s just my wishful thinking.lol. Not going to happen!
Mac; I like your OL and C picks, but I’m not interested in the other ones. Why? Because I am hoping we add at least one DE and CB and spend some big money on them with 2 years of guaranteed money. I like you are assuming Martin signs back with us.
Mark, get Article and well thought out.
Why in the world would we want to lose the second best RB in the league. The object of FA is to upgrade your team and I see no RB out there that will accomplish that goal.
Mark my words, if the Bucs don’t sign Martin, there is a team out there who will that doesn’t want to waste a draft pick on an unproven commodity when they can have one who is in his prime and is battle tested.
If the Bucs let Martin go over money, which they have plenty of, it will be a true indication that the Bucs aren’t seriously interested in pursuing a championship.
Instead, it will just be proof that like Hugh Culverhouse and Bill Bidwell of the Cardinals, the Glazer boys are just interested in turning a much larger profit.
I agree. Thinking of the Bucs without Doug Martin is like considering buying a Corvette with a 4-cylinder engine inside. To the bean counter, what a value! It looks just lkke the fast Corvette. And you’ll save enough on gas to get that window caulking you’ve always needed! But to the car fan, no excitement. Why bother? Who in free agency would be as good as Doug besides Doug? Nobody.
Our line needs help…they did much better than expected last year (WINSTON got hit a lot but at least he didnt get killed)…but that bar was as low as it comes. If we want to progress, we need help…Smith as the long-term LT sounds scary, but could work if we got very solid up the middle…like Alex Mack solid…going into 2016 with a mediocre line will be the start of the end for Licht…he needs to upgrade this team now…Jameis won’t be patient, the fans have already been patient, and the Glazers are trigger happy.
Finally somebody who gets it with Donovan Smith. I haven’t quit on him as a long term solution at LT yet, but he was not good last year. He has a very long way to go to be a good player for us there. I would be just okay with pursuing Mack…I was super excited when he got cut and totally ready to pay him big dollars, but I watched four games of his film from this past year, and he didn’t look like nearly the same dominant player he’s been in years past. Not saying he couldn’t be again, but coming off the season he just had, the year after a major injury, and at the age of 30 going on 31 mid-season, I’d be very apprehensive about giving him top center money at this point. I’d still be excited to have him, but it would scare me.
One need only to go back in time to see the $$$ the Glazers have spent to sign free agents and coaches who failed to live up to our and their expectations. I no longer see the reluctance to open the treasure chest of the Culverhouse days. Your comparison is more your perception than, as jonnyG would say, “FACT”. Don’t you think paying close to the cap limit to make the roster as talented as it can be, resulting in wins to energize the community to fill the stadium, to encourage more corporate sponsors, to sell more team merchandise and for the, as you call them, “greedy” Glazer boys to have a sense of pride in their team, could actually result in more return on their investment? Don’t you think it’s just a tad more enjoyable more the billionaire NFL owners to enjoy the a winning team than to spend their off days stacking money as high as it will go? You’re living in the past drdneast. Gone are the days of NFL owners keeping player salaries low to make more (I know you hate the word)……..profit.
The Bucs may not be permanently cheapskates, but they are going through a cheapskate phase this season. It’s not the dawn of a new era of prudence and wisdom. It’s just the pendulum swinging back too far in the cheap direction. I hope they will see the error in their timidity before it’s too late and Martin is making $10 million a season in a Seahawks uniform. Meanwhile, we’ll be putt puttting along in our thrifty minivans, wondering why nobody gawks and points at our fiscal frugality. Bleah.
Well macabee, Wis is a sterter and Even Smith isn’t and probably never will be again.
With that in mind, what starting position would you plan on slugging the Wis into,
For another, the Wis wants to play center which is one of the reasons the Bucs didn’t try to sign him last year.
As it was, we lucked out and picked up a pretty good one off the waiver wire in Joe Hawley who the Falcons made a mistake on when they released him. Big mistake, too.
I don’t disagree with you about Benjamin and Schwartz but for some reason I believe the Bucs are more concerned with run blocking first and then protecton second.
Don’t ask me why, it’s just the way they pick OL and what they have said over the years that makes me think that is their philosophy.
BTW, I wouldn’t put much stock in what Pro Football Focus says.
No one knows how they put their stats together or even who does them.
I wish I had all the answers. Those players are all players that I think would make the Bucs better. But that’s not a high threshold IMO. Is Wis better than Hawley? Let training camp answer that – quality depth surely won’t hurt.
I have no real expectation that the Bucs will entertain any of those players. It’s really all about your own confidence factor. Bucs haven’t signed Martin, didn’t sign CB Brice McCain, taking longer than I would have expected to sign FS Chris Conte, not cut one single player, not even Mike Jenkins lol. What do you think will/should happen and what is your confidence factor?
