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Several teams have been putting their feelers out around the National Football League to explore possible trades. One team that has been contacted by others is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are always interested in possible trade scenarios, but probably won’t be making any deals until after their third preseason game of the year at Jacksonville on Saturday night.

“There are some dialogues going on around the league right now,” said Bucs general manager Bruce Allen. “There will probably be a trade or two this week in the NFL, but then usually it’s after the third preseason games that people will start moving.

“We want to first evaluate our players to make sure we’re getting the right 53 for our team before we start discussing anybody. We do have some great battles going on, and I think it’s going to be great for us.”

While Tampa Bay might not make any trades before its regular season kicks off on Sept. 10 vs. Baltimore, here’s a list of players the Bucs could consider using as trade bait to help improve other areas of their team, particularly at the quarterback, tight end and safety positions.

LB Marquis Cooper
When Tampa Bay drafted Cooper, it thought he could possibly be the heir apparent to All-Pro Derrick Brooks. But the 2004 third-round pick is having a difficult time cracking the starting lineup. Sitting behind Brooks, a nine-time Pro Bowler, is one thing, and certainly understandable. However, sitting behind Ryan Nece, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2002, is another. Cooper didn’t have a great training camp, but he did record five tackles in the preseason opener vs. the New York Jets. The Bucs are hoping newcomer Jamie Winborn will eventually succeed Brooks, and the team is set at middle linebacker with Shelton Quarles and Barrett Ruud. With Nece showing no signs of letting go of the starting job on the strong side and under contract through the 2009 season, Cooper might be on the bench this season and for the next several years to come. His potential could be intriguing to another team, and the Bucs have been happy with the play of linebackers Antoine Cash and Wesly Mallard. However, should they decide to trade Cooper, the Bucs would be letting go of a solid special teams contributor. Cooper has recorded 27 special teams tackles in his first two seasons in the NFL.

G Toniu Fonoti
Unless something changes between now and next week, Fonoti’s playing days in Tampa Bay could be numbered. Bucs rookie Davin Joseph likely will start at right guard for the Bucs, which has prompted the team to move Jeb Terry over to the left guard spot to compete with Dan Buenning. That means Fonoti, for all practical purposes, is the third-team offensive guard. Although he failed a physical with Oakland earlier in the offseason, Fonoti could intrigue another team that feels he would be a better fit for their particular blocking scheme and offense. However, the Bucs might have a difficult time trading Fonoti, who hasn’t played well and has had trouble staying healthy (ankle and hand injuries).

CB James Patrick
Tampa Bay is set at the cornerback position. Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly are the undisputed starters, and Juran Bolden and Alan Zemaitis have secured the No. 3 and 4 jobs, respectively. Torrie Cox turned in an impressive training camp and could be the team’s fifth cornerback, especially due to his special teams contributions. With Blue Adams’ ability to play both corner and safety, Patrick is expendable, and the Minnesota Vikings could be a team that would be willing to give Tampa Bay a late-round draft pick in exchange for Patrick since Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, who left the Bucs in the offseason, loves Patrick and thinks he has great upside.

QB Tim Rattay
If neither Jay Fielder nor Luke McCown are ready to throw by next week, Rattay won’t be expendable unless the Bucs trade him for another quarterback. But if Fiedler can throw and rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski continues to play beyond his years, the Bucs could decide to trade Rattay and his $1.2 million base salary to a team in need of a signal caller. The Bucs might be hard pressed to find a team willing to accept Rattay’s base salary the way it is, though, and he hasn’t exactly lit it up in training camp and preseason. That said, Tampa Bay could simply opt to release Rattay and sign a free agent quarterback, possibly current New York Jets QB Brooks Bollinger, who has been the subject of some trade rumors around the league and worked with Bucs quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett for two seasons (2003-04) in New York.

WR Edell Shepherd
Tampa Bay’s wide receiver corps is littered with talent, and the Bucs may be willing to trade one of their talented players at this position to upgrade another. Joey Galloway, Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall are locks to make the 53-man roster, and Mark Jones likely will make it as the punt returner. Ike Hilliard likely will make the team, and David Boston had a solid training camp, but hasn’t received many looks in Tampa Bay’s first two exhibition contests. However, he still should make the team since he is very valuable as Galloway’s backup at the split-end position. That said, Shepherd, who made a name for himself around the league by hauling in a touchdown pass against the Washington Redskins during the 2005 regular season and turned in a solid performance vs. the Dolphins by hauling in three passes for 93 yards and one touchdown on Saturday night, might be a player the Bucs feel they can afford to part with, especially since they plan on developing several receivers, including Paris Warren, J.R. Russell and Chas Gessner, on their eight-man practice squad.

C John Wade
Wade’s days in Tampa Bay are numbered. He restructured his contract this offseason, and the Bucs moved last year’s starting right guard, Sean Mahan, to center to compete with Wade for the starting job. In fact, Mahan received a lot of reps at center in training camp and even started on Saturday night against the Miami Dolphins. While he suited up for the game, Wade did not play vs. the Dolphins, which was a little curious seeing as he had no known injuries entering that exhibition game. Were the Bucs holding Wade out of the game to keep him healthy enough to trade him? Possibly. Wade, 31, is under contract through 2009 and carries a $1.1 million base salary this year. Wade has started 40 of the 48 regular season games he’s played in as a Buccaneer while Mahan has started only eight games at center. But the Bucs feel Mahan’s future is at center, and they are high on backup C Scott Jackson, who is more versatile than Wade. If they are looking to shop Wade, the Bucs could find a trading partner in the Cleveland Browns, who have lost six centers to injuries, retirement or suspension over the past 25 days, as Sports Illustrated’s Peter King astutely pointed out in his Monday Morning Quarterback column.

RB Derek Watson
The Bucs appear to be set at running back with Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman returning, and Earnest Graham turning in another solid preseason. Fullbacks Mike Alstott, Carey Davis, Rick Razzano and Jerald Sowell are involved in a tight enough competition that the Bucs likely will keep at least two fullbacks on their active roster. Watson appears to be the odd man out, especially since he hasn’t played in Tampa Bay’s first two preseason games due to an ankle injury. Watson also missed a significant amount of time in training camp. Last year, the Bucs actually had to bring Watson up from their practice squad onto their active roster since the Baltimore Ravens were about to sign the tailback to their active roster. The Bucs might be willing to trade Watson away if they can receive a draft pick or upgrade another position.

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