With free agency fast approaching (March 12) Pewter Report takes a look at some potential free agents at the Bucs most pressing need – cornerback. After surrendering the most yards in the NFL in 2012, Tampa Bay will need to find lots of help in order to become a playoff contender in 2013.
The NFL free agency period opens in just over a month (March 12, 4 p.m.) and the Buccaneers will almost certainly be looking to upgrade the cornerback position, one that was a major deficiency in 2012. Tampa Bay surrendered 4,758 yards through the air (297.4 yards per game) and 30 TDs, making it one of the worst secondaries in the history of the league.
General manager Mark Dominik and his scouting department, while keeping an eye on the upcoming draft, are spending time evaluating not only the players who are set to become free agents, but also in contact with the agents for some of their own players who will be free to sign elsewhere on March 12.
A new wrinkle in this year’s free agency period is the teams’ ability to enter into negotiations with free agents three days prior to the official start. In seasons past the start of free agency was a mad dash where teams had to predetermine what number the players targeted would accept. This hampered teams to a degree and in some cases caused teams to overpay. The new stipulation should be beneficial to all involved and should create a little less stressful environment for the teams, agents and players. It should also eliminate the tampering charges that tend to get hurled at some teams who signed players within minutes of the start of previous year’s free agency.
With cornerback the Buccaneers most glaring need, PewterReport.com takes a look at some of the players who are set to become free agents, which would provide an immediate upgrade to their secondary. The signing of free agents – or the inability to sign a free agent – will also help shape the draft plans for Tampa Bay. For example if the Bucs are able to sign what they feel is a definite starter, they may choose to target another position with the No. 13 overall pick.
Most scouts are in agreement that one Alabama’s Dee Milliner is off the draft board, there is a significant drop and question if the next highest rated corner would be a reach at No. 13. If Tampa Bay is able to sign one of the below free agents it most likely takes that dilemma off the table.Derek Cox- Jacksonville Jaguars
Cox could be an option for the Bucs this offseason. Former Jaguars DBs coach Tony Oden reportedly will be the new defensive backs coach here in Tampa and that move could help sway Cox to consider Tampa Bay. Cox has played in 44 career games with 11 interceptions, 189 tackles, and 29 pass deflections. Cox has been improving immensely ever since his dreadful 2009 season, and has been slowly emerging as one of the most underrated defensive backs in the league. The scouting report on Cox is the former William & Mary star still has a high ceiling and will only get better. The biggest knock on Cox has been his inability to stay healthy.Sean Smith- Miami Dolphins
Smith has missed just one game in his four-year career and has recorded 205 tackles, five interceptions, and 39 pass deflections. In 2012, he had two interceptions, as well as two forced fumbles. The former second-round pick stands tall at 6-3, 218 pounds and has the ability to go up against top receivers which really fits the mold in what Schiano and new director of college scouting Eric Stokes loves in a defensive back. Smith is thought to be a much better press-man cover corner, but struggles in zone coverage at times. His five interceptions in four years is a bit alarming, but Smith saw fewer balls thrown his way in 2012. While very talented, Smith gave up the second most TD passes by a corner in 2012; however, his size and intangibles will intrigue enough general managers to dish out, at the very least, Eric Wright ($7.5 million) money on the free agent market.Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie- Philadelphia Eagles
Rodgers-Cromartie was signed by the Eagles in 2011 as a part of the supposed “dream team”. He has underperformed the past two years, but has played better than his counterpart Nnamdi Asomugha. Rodgers-Cromartie has stayed healthy over his five-year career, playing in 74 games with 16 interceptions, 205 tackles, and 85 pass deflections. The former Arizona Cardinal could have a lot of upside for the Bucs if they’re willing to take a risk on him. He was a very solid cornerback while he played in Arizona, but took a steep drop in production when he went to Philadelphia. Rodgers-Cromartie is said to want to stay in Philly and may accept less money to do so. A majority of Eagles fans would be happy to see Rodgers-Cromartie in another uniform in 2013. At only 26 years of age, DRC as he is known, still has a ton of good years left, if he can stay healthy.Brent Grimes- Atlanta Falcons
Grimes has played five years with the Atlanta Falcons and was in his sixth when he found his 2012 season cut short due to an Achilles injury. He has played in 59 games with 254 tackles, 13 interceptions, and 56 pass deflections. He has completed just two full seasons (2009 and 2010) but had a combined 11 interceptions through those 32 games. If Grimes doesn’t re-sign with the Falcons, he would be a good addition to the Bucs secondary with decent experience. Grimes is one of the most talented 2013 free agent cornerbacks, with top-end speed and good instincts, but does lack in ideal size (5-10), Add in the fact he is coming off an Achilles injury, and it may make some teams, including the Buccaneers, wary to pay big dollars. Plucking a guy off of a division rival will be an enticing proposition for Dominik and would hurt the Falcons to a degree, although they seemed to manage fine without Grimes in 2012.Mike Jenkins- Dallas Cowboys
A local product (USF) Jenkins was a 2008 first-round pick by the Cowboys and was one of the better corners in Dallas before being relegated to the bench after Dallas signed free agent cornerback Brandon Carr and traded up to draft cornerback Morris Claiborne sixth overall last off-season. Jenkins also underwent reconstructive right shoulder surgery last off-season, however he appears to have recovered 100 percent. The former Bradenton Southeast star could quite possibly use a change of scenery and coming back home could go a long way in helping Jenkins realize his full potential.–Haley Cornish contributed to this report
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