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Tampa Bay appears to be fairly deep at cornerback heading into its 2007 training camp. But they’re also a little long in the tooth.
Bucs Pro Bowl cornerback Ronde Barber is 32 and his partner in crime, Brian Kelly, is 31.
The team helped itself get a little younger at cornerback this offseason by releasing Juran Bolden, 33, signing free agent CB Sammy Davis, 27, and re-signing Phillip Buchanon, who is just 26.
With Barber, Kelly and Bolden on their roster last year, the Bucs decided to invest a fourth-round pick in Alan Zemaitis. However, Zemaitis was inactive for his entire rookie season and there is some concern that he might not even make the team in 2007.
The Bucs used another draft pick to land a Marcus Hamilton, who is a cornerback, this year. While he’s talented, Hamilton was a seventh-round draft pick, so there’s no guarantee he’ll make the 53-man roster this year and chances are he’s a practice squad candidate.
Another one of the younger cornerbacks, Torrie Cox, has flashed in training camps and preseasons, but he’s struggled to make positive impacts in regular season games. He’s also had off-the-field problems. In fact, the NFL recently suspended Cox for the first four games of the 2007 season for violating the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy. Cox is appealing his suspension.
With Barber and Kelly scheduled to turn 33 and 32 next year, respectively, and Kelly currently unhappy with his contract, which has two years remaining on it, there’s a strong chance the Buccaneers will target a veteran cornerback in free agency in 2008.
Listed below are some of the more intriguing free agent-to-be cornerbacks in 2008.
Asante Samuel (New England) – The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Samuel originally entered the NFL in 2003 as a fourth-round draft pick. He turned in a Pro Bowl-caliber season last year by notching 10 interceptions. In four seasons with the Patriots, Samuel has recorded 16 interceptions and 61 passes defensed. He was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but the Patriots slapped the franchise tag on him, which could prompt Samuel to hold out. If the former Central Florida hits the free agent market in 2008, consider the Buccaneers interested in bringing him back to Florida.
Nnamdi Asomugha (Oakland) – Asomugha has intercepted eight passes since entering the NFL as a first-round pick in 2003. All eight of his picks came in 2006. Not only was he a first-round pick, Asomugha was drafted by former Raiders senior executive and current Bucs general manager Bruce Allen. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Asomugha returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown while helping to establish the Oakland defense as one of the best in the NFL last year.
Marcus Trufant (Seattle) – The Seahawks probably will do everything they can to prevent Trufant from hitting the free agent market in 2008. The former first-round pick was actually the 11th overall selection in the 2003 NFL Draft. He has since intercepted nine passes and notched 65 passes defensed. In addition, Trufant has recorded two sacks and two forced fumbles. The 5-foot-11, 199-pound Trufant might not even be in his prime yet. He doesn’t turn 27 until December, which means Trufant will be quite attractive to several teams, including the Bucs, in free agency next year. Drayton Florence (San Diego) – Florence originally entered the NFL in 2003 as a second-round draft pick. He has recorded eight career interceptions, including three in 2006. In addition, Florence registered a career-high 16 passes defensed en route to helping the Chargers make an appearance in playoffs. The 6-foot, 195-pound Florence could be a player the Bucs target should he hit the free agent market as scheduled in 2008.
Ahmad Carroll (Jacksonville) – With CB Nate Clements drawing over $20 million in bonus money when he signed with San Francisco during the offseason, the likelihood of some of the players mentioned above commanding big contracts increases. If the Bucs happen to be outbid for their services, there could be come cheaper alternatives. Carroll originally entered the NFL as a first-round draft pick, but he flamed out after two seasons in Green Bay. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Carroll has recorded three interceptions and 21 passes defensed during his career. If he can turn in a productive season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carroll could appear on Tampa Bay’s radar in 2008.
Andre Woolfolk (Tennessee) – Like Carroll, Woolfolk entered the NFL as a first-round draft pick in 2003. The 6-foot-2, 197-pound Woolfolk, who has three career interceptions, has since battled several injuries that have prevented him from playing an entire season. The reward could outweigh the risk for the team that signs Woolfolk in free agency next year. Sammy Davis (Tampa Bay) – The Bucs might not have to look far for a veteran cornerback. Davis, who signed a one-year deal with the Bucs during the offseason, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2008. He originally entered the NFL in 2003 as a first-round draft pick with the San Diego Chargers, but Davis is playing for his third team in as many seasons and has just three career picks. If the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Davis can resurrect his career in Tampa Bay, just as Buchanon did in 2006, he could earn a long-term, lucrative contract and the Bucs would find an eventual successor for Barber or Kelly.
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