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Tampa Bay punter Josh Bidwell and kicker Matt Bryant both received Pro Bowl consideration in 2007.
Bidwell, 32, averaged 43.9 yards per punt and pinned 30 of his attempts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. He also has proven to be a reliable and consistent holder on field goal attempts, which might be the most thankless job in the NFL behind only long snapping duties, which are handled by Andrew Economos, who recently signed a new, five-year contract with the Bucs.
Bryant, 33, drilled 28-of-33 (84.8 percent) of his field goal attempts and made a 62-yarder in 2006, which was the second-longest field goal ever made in NFL history.
Bidwell and Bryant are under contract with the Bucs through 2011 and 2010, respectively.
It would take a Martin Gramatica-type collapse for Tampa Bay to release Bidwell or Bryant during the 2009 offseason since both players are affordable. Bryant will have a $1.5 million cap value in '09 and is scheduled to receive a $100,000 roster bonus next year. Bidwell is scheduled to earn $1 million in base salary in '09.
The Bucs invested a second-round draft pick in wide receiver Dexter Jackson this year to handle both punt and kickoff return duties for the team for the foreseeable future. Even if Jackson turned out to be a bust as a rookie, the Bucs probably would target a running back, wide receiver or cornerback to help upgrade the team's return unit in 2009.
If, for some reason, the Bucs decide to go in a different direction at punter and/or kicker, listed below are the players at both positions that are scheduled to become free agents in 2009.
K Shayne Graham (6-0, 200) Cincinnati K Martin Gramatica (5-8, 170) New Orleans K Jason Hanson (6-0, 190) Detroit K Mike Nugent (5-9, 182) New York Jets K Dave Rayner (6-2, 210) Miami K Matt Stover (5-11, 178) Baltimore
P Derrick Frost (6-4, 208) Washington P Chris Hanson (6-2, 202) New England P Craig Hentrich (6-3, 213) Tennessee P Dirk Johnson (6-0, 200) Arizona P Michael Koenen (5-11, 195) Atlanta P Shane Lechler (6-2, 225) Oakland P Josh Miller (6-4, 225) Tennessee P Scott Player (6-1, 206) New England P Chad Stanley (6-3, 205) Indianapolis
While Detroit K Jason Hanson and Baltimore K Matt Stover have impressive legs and credentials, they are 38 and 40, respectively, so the Bucs wouldn't be likely to target either player in free agency.
There could, however, be two players that the Bucs show an interest in signing in free agency should they hit the market as scheduled next year. Those players are New York Jets K Mike Nugent and Oakland P Shane Lechler.
The Bucs seriously considered drafting Nugent in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Instead, they drafted linebacker Barrett Ruud. That allowed the New York Jets to select Nugent near the end of the second round that year.
Nugent, 26, has since made 75-of-91 (82.4 percent) of his career field goals. That includes his 2006 performance, where he made 88.9 percent of his field goal tries. What makes that feat even more impressive is the fact that Nugent has to kick quite a bit at windy Giants Stadium.
If the Bucs feel Bryant's play has slipped or that he's shows his age in '08, the team could target Nugent in free agency in '09.
Bidwell appears to be in his prime, but he better turn in another impressive outing this year due to the fact that Lechler is scheduled to hit the open market in 2009.
Lechler was actually a draft pick under Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen when they worked in Oakland. Lechler, 31, has since averaged a whopping 46.5 yards per punt and pinned 184 of his career attempts since 2000 inside opponents' 20-yard line.
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