The Bucs were quiet in free agency out of the gate last year outside of signing FS Dashon Goldson, but according to multiple reports, Tampa Bay has its eye on a number of high-profile free agents, with the latest rumors having the Bucs looking to overhaul the offensive line. Tampa Bay could strike early once free agency opens on Tuesday afternoon.
The release of right guard Davin Joseph, a six-year starter, on Saturday could be just the start of a complete overhaul of Tampa Bay's offensive line. With the extra $6 million in salary cap savings, and now approximately $25 million dollars in cap room, reports late Sunday night say that the Bucs have a strong interest in Bengals tackle Anthony Collins and St. Louis Rams guard/tackle Rodger Saffold.
The free agent tampering season, which is now condoned by the NFL, began on Saturday with teams being able to talk contract parameters with agents regarding their free agent clients, although no deals can be finalized and signed until Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET, which is the official start of the 2014 NFL season.
If it happens, the signing of Collins could mean the end of the road for Bucs left tackle Donald Penn, who is scheduled to make $7.3 million (including prorated money, workout and weight clause incentives). Penn had a down season, and according to some independent scouting websites, gave up the second-most sacks in the NFC at his position in 2013.
Collins, a fourth-round pick in 2008, had a solid 2013 season for Cincinnati. While the Bengals have interest in re-signing Collins, a deal wasn’t worked out before the three-day window to talk to prospective teams began on Saturday.
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that the Bucs and Collins have worked out parameters on a deal worth between $6-7 million per season. The Buccaneers offensive line was the most expensive in football last year and struggled mightily last year. As a result, other players besides Joseph could end up ultimately pay the price.
Also late Sunday, it was reported that the Buccaneers had interest in the versatile, but oft-injured Saffold, who can play guard or tackle. According to reports, Saffold has told the Rams he will sign elsewhere. Later, reports have the Oakland Raiders as the favorite to obtain his service. The Raiders have the most salary cap space available with approximately $60 million of room.
Early Sunday morning, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, reported that the Buccaneers are making a big push to pursue a very big defensive end in Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Johnson was franchised last year by the Bengals following a career-high 11.5-sack campaign, but underwhelmed with just 56 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. That prompted Cincinnati to opt to re-sign fellow defensive end Carlos Dunlap to a big contract extension instead of Johnson. The Bengals drafted Johnson’s replacement last year in second-rounder Margus Hunt and will not be re-signing him.
Johnson, a former third-round pick in 2009, is only 27 years old and has plenty of upside. He’s also one of the hottest free agents this year as seven teams, including the Minnesota Vikings, who hired former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as the team’s head coach this offseason, have already shown interest in Johnson. Apparently Tampa Bay is one of the most interested teams.
Tampa Bay’s chances of signing Johnson was thought to be helped when Minnesota agreed to terms with their own defensive end, Everson Griffen on Sunday afternoon.
Johnson, who entered the league with 4.69 speed in the 40-yard dash, has recorded 26.5 sacks, 205 tackles, 25 passes defensed, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in five years, but only has one double-digit sack season, which came in 2012. His previous best was a six-sack campaign in 2011.
The next few days will be full of reports and rumors, but until Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. no one can officially sign a player, and other teams could come out of nowhere with bigger or more attractive offers. Keep checking back with PewterReport.com often for the latest free agency news and also checkout our free agency previews for every position that have been published.– Scott Reynolds contributed to this report
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