Signing free agents is always a boom-or-bust type of proposition. Riskier than penny stocks traded wildly by the shady Jordan Belfort in the movie “Wolf of Wall Street,” the Buccaneers have been burned more than they have struck gold and often wished for a money-back guarantee.

Guard Carl Nicks, five years, $47.5 million.

Defensive end Michael Johnson, five years, $43 million.

Cornerback Eric Wright, five years, $37.5 million.

Left tackle Anthony Collins, five years, $30 million.

Heck, even wide receiver Alvin Harper back in the day, four years, $10.66 million.

It is free agency season, but it should be called “buyer beware” season. The Buccaneers – along with all NFL teams – can begin contacting agents on Saturday, March 7 on the eve of the official kickoff of free agency that begins at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10. Will the Buccaneers open up the checkbook like they have over the last three seasons, or look for more value players like defensive tackle Clinton McDonald after overpaying for a higher profile player like Johnson?

The Buccaneers have had some degree of free agent success. No one will argue that wide receiver Vincent Jackson Alvin Harper Buccaneershasn’t met expectations. Nor can anyone say, one of the Bucs’ original free agents, middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson, wasn’t worth every penny of his contract that lured him from the Pittsburgh Steelers. But unfortunately for every Jackson or Nickerson, there have been two or three Harpers, Wrights or Charlie Garners. Or Todd Steussies. Or Derrick Deeses. Or Derek Wards. You get the idea.

Winning the “free agency Super Bowl” in March has yet to equate to winning the real thing later in the year – just ask the Washington Redskins. In fact, adding spot and role players has been proven to be more effective in winning the Super Bowl rather than getting the marquee names the day free agency opens. Tampa Bay proved that in 2002 with the addition of tight end Ken Dilger, running back Michael Pittman, offensive linemen Roman Oben and Kerry Jenkins, defensive end Greg Spires and wide receivers Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius. While people still debate if Jon Gruden won Super Bowl XXXVII with Tony Dungy’s players, but the fact is, the Bucs may have never gotten over the hump without the huge influx of additional talent, particularly on offense.

Think back to the 2002 NFC Championship Game when a former Giants role player receiver caught a short crossing pattern from Brad Johnson and took it 71 yards, giving the Bucs offense a shot in the arm, eventually leading to the second-biggest win in franchise history after beating the Eagles. Did many Bucs fans sit up and take notice when Jurevicius was signed as a free agent eight months earlier?

And to see a proven free agent success story, look no further than what Bill Belichick has done with the New England Patriots. Primarily building through the draft, Belichick isn’t afraid to cut ties with players on the decline, and pick up role players to fill in, almost renting players at times. Former Bucs cornerback Darrell Revis was a perfect example of that last year. After being cut by the Bucs last March, Revis signed a one-year, $12 million deal, with a club option for a second year. The Patriots would like to sign Revis to a long-term deal, but if it doesn’t happen, the one-year Buccaneer helped bring another Lombardi Trophy to Foxborough.

So instead of expecting a big Mike Iupati, Ndamukong Suh, Randall Cobb and  DevinMcCourty news conference next Wednesday, it will more likely be the Dan Connolly, Stephen Paea and  Clint Boling type players brought in instead. Not necessarily sexy or NFL Network update worthy, but the smarter way to supplement your roster.

Fans and media members eat up the big-name signings. It is exciting to see a team you follow become relevant in March on ESPN SportsCenter, showing highlights of press conferences of well-known players holding up shiny new red and pewter jerseys. But history has proven time and time again, buying a high-priced football team in March doesn’t typically lead to being crowned Super Bowl champs the following February.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

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 mark@pewterreport.com
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ColoradoBuc
ColoradoBuc
6 years ago

Amen.

pinkstob
pinkstob
Reply to  ColoradoBuc
6 years ago

The exact word I was going to type ColoradoBuc!

DreadNaught
DreadNaught
6 years ago

Exactly the type of guys we need to sign in FA. All mid level guys that can start or provide good depth.

Teams find their stars in the draft, not FA.

Horse
Horse
6 years ago

Yep, agree.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
6 years ago

It’s a good point Mark – of course, if your QB is a HOFer (e.g., Tom Brady) it makes FA acquisitions that much easier, and the need for potential HOFers in FA that much less so…I think everything builds off the draft – we’ve missed so much over the last decade+ that FA has really been moot.

KINDERRT
KINDERRT
6 years ago

That is the real truth about FA, BUYER BEWARE! The Bucs have made many mistakes in the past, not only in FA but also in the draft. The Bucs have never had a good evaluator of talent and that is the major problem with most teams that are forever known as bottom feeders. We as fans can only hope that this recent Front office overhaul will be the answer as the FO has been terrible the last decade. This is the year that Licht and Lovie need to be bold and maybe follow Chip Kelly’s lead but he seems to… Read more »

BucWild02
BucWild02
6 years ago

Great article Mark! The odds of draftees or free agents being as successful for a new team are always slim. Complicating matters are the expectations based on the players paycheck. I just hope the Bucs get players who wake up humble and dedicated to get better every day. That work ethic is critical.

flashgordon
flashgordon
6 years ago

The Bucs currently have the right idea about free agency for the most part. Last year wasn’t so bad – Michael Johnson of course didn’t perform that well; how much of that was injury I don’t know; only the Bucs know! Anthony Collins seems to have decided he doesn’t like playing for the Bucs. A big problem with the success of any player is whether they have enough supporting cast around them to succeed in the first place! – Mike Jenkins got injured; I’d like to see the Bucs bring him back; but with Banks pretty much proving himself .… Read more »