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Pewter Report returned from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. last week and is in the process of producing its popular Free Agency Preview, which breaks down which players the Buccaneers, who are approximately $30 million under the league-mandated salary cap, are expected to target in free agency.
Some names could be added to the free-agents-to-be list as word out of Mobile suggested several players from around the league could be released or traded this offseason.
Listed below are the names of the veteran quarterbacks and running backs to keep an eye on as the start of free agency nears.
The next several weekly Flynn's Focus columns will be dedicated to identifying some of the big-name players that could be released or shopped around by their current teams. We'll cover the offensive and defensive sides of the football before free agency begins on Feb. 29.
We'll use next week's installment of Flynn's Focus to take a closer look at the wide receivers and tight ends that the Bucs could target should they be released or traded by their respective teams.
QUARTERBACKS Free Agency Headliners Daunte Culpepper (Oakland) – Culpepper (6-4, 260) didn't play well enough in his short stint with Oakland to earn a huge contract elsewhere in 2008, but the former Central Florida standout still has impressive credentials and could be interested in backing up Jeff Garcia in his home state of Florida. The interest could be mutual as the Bucs expressed interest in signing Culpepper last year.
Rex Grossman (Chicago) – Grossman (6-1, 217) has significant starting experience, but the 27-year-old signal caller might not be accurate enough (completed 54 percent of his career passes) for Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's liking.
Could Become Available Gus Frerotte (St. Louis) – At 36, Frerotte (6-3, 233) might not be considered by the Buccaneers, especially since he's only completed 54 percent of his career pass attempts.
Brian Griese (Chicago) – Griese (6-3, 214) didn't fare well as a backup in Chicago, which has some thinking he could be released or traded. Jon Gruden liked Griese, 32, in the two years he spent in Tampa Bay, especially as a capable backup signal caller. That's the role Griese would have to take on if he were to return to Tampa Bay.
Kelly Holcomb (Minnesota) – Holcomb (6-2, 216) has only thrown one more touchdown than he has interceptions in his NFL career, but the 34-year-old signal caller has also completed 63.3 percent of his career passes and performed well at times as a starter.
Damon Huard (Kansas City) – Huard (6-3, 218) has completed just over 60 percent of his career passes in the NFL. However, Huard, 34, has also thrown 31 touchdowns and just 22 interceptions since 1997.
Byron Leftwich (Atlanta) – Leftwich (6-5, 250) has thrown 52 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in the NFL, but he's only completed 58 percent of his passes and performed poorly in Atlanta last year. At 27, Leftwich could still be deemed a serviceable backup, but likely isn't a good fit in Tampa Bay.
Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia) – Some have suggested McNabb and his $6.3 million base salary could be headed out of Philadelphia this offseason. If that is indeed the case, consider the Bucs interested in him. McNabb (6-2, 240) is well versed in the West Coast offense, and at 31, Jon Gruden could view him as a possible successor to Jeff Garcia. The only question is would McNabb be willing to accept a backup role in Tampa Bay while playing behind Garcia, who served as McNabb's backup in Philadelphia in 2006?
Chad Pennington (New York Jets) – He doesn't have a strong arm, but Pennington (6-3, 225) has been extremely accurate during his tenure with the Jets, completing 65.6 percent of his passes and tossing 82 touchdowns and 71 interceptions. Pennington, 31, could be on the Bucs' radar should he be released by the Jets.
Kurt Warner (Arizona) – While he's completed 65 percent of his career passes and thrown for 24,008 yards and tossed 152 touchdowns and 100 interceptions, Warner (6-2, 222) is 36 and his career is about over. Should he become available and the Bucs pick him up, Warner wouldn't be considered much more than a serviceable backup for one year in Tampa Bay.
RUNNING BACKS Free Agency Headliners Michael Turner (San Diego) – Turner (5-10, 237) has averaged 5.5 yards per carry during his four-year career. However, Turner, 25, hasn't shown great hands (11 career catches) and might receive more money from another team than the Bucs are willing to pay for an explosive backup, but unproven starter.