Hawley was terrible, dude. Got killed by just about every DT with substantial strength that he faced. He’s good on the move in space, i.e. blocking on screens, and that’s about it. Good, quick feet when pulling. But he’s weak at the point of attack and lacks the technique to hold up against pass rushers with really any moves at all. And just from a physical standpoint, he got pushed around in there a ton this year. Reading this and your take on Donovan Smith, I have to reeeeaaaally question your ability to judge the play of offensive linemen, lol.
Its strange where people get these preconceived notions about Donovan Smith.
Perhaps it’s just the lingering rumors from college that he was lazy and didn’t work hard enough.
Whatever the case, I just finished reading a piece off of NFL.com that said the Bucs actually picked up four No. 1 picks in the draft last year; Winston, Smith, Ali Marpet and Kwon Alexander.
It further went on to say that Smith did a more than great job of run blocking last year and was satisfactory in pass protection which was something he needed to work on.
If you watch the Eagles game, in one of Martin’s long runs, Smith takes out two Eagle defenders with two separate blocks.
But I am sure with your tunnel vision EastEndBoy, all you remember from the whole year is Jason Piere Paul getting by Smith and “almost” sacking Winston.
Smith was not good, man. He flashed really great play in the running game, but that was very inconsistent. He was pretty poor at blocking the back side of runs to the right of the field. He was REALLY poor at pass blocking the edge when not given help from other blockers, especially against any types of speed rushers. You knock PFF, but there really isn’t much mystery to how they grade offensive linemen, or anyone for that matter – they watch each snap a guy takes and give him a grade on the play. His overall grade is the cumulative grade from those snaps. With offensive linemen especially, it’s tough to find fault with this method. They literally never leave the screen during normal TV film of a play. Corners’ grades, for me, might be a bit tougher to trust. But for linemen? It’s really easy to determine what a guy was supposed to do on a play and whether or not he did it well. Donovan Smith was not good last year. Did he show some tools that could make him good? Sure. But there are real reasons for concern, and his performance last year was bad overall. Stat of the day: Jameis was only sacked 27 times last year, good for 5th fewest in the league, which would seem to indicate that our line was good at pass blocking. Wanna know how many times he was HIT (sacks+hits, actually), though? 99. And the AVERAGE for the NFL was in the 40s. Donovan’s struggles were a big part of that. He’s a LT that bends at the waist to try to stop a speed rusher rather than moving his feet and using his hands well. ALL. THE. TIME. I don’t care what a fluff piece on nfl.com said about our draft last year, lol. A systematic, substantive analysis of Smith tells the story of a badly flawed player in both phases of the game, but who clearly possesses the physical tools to be very good in the long run. Critiques of him are based on a whole lot more than “preconceived notions”.
Yup toofamiliar, that’s a pretty good summary…
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB for the Bills, is the 4th best FA quarterback available? No….Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB for the JETS, is the second best FA quarterback available. Not that it matters in the slightest for us, but he’s leaps and bounds better than Colt McCOy, Case Keenum, etc.
I’ll leave it to our coaching staff and General Manager to evaluate the offensive line. But I know this much, Donovan Smith looked pretty good to me for a rookie. He may not have been Paul Gruber but was no Kenyata Walker. I think some of you critics keep going back to whether you liked the Draft pick and then try to find fault to support your original opinion. I know this much; Donovan Smith was part of an offensive line that allowed a 4,000 yard passer and a 2nd ranked rusher.
I’ve seen left tackles drafted high in the first round not do as well as Smith. Come on, he was solid for a rook, should only get better. Should the Bucs pay Mack 10 mill, cut ES that’s 3 mill, now it’s like paying Mack 7 mil, good investment. Pay Schwartz, cut Cherilus, force Mankins out, saving money there. Now you have a solid O line, with Smith, Phampile, Mack, Marpet, Schwartz. The draft is deep on defense, now you load up on that side of the ball.
Like your plan Surf….a lot! Just need a running back to run behind that line. Hell….spend some of the cap money. We do need to upgrade.
Sounds good to me Surferdudes. I have nothing to add except I don’t believe Licht will overspend on a player at any position. I believe proof of this is Martin. They’re letting hit the market so he can see his real value which I believe is 5 million.
I’m intrigued at the possibility of signing WR Andre Johnson. Word is he will not be back with the colts. Pairing him with Evans and Jackson would give us 3x 6’5″ possession receivers and an additional leader on the field
I don’t get why they hang on to Austin Seferain-Jenkins. He is hurt constantly, is not much of a blocker and his hands are more than suspect, they are bad. I don’t see how that makes him an NFL TE that any team would want? If he could at least catch well, I might hold out some hope for his development and that his injuries were just bad breaks and not a pattern. Plus his desire to play through pain has also been questioned. At this point, he has had long enough to develop in my opinion and should be cut after pre-season, if not before.
I hope I’m wrong, but I thought that I might be once and found that I was mistaken!
This may sound crazy because of his tendency to get injured and his football character, but I would like to see the Bucs target Percy Harvin. He is a the deep threat speed receiver that we need. And he would be electrifying in returns. Also would come much cheaper than travis benjamin.
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