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Tampa Bay was thinking about now and the future when it invested two draft picks in Sabby Piscitelli and Tanard Jackson in April.
The Bucs needed to add competition to the safety position, which sorely lacked it last year. Strong safety Jermaine Phillips and free safety Will Allen did not play well, and the lack of pressure generated by Tampa Bay’s front four allowed opposing quarterbacks to pick them apart.
With the 2007 NFL Draft loaded with talented safeties, the Bucs used a second-round pick to land Piscitelli and a fourth-round selection to draft Jackson, who played cornerback at Syracuse but is making the transition to safety in the NFL.
Tampa Bay has competition and depth now and in 2008 as far as the safety position is concerned. That’s because Phillips, Allen, Piscitelli and Jackson likely will be under contract for that season.
The Bucs have already signed Jackson to his rookie deal and are working on signing Piscitelli to his before the team reports to training camp on July 26.
While Allen is under contract through 2009, Phillips’ final season in Tampa Bay is scheduled to be 2008. He is scheduled to earn $2.050 million in base salary and have a $2.587 million salary cap value in ’08.
Backup safeties Kalvin Pearson and Donte Nicholson are scheduled to become restricted free agents in ’08 and ’09, respectively, which means they could be back in Tampa Bay next season if they make the 53-man roster this year first.
Another reason the Bucs might have invested two high draft picks in Piscitelli and Jackson is because of the lack of quality safeties that are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in 2008.
The Bucs could be set at safety for the next few seasons, but if they determine that they’re not after 2007, listed below are a few safeties that are scheduled to become free agents in ’08.
SS Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh) – The former first-round pick originally entered the NFL in 2003. Polamalu has forced three fumbles and intercepted 10 passes during his four-year tenure with the Steelers, which has indeed been a successful one. The 5-foot-10, 207-pound Polamalu helped the Steelers win a Super Bowl two years ago, which means Pittsburgh may not even let him hit the free agent market by signing him to a long-term deal or slapping the franchise tag on him.
SS Michael Boulware (Seattle) – A second-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, Boulware has been quite a playmaker for the Seahawks. He has intercepted 11 passes and forced four fumbles while scoring one touchdown on defense. Seattle is running tight against the salary cap and might not be able to afford the 6-foot-2, 223-pound strong safety, who helped the Seahawks get to the Super Bowl just two seasons ago.
FS Bob Sanders (Indianapolis) – His 5-foot-8, 206-pound frame caused him to drop to the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft, but Sanders has played much bigger than many experts expected. Sanders has intercepted two passes and forced two fumbles with the Colts. His biggest contribution came in Indianapolis’ playoff and Super Bowl run, where he helped shore up a woeful Colts’ run defense. Sanders is well versed in the Tampa 2 scheme and could be a player the Bucs target should he hit the free agent market in 2008.
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