With free agency less that one month away, PewterReport.com will soon begin previewing each position, listing what the Bucs need and what they currently have, then putting together a list of the best free agents available at the position featured.
Last month, Scott Reynolds took a look at the free agents of the Chicago Bears and a list of players that could perhaps fit in Tampa Bay due to the relationship they have had with new Bucs coach Lovie Smith.
With the hire of general manager Jason Licht, who spent the previous two seasons in the Arizona Cardinals’ front office, PewterReport.com now turns its attention to the list of Cardinals free agents and which players could reunite with Licht here in Tampa Bay.
Licht, during his introductory press conference back in January, hinted at his philosophy when it comes to free agents.
“Last year was a tremendous experience for me,” Licht said. “I had a little bit of background in the past. Of course, you have to know the parameters of your salary cap and how you can fit things under it, but last year being Steve’s [Keim] first year as a general manager – and promoting me two days later to his vice president – I got a front-row seat to all the ups and downs of a first year GM’s experience.
“It really makes you realize that it’s not always about signing the best players – it’s about signing the right players for your team. That experience, I think, was probably one of the best experiences I could have had to put me in this role today.”
ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss recently ranked the Cardinals’ 15 free agents in order of importance for Arizona to sign.
As on now, the Cardinals have 15 free agents and approximately $10 million in cap space available. But with their cap situation, even if they wanted to, keeping everyone is impossible, so there will a number of the 15 players who will be wearing new uniforms next season.
Below is a breakdown of what could transpire once free agency begins next month and possible Bucs targets.
CARDINALS FREE AGENTS LIKELY TARGETED BY BUCSWR Andre RobertsThe Buccaneers will no doubt look to upgrade the wide receiver position and could do so by adding Roberts, who has legitimate 4.4-speed, and would give them the straight-line speed missing from the current roster of Bucs receivers. Roberts has been stuck behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd and is ready to find an opportunity to showcase himself in a more prominent role. For his career, Roberts has 182 receptions for 2,123 yards and seven touchdowns. Roberts, who is extremely tough and durable, can also return kicks, which may increase his value. Roberts won’t break the bank and would have an opportunity to learn from Vincent Jackson after spending four seasons playing with Fitzgerald – not a bad duo of mentors.
CB Antoine CasonAt 27, Cason is in his prime and played both corner and the nickel corner role for the Cardinals last season. He appeared in all 16 games for Arizona last year, notching two interceptions including one returned for a touchdown. His 6-foot-1 height is something that also most likely would be appealing to the coaching staff. For his career, Cason has 322 tackles and 14 interceptions. While he may never become an elite player, Cason could come in and immediately compete for playing time at nickel back.
OT Mike GibsonGibson is a backup offensive lineman and would come fairly cheap, and with the Buccaneers needing to address the offensive line, it would make sense that Tampa Bay would take a look at him if for nothing else than to add some additional depth. In addition to Licht having familiarity, Gibson played for offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford at Cal. So far, Gibson has been a journeyman but could find a permanent home in Tampa Bay if the front office deems him an upgrade over any of the current reserves on the Bucs roster, especially with the recent release of Gabe Carimi.
TE Jeff KingKing was a former basketball standout who played both sports at Virginia Tech and obviously has very good athletic ability, has never had a breakout year in the NFL, although did manage 46 catches and 406 yards receiving for Carolina in 2007. King missed all of last season with a knee injury and could come cheap on the open market. With Luke Stocker being a disappointment so far as a Buccaneer, and Tom Crabtree and Tim Wright not fitting the typical mold of blocking tight ends, Tampa Bay could make a run at King if they feel he is fully recovered from the knee injury.
CARDINALS FREE AGENTS POSSIBLY TARGETED BY BUCSMLB Karlos DansbyDansby would be a fine addition to the Buccaneers as a middle linebacker, especially coming off a season in which he had four interceptions and a career-high 21 pass breakups, but most likely will be a high priority for the Cardinals to re-sign after having a terrific season last year with Arizona. The 31-year old Dansby is also expected to command top dollar in free agency. Dansby recently told SIRUS XM NFL Radio that he expects to be back with the Cardinals next season.
LB Matt ShaughnessyAt 6-foot-5, 285-pounds, Shaughnessy doesn’t fit with the Buccaneers as a typical 4-3 linebacker and would most likely be used as a pass rushing defensive end. With 18.5 career sacks from the linebacker position, Shaughnessy has shown the ability to get to the quarterback, and at time last year played with his hand on the ground. The Bucs could pursue some of the big named free agent defensive ends (Jared Allen, Greg Hardy if not franchised), but if they choose not to, or fail to reach a deal with one, Shaughnessy could be in play for the Buccaneers.
CB Javier ArenasArenas grew up in the Tampa Bay area, playing his high school football for Robinson before heading to Alabama and playing for Nick Saban. Arenas was drafted by the Chiefs and was traded last spring to the Cardinals where he appeared in all 16 games for Arizona, but didn’t have much of an impact defensively, totaling just 11 tackles and one sack. Arenas did return 23 kickoffs for 493 yards, something he did well during his time in Kansas City, where he also returned punts. Speculation is Tampa Bay may go after former Bears returner Devin Hester, but if that doesn’t happen Arenas could be a nice backup plan.
OT Eric WinstonDepending on what Tampa Bay decides to do with starter Donald Penn and his nearly $7 million 2014 salary, taking a serious look at Winston could come into play, especially if they were to move Demar Dotson to left tackle spot to replace Penn. And even if Penn and Dotson line up as starters again next fall, Winston could be brought in to shore up a lack of depth at the position. Winston played well, particularly down the stretch last season for Arizona, giving up just one sack in the final nine games.
CARDINALS FREE AGENTS NOT LIKELY TARGETED BY BUCSYeramiah BellThe Bucs appear set at safety, and with Bell, who is 35, it doesn’t make much sense for the Buccaneers to pursue the former the former Jet and Dolphin.
DT Frostee RuckerRucker has been a solid NFL player but his name has almost been more recognizable than anything he has done on the field. With just one sack and only 11 tackles in 2013, Rucker could possibly be brought in cheap and allow the coaching staff to assess his potential to as a rotational player. Rucker had a couple good seasons in Cincinnati and one with the Browns before joining Arizona.
K Jay FeelyWith Connor Barth set to return to his kicking duties after sitting out last season recovering from an Achilles injury, it is doubtful the Buccaneers would be in the market for a veteran kicker unless Barth has a setback.
TE Jim DrayIt is possible Dray could get a look, and would be cheap, but the former Stanford product offers little other than being an average blocker.
RB Rashard MendenhallThe former Steelers running back would find a very crowed backfield in Tampa Bay and it is doubtful the Buccaneers will add any veterans to compete for the job. Doug Martin will be back in time for OTAs and minicamp, and backups Mike James and Bobby Rainey both played well in relief of Martin last year.
CB Bryan McCannMcCann was signed midseason by the Cardinals and failed to make any impact in six games for Arizona. If McCann would sign for the veteran minimum the Bucs could bring him in to take a look at, but it is doubtful be would be able to work into the starting rotation or even as a backup. In four seasons, McCann has never had more than 15 tackles.
TE Kory SperrySperry saw action in just eight games last year for Arizona and primarily played on special teams. He is athletic, but hasn’t shown he is ready to handle anything more than a reserve role in his fledgling NFL career yet.
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]
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