The Buccaneers entered the 2008 free agent signing period on Feb. 29 with approximately $44 million to spend, which was the most amount of cap room of any team in the National Football League.
Some have been disappointed by Tampa Bay's signings, or lack thereof, in free agency thus far.
While the Bucs have signed several players and traded for quarterback Brian Griese, they have not addressed the wide receiver position, which some perceived to be one of the team's top needs.
Bucs WR Joey Galloway has been Tampa Bay's most consistent producer over the last several seasons, catching 202 passes for 3,358 yards and 23 touchdowns from 2005-07.
While he's explosive and productive, Galloway is also 36 years old, meaning Tampa Bay needs to find his successor. That was made apparent in the Bucs' playoff loss to the New York Giants in January when Galloway attempted to play with an injured shoulder, but could not produce. Tampa Bay's passing game suffered as a result.
In addition to youth, the Bucs are also in need of more speed at the wide receiver position. Galloway possesses a tremendous amount of speed, but the Bucs are lacking it behind him.
Ike Hilliard, who is 31, was impressive during the first half of the 2007 regular season and actually led the team in receptions with 62 for 722 yards and one touchdown. However, Hilliard struggled with injuries throughout the season and really faded down the stretch.
The Bucs have two first-day draft picks invested in Michael Clayton (first round) and Maurice Stovall (third round). While both players are under the age of 26, neither has demonstrated the speed necessary to gain separation from opposing defensive backs on a consistent basis.
In addition, Clayton has scored just one touchdown over the past four seasons, which clearly is not enough production from a former first-round draft pick. To put that number in perspective, Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber has scored two touchdowns in each of the past two seasons.
Tampa Bay still is high on WR Paris Warren, but he's recovering from a dislocated ankle and is more of a possession receiver like Clayton and Stovall.
The Bucs clearly are in the market for a wide receiver, evidenced by the fact that they brought in Saints free agent WR Devery Henderson for a visit before he re-signed with New Orleans and have expressed minimal interest in other free agent receivers, including Seattle's D.J. Hackett and Arizona's Bryant Johnson, neither of whom has visited One Buc Place yet.
Tampa Bay also discussed the possibility of signing wide receivers Randy Moss and Javon Walker before they signed bigger contracts than the Bucs were willing to offer with New England and Oakland, respectively.
Some rumors have suggested that Tampa Bay could be interested in trading for disgruntled Bengals WR Chad Johnson, who is attempting to talk his way out of Cincinnati.
Are the Bucs interested in trading for Johnson? Maybe. Maybe not.
However, after talking with several league sources Pewter Report has determined one thing for sure – the Bengals are not shopping Johnson, which makes Tampa Bay's interest in him a moot point.
Johnson wants out of Cincinnati, but that doesn't means the Bengals want to trade him. In fact, they don't, which was a sentiment echoed by Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis last month.
"They can stop the presses, quit killing trees and move on to other things," Lewis told ESPN in regards to Johnson. "There is, at no point, anyone in the Bengals organization who has ever uttered anything about trading Chad Johnson. Nor will he be traded."
Despite Lewis' denial regarding Johnson trade rumors, the whispers persist in several different media outlets.
But even if the Bengals were shopping Johnson around the league there's no guarantee the Bucs would pull the trigger on a trade for him.
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound Johnson has caught 559 career passes for 8,365 yards (15.0 avg.) and 49 touchdowns since entering the league as a second-round draft pick in 2001.
Last season, Johnson hauled in 93 passes for 1,440 yards (15.5 avg.) and eight touchdowns.
While his production and playmaking ability are impressive, Johnson is 30, which doesn't fit the mold of the younger and faster receiver the Buccaneers are looking for.
One of the things Tampa Bay feels has been a strength over the past several seasons is its team chemistry, and the outspoken Johnson's track record suggests pulling off a blockbuster trade for the Pro Bowl wideout could put that camaraderie in jeopardy.
One thing that would also have to be considered is the fact that Chad Johnson is the cousin of former Bucs WR Keyshawn Johnson, who was deactivated by head coach Jon Gruden for conduct detrimental to the team in November of the 2003 regular season. Would Chad Johnson even want to play for Gruden after Keyshawn likely poisoned the well for the head coach, and would Gruden want to have Johnson in his locker room?
Johnson is under contract with the Bengals through the 2009 season, so don't look for him to become a Buccaneer anytime soon.
There have also been some whispers around the league that the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals are attempting to trade WR Lee Evans and Larry Fitzgerald, respectively, but PewterReport.com has learned that those reports are nothing more than rumors at this point as neither team is actively shopping those respective players.
While Tampa Bay still could sign a veteran wide receiver like Hackett, the Bucs' best bet might be addressing this position through the 2008 NFL Draft, where the wide receiver position is considered deep, especially in terms speedy playmakers.
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