Mewelde Moore (Minnesota) – Moore (5-11, 209) has averaged 4.9 yards per carry during his four-year career, but he's scored just one rushing touchdown. However, Moore, 25, has hauled in 116 passes for 1,093 yards (9.4 avg.) and scored three touchdowns through the air, which will definitely pique Tampa Bay's interest. The Bucs have been interested in Moore for some time and he will be on their radar screen on the first day of free agency. Julius Jones (Dallas) – Jones (5-10, 208) has averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he's scored 18 rushing touchdowns and hauled in 84 passes for 672 yards (8.0 avg.) during his four-year career. Jones might not have the speed the Bucs are looking for at running back. Michael Bennett (Tampa Bay) – Bennett (5-9, 207) has the speed the Bucs want at running back, but they're not sure if he has the hands or blocking ability yet. Bennett averaged 4.6 yards per carry during his eight games with the Bucs. Bennett's agent and the Bucs have already had preliminary discussions on a new contract, and there's a good chance he could return to Tampa Bay if the price is right and he's willing to accept a role that features other running backs at times.
Michael Pittman (Tampa Bay) – At 33, Pittman (6-0, 228) is the third-oldest running back in the NFL, but the Bucs remain interested in re-signing him because he's a reliable runner, pass-catcher and blocker. Pittman, who has averaged 4.0 yards per carry and hauled in over 400 career passes, has expressed interest in leaving Tampa Bay for a better role, but he might not find it given his age.
Kris Wilson (Kansas City) – Wilson (6-2, 251) was a standout tight end at the University of Pittsburgh, but Kansas City moved him to fullback due to his lack of height and the presence of TE Tony Gonzalez. The Bucs like versatile players, and with Mike Alstott retiring and Tampa Bay in the market for a tight end, the Bucs could be interested in signing Wilson to play one or both positions. He has caught 42 career passes and scored four touchdowns.
Could Become Available Mike Anderson (Baltimore) – Anderson (6-0, 230) has averaged 4.4 yards per carry and scored 37 rushing touchdowns, but at 34 he isn't likely to command much interest from the Bucs should he become available. Rock Cartwright (Washington) – Cartwright (5-8, 218) hasn't carried the ball a lot during his career, but when he has touched the ball he's been fairly effective. Cartwright, 28, has averaged 4.4 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns on 146 attempts. However, Cartwright might not be versatile enough on offense for the Bucs to sign him should he be released, but he is one of the league's best kickoff returners.
Warrick Dunn (Atlanta) – Bucs head coach Jon Gruden never wanted Dunn to leave Tampa Bay, and he may soon have a chance to bring Dunn back to the Bucs. Dunn (5-9, 187) started his career with the Bucs in 1997 and he probably wouldn't mind ending it in Tampa Bay. While he's averaged 4.1 yards per carry and scored a total of 62 touchdowns while hauling in a whopping 463 career passes, Dunn is 32 and might have too many miles on his legs for the Bucs.
Deuce McAllister (New Orleans) – McAllister (6-1, 232) has a rare combination of size and speed, but he's had trouble staying healthy in recent years. That, along with the fact that the Saints have RB Reggie Bush, could prompt New Orleans to part ways with McAllister, 29, this offseason. Should he become available, consider the Bucs interested in signing McAllister, who has averaged 4.3 yards per carry and scored 44 touchdowns while hauling in 216 passes and scoring an additional four touchdowns.
Clinton Portis (Washington) – This name might surprise some people, but the Redskins have some serious salary cap issues to address, and some big-name players likely will have to restructure their deals or go. Portis (5-11, 223), who has a base salary of well over $5 million in 2008, is one of them, especially with Ladell Betts performing well. Portis, 26, has averaged 4.5 yards per carry and rushed for 7,715 yards and 63 touchdowns while hauling in 205 passes for 1,698 yards and four scores. Should Portis, who is from Gainesville and played collegiately at Miami, be released or shopped around by the Redskins, consider the Buccaneers interested. Fred Taylor (Jacksonville) – Although he made the Pro Bowl this year, Taylor is 32 and isn't in Jacksonville's long-term plans with Maurice Jones-Drew in the same backfield. Taylor has posted impressed numbers since 1998, rushing for 10,715 yards (4.7 avg.) and scoring 61 touchdowns on the ground. He's also caught 270 career passes. Given his age and the miles on his legs, the Bucs probably wouldn't be willing to throw a whole lot of money at Taylor if he became available. Want the inside scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2008 offseason plans? Want to find out who the Bucs are targeting in free agency and the NFL Draft this year? Subscribe to PewterReport.com's Pewter Insider by clicking here.
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