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Tampa Bay hasn’t been as active as teams like Cleveland and Washington in terms of signing other teams’ unrestricted free agents this offseason. The Buccaneers have, however, had success re-signing several of their own free agents.

Bucs general manager Bruce Allen has done a good job of keeping the core of the team’s 2005 playoff and NFC South division championship squad intact for the 2006 season.

When the offseason first began, Allen’s first priority was to get the Bucs out of a $19 million cap deficit. He succeeded in doing that with the voided contracts of fullback Mike Alstott and tackle Kenyatta Walker, and by releasing quarterback Brian Griese, linebacker Jeff Gooch and guard Matt Stinchcomb.

Allen also created millions of cap room by restructuring the contracts of linebacker Derrick Brooks, tight end Anthony Becht, defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, running back Michael Pittman and center John Wade.

But instead of spending the money freed up with those moves on other teams’ free agents, Allen and Co. concentrated on retaining the team’s own, including fullback Mike Alstott, cornerback Juran Bolden, kicker Matt Bryant, defensive tackle Chris Hovan and quarterback Chris Simms.

Not only did the Bucs retain these players, Allen signed players like Bolden, Bryant and Hovan, all of whom inked one-year deals worth the league minimum with the team last year, to long-term, cap-friendly contracts in an effort to avoid having to re-sign them again next year.

This strategy will not only pay off for Tampa Bay in 2006, the 2007 Bucs also will reap the benefits of these maneuvers.

As of right now, Tampa Bay only has five starters – Alstott, cornerback Ronde Barber, punter Josh Bidwell, guard Sean Mahan and Simms – scheduled to become unrestricted free agents during the 2007 offseason.

That’s great news for the Bucs, who will have a favorable salary cap situation that easily will be the best of Allen’s tenure with the Bucs since he was hired in January of 2004, when the 2007 offseason rolls around.

So instead of having to spend the majority of Tampa Bay’s money and his time on re-signing the Bucs’ own players, Allen will have the opportunity to retain Tampa Bay’s players and add some other teams’ free agents next year, which truly would be ideal and a nice change of pace from what the cap-strapped Bucs have endured over the past two years of free agency.



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