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Tampa Bay addressed several needs in free agency, but not safety.
The fact that the Bucs did not sign a veteran safety in free agency surprised many, including Pewter Report.
But the Bucs did consider signing veteran free agent safeties like Ken Hamlin and Mike Doss. However, neither player was deemed healthy enough to sign. In the case of Philadelphia free agent S Michael Lewis, he simply got paid more in San Francisco than Tampa Bay was willing to offer him.
One of the reasons why the Bucs passed on Lewis and others is because the 2007 NFL Draft is loaded with talent at the safety position.
Not only that, but the Bucs don’t necessarily believe they need to replace last year’s starting safeties – Will Allen and Jermaine Phillips.
While both players performed poorly last year, the Bucs felt a lot of their woes were related to the loss of defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin and assistant defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, both of whom left Tampa Bay for promotions in Minnesota and at Kansas State, respectively.
The Bucs replaced Tomlin with Greg Burns, who didn’t win over the defensive backs and was fired after just one year on the job. Tampa Bay replaced him with Morris, who left his defensive coordinator post at Kansas State for the DBs coaching job in Tampa.
That’s not to say Allen and Phillips don’t need to improve. They certainly need to do a much better job of tackling, defending passes and creating turnovers in 2007. But the addition of Morris should help.
Phillips, who notched 124 tackles in 2006, has had a difficult time filling John Lynch’s shoes. The former fifth-round pick has recorded just four interceptions in five seasons. His run defense has also been inconsistent.
Allen, a 2004 fourth-round draft pick out of Ohio State, notched 83 tackles last season. However, he failed to record an interception and had his fair share of mishaps in his first season as a full-time starter.
The Buccaneers are extremely thin at the safety position. Kalvin Pearson is considered more of a special teams contributor, and Donte Nicholson and Trag Boger could be hard pressed to make the team this year.
Expect the Buccaneers to draft one or possibly two safeties this weekend.
Tampa Bay isn’t likely to invest its first-round draft pick in LSU’s LaRon Landry or Florida’s Reggie Nelson.
The Bucs will consider taking Miami S Brandon Meriweather if he falls to them at the beginning of the second round.
Tampa Bay coached safeties Aaron Rouse (Virginia Tech) and Eric Weddle (Utah) at the Senior Bowl. The Bucs were impressed with both players and could target Rouse in the third round and Weddle in the fourth or fifth round. Oregon State’s Sabby Piscitelli is another one of the safeties the Bucs will have an eye on this weekend.
If they fail to come away from this weekend's draft with a quality safety, the Bucs are open to the possibility of moving 2006 fourth-round pick Alan Zemaitis from cornerback to safety.
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