Free agency has slowed down since it started on Mar. 2, but slow certainly wasn’t the way to describe One Buccaneer Place on Friday.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought in several players for visits, including defensive end Charles Grant, and linebackers Cato June and Chris Draft.
Grant, 28, was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent before he had the franchise tag placed on him by the Saints.
The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Grant has notched 36 career sacks since he entered the NFL in 2002 as a first-round pick out of Georgia.
League rules state that Grant is permitted to sign an offer sheet from any team, and if the Saints opt not to match it, they are to receive two first-round picks from that team in exchange for his services.
The Bucs spent Friday getting to know Grant, whom they are quite familiar with since he plays in the same division as Tampa Bay.
“Charles, he is someone we are very familiar with after getting to play against him and watch his abilities against the Buccaneers,” said Bucs general manager Bruce Allen. “We wanted to visit with him more on a business end and to get to know him, not only for today, but also for the future. As you know, and we discussed this with Charles, the franchise tag over the last decade – once a player is tagged, it has taken a lot of twists and turns. Sometimes a tag is removed. Sometimes players are traded for much less than the designation value. Other times, players play for a one-year tender amount. They sign a one-year contract and will be free agents the next year. Our plan has always been to address not only the 2007 season, but the years 2008 and 2009 in this free agency period.”
The Buccaneers, who recorded just 25 sacks through 16 regular season games in 2006, have already signed several defensive linemen, including Kevin Carter, in free agency.Â
As of Friday, Allen said the Bucs and Saints had not discussed a possible trade that would send Grant to Tampa Bay.
“We wanted to meet him,” said Allen. “Free agency allows teams to explore various options. We wanted to discuss his situation and what his hopes and dreams are. We wanted him to see our facility and meet the coaches. You can’t do that once they are under contract to another team. It was valuable for us. I know he enjoyed himself. He learned a lot about the Buccaneers and we learned a lot about the Saints today.
“His situation has some unique qualities to it that I’m not going to get into that might come to fruition at some time in the future.”
June, 27, is an unrestricted free agent after spending four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, who are coming off of a Super Bowl victory. He originally entered the NFL in 2003 as a sixth-round pick out of Michigan.
The 6-foot, 227-pound June has recorded 349 tackles, 10 interceptions, 20 passes defensed, one sack and two forced fumbles during his four-year tenure in the NFL.
Allen said Friday that the team was attracted to June for several reasons, including his familiarity with the Tampa 2 defense.Â
“We discussed that with him; what we could see his role with us being,” Allen said of June. “We discussed the Colts season this year and we asked him a lot of questions to learn a lot about how he envisioned his future. Because of his familiarity with a very, very similar defense, we thought he was an intriguing prospect to talk to.”
With Shelton Quarles’ future still in doubt, the Bucs decided to bring in Draft, who is also an unrestricted free agent.
Draft, 31, has recorded 532 career tackles, 14.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and four interceptions since entering the NFL in 1999 with the San Francisco 49ers.
The 5-foot-11, 232-pound Draft played with Atlanta from 2000-04, and he spent the past two seasons with the Panthers.
Quarles, 35, is in the process of gathering information from doctors, who are evaluating his injury history and might recommend he retires. Quarles is expected to make a decision on his future in the NFL later this month.
Although June and Draft visited One Buc Place Friday, Allen suggested neither player was close to signing a contract with the Buccaneers.
“I don’t see anything imminent with those two players,” said Allen. “It was just a get-to-know-each-other [visit]. Chris, playing in the NFC South, we were familiar with him, as well.”
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