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Now that Tampa Bay has lost its bid for Charles Woodson, what will the Buccaneers do at safety in the 2006 NFL Draft?

Although the Bucs wanted Woodson to come in and challenge third-year S Will Allen for the starting free safety spot, the former first-round pick and versatile defensive back would have been a luxury signing, not a necessity.

That said, the Bucs likely will be comfortable going into the 2006 regular season with the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Allen as their starting free safety.

Allen did, after all, start eight of the 13 games he played in in place of Dexter Jackson in 2005. Jackson was the only Bucs starter from the 2005 season to depart via free agency in 2006.

While he still has room to improve, Allen showed more playmaking ability than Jackson in 2005 by recording three interceptions and returning a fumble recovery 33 yards for a touchdown vs. Miami. Jackson, the Super Bowl XXXVII MVP, recorded just one pick last year.

Had he come at the right price, Woodson, who signed a seven-year, $51 million deal with the Green Bay Packers, would have added some much-needed depth to Tampa Bay’s secondary, which lost defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin to Minnesota this offseason. This unit will now be led by former USC DBs coach Greg Burns.

Bucs starting strong safety Jermaine Phillips has yet to emerge as the playmaker John Lynch was, and even more alarming, he’s struggled to stay healthy. In fact, Phillips has missed 10 regular season games over the past two seasons due to injury.

Phillips (6-1, 214) is a physical presence on the field, especially in and around the box, but he’s got to stay healthy for an entire season in order to reach his full potential.

Last year, Tampa Bay invested a fifth-round draft pick in Donte Nicholson, who is expected to improve in his second season as a pro. Nicholson (6-1, 216), who recorded nine special teams takedowns as a rookie, needs to improve in that area in order to make Tampa Bay’s active roster this year.

Although he’s capable of being a quality backup, Kalvin Pearson (5-10, 190) isn’t considered starting material. However, he stands a good chance of making the active roster because of his special teams ability. Last year, Pearson recorded a team-high 25 special teams tackles.

Safety Steve Cargile (6-1, 201) does not stand a good chance of making the team, especially if the Bucs use one of their 10 draft picks on a safety this weekend, which they’re expected to do.

The Bucs aren’t likely to use a first-round pick on a safety, but if they did, Darnell Bing (USC) and Ko Simpson (South Carolina) would be options.

Ohio State’s Donte Whitner, Florida State’s Pat Watkins, Nebraska’s Daniel Bullocks and Tennessee’s Jason Allen are possible targets in the second and third rounds.

Early second-day possibilities include Anthony Smith (Syracuse), Roman Harper (Alabama) and Calvin Lowry (Penn State).

Late-round options are Dawan Landry (Georgia Tech), Nate Salley (Ohio State), Greg Threat (Miami of Florida), Scott Ware (USC), Jahmile Addae (West Virginia) and Tyrone Culver (Fresno State).

Current Position Grade: B-

Bucs Update Publishing Schedule
April 28 – Kickers/Punters

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