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If you thought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in need of help at the wide receivers position heading into the 2008 season, just imagine how you might feel in 2009.
Joey Galloway will be 37 and Ike Hilliard will turn 33 next year. In addition, Bucs wide receivers Michael Clayton, Antonio Bryant and Cortez Hankton are each scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in February.
If Galloway were to retire, Hilliard were to be released and Clayton, Bryant and Hankton were to get away in free agency, Tampa Bay's stable of wide receivers, which would include Maurice Stovall and Dexter Jackson, would have a combined four starts in the National Football League.
That said, the Buccaneers likely be in the market for at least one wide receiver in 2009.
Here is a list of the wide receivers that are scheduled to become free agents in 2009.
Antonio Bryant (6-2, 188) Tampa Bay Reche Caldwell (6-0, 210) St. Louis Drew Carter (6-3, 200) Oakland Michael Clayton (6-4, 215) Tampa Bay Bobby Engram (5-10, 192) Seattle Lee Evans (5-10, 197) Buffalo Robert Ferguson (6-1, 210) Minnesota Doug Gabriel (6-2, 215) Cincinnati Jabar Gaffney (6-1, 205) New England Dante' Hall (5-8, 187) St. Louis Cortez Hankton (6-0, 200) Tampa Bay Devery Henderson (5-11, 200) New Orleans T.J. Houshmandzadeh (6-1, 200) Cincinnati Darrell Jackson (5-11, 211) Denver Taylor Jacobs (6-0, 210) Denver Bryant Johnson (6-3, 213) San Francisco Brandon Jones (6-1, 212) Tennessee Kevin Kasper (6-1, 205) Cleveland Ashley Lelie (6-3, 193) San Francisco Brandon Lloyd (6-0, 200) Chicago Dane Looker (6-0, 195) St. Louis Jerome Mathis (5-11, 191) Washington Justin McCareins (6-2, 215) Tennessee Shaun McDonald (5-10, 183) Detroit Billy McMullen (6-4, 215) Washington Ahmad Merritt (5-11, 193) Arizona Samie Parker (5-11, 190) Denver Tab Perry (6-3, 208) Miami Edell Shepherd (6-1, 175) Denver Travis Taylor (6-1, 210) Carolina Amani Toomer (6-3, 203) New York Giants Nate Washington (6-1, 185) Pittsburgh Mike Williams (6-5, 230) Tennessee Roy Williams (6-3, 211) Detroit Roydell Williams (6-0, 187) Tennessee
This is a huge year for Clayton, who was Tampa Bay's first-round draft pick in 2004. After catching 80 passes and seven touchdowns in his rookie campaign, Clayton has caught just 87 passes and scored one touchdown since then.
Clayton's impressive offseason performance and trimmed frame suggest he's ready to push Hilliard and Stovall for the starting Z (flanker) position in 2008. However, even if Clayton returns to his rookie form, the Bucs will still have some concerns as to whether a turnaround would be a sign of things to come or the product of Clayton being in a contract year.
The Bucs would love to see Buffalo WR Lee Evans hit the free agent market as scheduled in 2009. Evans was selected ahead of Clayton in the 2004 NFL Draft. He has caught 233 passes for 3,727 yards (16.0 avg.) and scored 29 touchdowns in Buffalo.
The Bills are attempting to sign Evans, 27, to a long-term deal, but if that doesn't happen and he hits the free agent market as scheduled next year, consider the Bucs extremely interested in the speedy wideout who could be a great candidate to succeed Galloway at the X (split-end) spot.
Speaking of speed, the Bucs could revisit the possibility of signing Saints WR Devery Henderson if he hits the free agent market for the second straight year. Tampa Bay brought Henderson in for a visit this offseason, but he eventually re-signed with New Orleans.
Henderson, 26, has caught 74 career passes for 1,497 yards (20.2 avg.) and scored 11 touchdowns in four seasons with the Saints. However, he has had serious trouble catching the football on a consistent basis. The Saints and the Bucs, among other teams, will be watching Henderson closely this year to see if he can become a reliable receiver in the passing game since his speed is already outstanding.
There were some trade rumors earlier this offseason that suggested Detroit was shopping WR Roy Williams around to other teams in the NFL, but he's still on the team's roster.
Williams, 26, has been quite productive when he's been healthy, catching 245 passes for 3,652 yards (14.9 avg.) and 28 touchdowns.
Even if the Lions want to re-sign Williams or slap the franchise tag on him, they might not be able to do it since they faced some serious salary cap challenges this offseason and likely will have even more problems in 2009.
Although he's a little older, Bengals WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, 30, likely will be the most sought-after wide receiver next year if he hits free agency as scheduled.
Houshmandzadeh has hauled in 415 career passes for 4,878 yards (11.8 avg.) and 33 touchdowns while playing alongside WR Chad Johnson in Cincinnati's explosive offense. The Bengals might not be able to re-sign Houshmandzadeh and keep Johnson happy at the same time, so there might be a good chance the Bucs will have a shot at signing Houshmandzadeh if they want him next year.
There will be a few other receivers to keep an eye on when 2009 rolls around as they could possibly be released or traded by their respective teams.
Bengals WR Chad Johnson, 30, attempted to complain his way out of Cincinnati this offseason, but to no avail. But if the Bengals struggle again in 2008, no one should be surprised if Johnson shares his frustration with the media again, and the Bengals could see some value in releasing or trading Johnson if it means they can free up the money necessary to re-sign Houshmandzadeh or ink another receiver to a deal.
Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin wants a new contract in Arizona, but he might not get it since the team has a lot of money invested in running back Edgerrin James and WR Larry Fitzgerald.
Boldin, 27, played collegiately at Florida State and is from Pahokee, Fla., so he'd likely be interested in playing for the Bucs if the opportunity presented itself via a release or trade in 2009. Boldin has caught 413 passes for 5,458 yards (13.2 avg.) and 29 touchdowns.
Redskins WR Santana Moss is signed through the 2013 season, but his base salary jumps from $730,000 in 2008 to $3.7 million in 2009, which might be too much for the cap-strapped ‘Skins to handle.
Moss, 30, is one of the NFL's fastest players and has been extremely productive in his three seasons with the Redskins. The former first-round pick has caught 351 passes for 5,497 yards (15.7 avg.) and 37 touchdowns.
The former University of Miami product has also averaged 11.5 yards per punt return and scored two touchdowns since entering the NFL with the New York Jets in 2001. Like Evans, Moss would be viewed by Tampa Bay as Galloway's successor.
If St. Louis bombs again in 2008 the team could get completely blown up, which could lead to the release of several veterans, including WR Torry Holt.
Holt, 32, has hauled in 805 career passes for 11,864 yards (14.7 avg.) and scored a whopping 71 touchdowns since 1999. Holt has been a Ram for his entire career, but the same was true for WR Isaac Bruce until the St. Louis released him earlier this offseason.
Holt is under contract with the Rams through 2009 and is scheduled to earn a base salary of $6.5 million next year. If he still has his speed and playmaking ability, the Bucs could be interested in Holt if he became available next year.
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