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TE SMITH TRADE BAIT FOR BUCS? Tampa Bay is lacking depth at a number of positions on its current roster, but tight end is not one of them.
Not only did the Bucs trade for Browns TE Kellen Winslow on the first day of free agency, the team also re-signed TE Jerramy Stevens last week.
Winslow and Stevens, who have combined for 403 receptions and 32 touchdowns, join blocking tight end John Gilmore and 2005 third-round draft pick Alex Smith in Tampa Bay's stable of tight ends.
With Stevens returning and the addition of Winslow, Smith could be the odd man out.
There's always the chance the Bucs will keep all four tight ends on their 53-man roster since new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski plans to make heavy use of the tight ends in his offensive scheme.
However, with Smith, 26, still in his prime and entering the final year of his contract with Tampa Bay, there's also a chance the Bucs will attempt to use him as trade bait in an effort to address other "need" positions on the team, including quarterback, wide receiver, defensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker and cornerback.
The 6-foot-4, 258-pound Smith has 129 career catches for 1,252 yards (9.7 avg.) and 11 touchdowns. Those are decent numbers, and ones that could have other tight end-needy teams interested in talking to the Bucs.
However, Smith has struggled with some dropped passes and injuries. His best season came as a rookie, where he caught 41 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns. Smith has not played a full season since his rookie campaign due to a variety of injuries.
The Bucs are without a second-round draft pick due to the trade for Winslow. While they could certainly use that pick this year, it is unlikely Smith would command anything more than a third- or fourth-round draft selection.
ARE THE BUCS INTERESTED IN WR HOLT? There are some rumblings around the National Football League regarding wide receiver Torry Holt's future in St. Louis. He has reportedly been "uninvited" to offseason workouts, which essentially means he's on the trading or chopping block.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Holt has been one of the most productive receivers in the NFL since he originally entered the NFL in 1999. The former first-round selection has hauled in 896 passes for 12,660 yards (14.6 avg.) and 74 touchdowns for the Rams.
Although they franchised Antonio Bryant and re-signed Michael Clayton this offseason, the Bucs still are in need of a third receiver, especially one that possesses speed and the ability to stretch the field in long down-and-distance situations or if Bryant is injured.
Holt's best years are behind him, as he will turn 33 in June. However, he appears to have plenty of football left in him considering last year was the worst of his career since his rookie campaign, yet he still caught 64 passes for 796 yards (12.4 avg.) and three touchdowns.
The Bucs have a need for another wide receiver, and they certainly have the salary cap room to accept the final year of his contract, which calls for Holt to earn $6.65 million in base salary.
One person new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and head coach Raheem Morris likely will lean on for a player evaluation of Holt is quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, who served as St. Louis' offensive coordinator from 2006-07. Olson, from what we understand, is a big fan of Holt, but it is unclear whether he'd like to see him in Tampa Bay.
Morris and Bucs general manager Mark Dominik have embarked on a youth movement at One Buc Place. Although the 33-year-old Holt may not fit that description, an exception could be made for his services, especially if the team feels he has plenty of football and leadership qualities left in him, and WRs Dexter Jackson and Maurice Stovall are viewed as big question marks at this point.
Even if they are interested in Holt, the Bucs could wait until April to see if they come away with a wide receiver in the draft before pulling the trigger on a deal for Holt.
If negotiations take place between St. Louis and Tampa Bay, it is worth noting that those discussions would involve Dominik and Rams vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff, who worked closely with Dominik during his years in Tampa Bay. And did I mention the Rams are in the market for a tight end (see the Alex Smith write-up above)? Maybe something can be worked out between the Bucs and Rams.
VERY LITTLE INTEREST IN GARCIA Some were not pleased to learn Tampa Bay had no intention of re-signing quarterback Jeff Garcia earlier this offseason. I actually applaud Bucs general manager Mark Dominik for informing Garcia and his agent of that decision before he technically needed to. That was classy move by Dominik.
It also appears to be the right move for a franchise that is building towards the future. Garcia, 39, won a lot of fans over by showing passion and grit on the football field. He also helped the Bucs win the 2007 NFC South division title and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in the process.
But as old saying goes, the eye in the sky doesn't lie. Garcia struggled mightily during the 2008 regular season. He missed too many open receivers and played a big role in Tampa Bay's red zone problems. Let's be honest, Garcia wasn't the same player after sustaining a back injury on Nov. 25 of the 2007 regular season.
Antonio Bryant could have turned in a monster year had Garcia saw him running open downfield several times per game in 2008. And let's be realistic, there were probably times when Garcia saw open receivers down field but didn't trust his aging arm to get the ball to them.
The Bucs likely will draft or sign another veteran quarterback before training camp rolls around in July. That means Garcia isn't coming back to Tampa Bay.
He completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 25,537 yards and tossed 161 touchdowns and just 83 interceptions (he was a great caretaker with the football) with five different teams. He took three of those clubs to the playoffs.
Garcia's career numbers and Pro Bowl appearances suggest he was a good player. However, the interest, or lack thereof, shown in Garcia by other teams suggests the Bucs were wise to move on without him.
PART OF BUCS' PLAN HAS COME TO FRUITION Many media outlets, including Pewter Report, became skeptical of the Bucs' salary cap situation a few years ago when the team had $20-plus million in cap room, yet wasn't a big player in free agency under then-general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Jon Gruden.
When pressed for answers, Allen and other members of his front office kept reminding the media that the Bucs wanted to keep the core of their team intact for years to come because they had so much roster turnover during their hellish salary cap era. In order to do that, the Bucs needed to not overpay for other teams' free agents and set aside cap room for their own upcoming free agents.
Although Allen is no longer in Tampa Bay, Dominik was part of the front office that implemented that plan, and he helped carry it out this offseason by re-signing several Bucs free agents, including quarterback Luke McCown, wide receivers Michael Clayton and Cortez Hankton, tight end Jeremy Stevens, defensive tackle Ryan Sims and safeties Will Allen and Jermaine Phillips.
In addition, Dominik extended a one-year tender to restricted free agent tackle Donald Penn and placed the franchise tag on wide receiver Antonio Bryant.
In essence, the Bucs have held true to their word to re-sign their own players, but not all of them, of course. They allowed defensive tackle Jovan Haye to sign with the Tennessee Titans and cornerback Phillip Buchanon to ink a deal with the Detroit Lions.
But the bottom line is the Bucs could have retained those players if they wanted to. They simply chose to allow them to leave and locked up the ones they deemed building blocks in Tampa Bay.
BUCS HAVE REACHED SALARY CAP FLOOR Pewter Report is still working on getting an updated number in terms of where the Bucs stand from a salary cap standpoint.
What we can tell you is Tampa Bay, which entered free agency with a league-high $62 million in cap room, has fulfilled its league-mandated obligation to spend at least 87.6 percent of its salary cap room for 2009.
The Bucs, who still have plenty of cap room at theird disposal, reached the salary cap floor with the re-signing of tight end Jerramy Stevens and safety Jermaine Phillips. That means the Bucs don't technically have to spend another penny in free agency, but don't expect that to be the case even though some cash flow issue-related rumors still persist.
Tampa Bay still is interested in acquiring players and spent the early part of this week visiting with free agent cornerbacks Karl Paymah (Denver) and Daven Holly (Cleveland), tackle Khalif Barnes (Jacksonville) and linebacker Angelo Crowell (Buffalo).