With nearly $30 million in salary cap room at their disposal, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expected to be quite active in free agency, which begins on Feb. 29.
But the Bucs could get an early start in free agency in light of some of the roster moves made around the National Football League in recent weeks, particularly in Atlanta, where the Falcons announced on Friday that seven players had been released.
Two of those players – defensive tackle Rod Coleman and tight end Alge Crumpler – likely will pique Tampa Bay’s interest, but neither player can have contact with the Buccaneers due to the fact that they have not been released yet, according to the NFL transaction log.
That’s not to say that the Falcons do not intend to release Coleman and Crumpler. Those roster moves could be made official as soon as Monday. However, NFL tampering rules prohibit the Bucs and other teams from contacting a player that is under contract with another team.
As soon as their names come across the league’s transaction wire, expect the Buccaneers to express interest in — and possibly attempt to arrange visits with — both former Pro Bowl players.
Tampa Bay’s defense, which finished the 2007 season ranked second in the NFL and notched 33 sacks, is determined to upgrade its pass rush this year.
Even though he’s 31, Coleman is a player that could help the Bucs do that. The 6-foot-2, 285-pound Coleman has notched 58.5 career sacks and 10 forced fumbles in 109 games.
Coleman recorded 31 of his career sacks over the last four seasons in Atlanta. However, Coleman suffered through an injury-plagued season in 2007, notching just two sacks in five games before finishing the season on injured reserve.
Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen are quite familiar with Coleman, whom they drafted in Oakland in 1999.
Coleman is a player the Bucs could work in to the rotation at the under tackle position with Jovan Haye, who is scheduled to become a restricted free agent.
Crumpler (6-2, 262) has established himself as one of the NFL’s top tight ends, catching 316 career passes for 4,212 yards (13.3 avg.) and 35 touchdowns in 108 games.
The former second-round draft pick out of North Carolina hauled in 42 passes for 444 yards (10.6 avg.) and five touchdowns in Atlanta last season.
The Buccaneers are in the market for a veteran tight end as both Anthony Becht and Jerramy Stevens are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on Feb. 29.
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