Signing free agents is always a boom-or-bust type of proposition. Riskier than penny stocks traded wildly by the shady Jordan Belfort in the movie “Wolf of Wall Street,” the Buccaneers have been burned more than they have struck gold and often wished for a money-back guarantee.
Guard Carl Nicks, five years, $47.5 million.
Defensive end Michael Johnson, five years, $43 million.
Cornerback Eric Wright, five years, $37.5 million.
Left tackle Anthony Collins, five years, $30 million.
Heck, even wide receiver Alvin Harper back in the day, four years, $10.66 million.
It is free agency season, but it should be called “buyer beware” season. The Buccaneers – along with all NFL teams – can begin contacting agents on Saturday, March 7 on the eve of the official kickoff of free agency that begins at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10. Will the Buccaneers open up the checkbook like they have over the last three seasons, or look for more value players like defensive tackle Clinton McDonald after overpaying for a higher profile player like Johnson?
The Buccaneers have had some degree of free agent success. No one will argue that wide receiver Vincent Jackson hasn’t met expectations. Nor can anyone say, one of the Bucs’ original free agents, middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson, wasn’t worth every penny of his contract that lured him from the Pittsburgh Steelers. But unfortunately for every Jackson or Nickerson, there have been two or three Harpers, Wrights or Charlie Garners. Or Todd Steussies. Or Derrick Deeses. Or Derek Wards. You get the idea.
Winning the “free agency Super Bowl” in March has yet to equate to winning the real thing later in the year – just ask the Washington Redskins. In fact, adding spot and role players has been proven to be more effective in winning the Super Bowl rather than getting the marquee names the day free agency opens. Tampa Bay proved that in 2002 with the addition of tight end Ken Dilger, running back Michael Pittman, offensive linemen Roman Oben and Kerry Jenkins, defensive end Greg Spires and wide receivers Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius. While people still debate if Jon Gruden won Super Bowl XXXVII with Tony Dungy’s players, but the fact is, the Bucs may have never gotten over the hump without the huge influx of additional talent, particularly on offense.
Think back to the 2002 NFC Championship Game when a former Giants role player receiver caught a short crossing pattern from Brad Johnson and took it 71 yards, giving the Bucs offense a shot in the arm, eventually leading to the second-biggest win in franchise history after beating the Eagles. Did many Bucs fans sit up and take notice when Jurevicius was signed as a free agent eight months earlier?
And to see a proven free agent success story, look no further than what Bill Belichick has done with the New England Patriots. Primarily building through the draft, Belichick isn’t afraid to cut ties with players on the decline, and pick up role players to fill in, almost renting players at times. Former Bucs cornerback Darrell Revis was a perfect example of that last year. After being cut by the Bucs last March, Revis signed a one-year, $12 million deal, with a club option for a second year. The Patriots would like to sign Revis to a long-term deal, but if it doesn’t happen, the one-year Buccaneer helped bring another Lombardi Trophy to Foxborough.
So instead of expecting a big Mike Iupati, Ndamukong Suh, Randall Cobb and DevinMcCourty news conference next Wednesday, it will more likely be the Dan Connolly, Stephen Paea and Clint Boling type players brought in instead. Not necessarily sexy or NFL Network update worthy, but the smarter way to supplement your roster.
Fans and media members eat up the big-name signings. It is exciting to see a team you follow become relevant in March on ESPN SportsCenter, showing highlights of press conferences of well-known players holding up shiny new red and pewter jerseys. But history has proven time and time again, buying a high-priced football team in March doesn’t typically lead to being crowned Super Bowl champs the following February.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The exact word I was going to type ColoradoBuc!
Exactly the type of guys we need to sign in FA. All mid level guys that can start or provide good depth.
Teams find their stars in the draft, not FA.
It’s a good point Mark – of course, if your QB is a HOFer (e.g., Tom Brady) it makes FA acquisitions that much easier, and the need for potential HOFers in FA that much less so…I think everything builds off the draft – we’ve missed so much over the last decade+ that FA has really been moot.
That is the real truth about FA, BUYER BEWARE! The Bucs have made many mistakes in the past, not only in FA but also in the draft. The Bucs have never had a good evaluator of talent and that is the major problem with most teams that are forever known as bottom feeders. We as fans can only hope that this recent Front office overhaul will be the answer as the FO has been terrible the last decade. This is the year that Licht and Lovie need to be bold and maybe follow Chip Kelly’s lead but he seems to know what he wants and has a plan. I’m not so sure about Licht and Lovie after last years FA class and draft. This is the year the Buc’s have to show the fans that they are more like NE then the BROWNS!
Great article Mark! The odds of draftees or free agents being as successful for a new team are always slim. Complicating matters are the expectations based on the players paycheck. I just hope the Bucs get players who wake up humble and dedicated to get better every day. That work ethic is critical.
The Bucs currently have the right idea about free agency for the most part. Last year wasn’t so bad – Michael Johnson of course didn’t perform that well; how much of that was injury I don’t know; only the Bucs know! Anthony Collins seems to have decided he doesn’t like playing for the Bucs. A big problem with the success of any player is whether they have enough supporting cast around them to succeed in the first place!
– Mike Jenkins got injured; I’d like to see the Bucs bring him back; but with Banks pretty much proving himself . . .
– Oniel Cousins proved to be a better Ot than Guard; I’m surprised we don’t want him back.
– Dana Fletcher was a bust.
– Josh McCown was a bust.
– Major Wright did good.
– Alterraun Verner did better as the D got better.
– Danny Lansanah was from Schiano
– Clinton McDonald did fine.
– Jorvorskie Lane was a good pick up.
– Brandon Myers did good.
– Patrick Omameh I think was a Schiano guy as well,
-Garrett Gilkey, Evan Dietrich-Smith did alright
– and my favorite Louis Murphy.
If the Bucs are able to find that many year in, year out, plus get a handful from the draft, they’ll start winning.
I see two busts mostly(assuming Michael Johnson’s problems were more due to injury). Some might argue McCown’s problem was more O-coordinator.
The Bucs also did pretty good after the draft . . . during the pre-season cuts – Lb Magee, Isaiah Frey(I’m actually not sure when we picked him up), also Cb Dixon, and of course De Jacquies Smith
well, I respect that everyone is allowed their opinion, and you had me agreeing on a lot of this, but my head is still spinning that you considered Oneil Cousins and Garrett Gilkey to be passable. COUNSINS: as one Brown’s fan noted “he has literally no redeeming qualities…the worst lineman in Brown’s history”. (per PFF) His stats at OT were in the bottom 10 of all OTs in the league last year, and his stats at OG were so bad I’m not sure they could grade that low. Gilkey’s only redeeming quality is that his play made me call for Oneil Cousins to be put in the game…enough said.
Just add players that Want to be here! I really don’t get it..it’s effing Florida! I mean you got Miami beach, Disney world, universal studios, a huge night scene, great beaches, and much more it can offer. I still believe in lovie and licht. Tedford was an uncomfortable ordeal. Still players should’ve played better. If I would’ve been oc in aroyos situation, I would’ve just had fun, let them play back yard ball and see what happens. He tried to hard to set ppl up by running the ball up the middle way to much and instead of being ballsy he was timid. Anyway, lovie, light and koetter need to sell Winston bc it’s looking like he’s the pick. They need to say Were going to have a legit qb leading this franchise and being part of the rebirth of the bucs. I know for buc fans like me this is the first time Tampa will pick first overall, but it feels like this pick will determine a lot for its future and with its fan base, even more so this time. Idk, I just am Soo freaking tired of pouring myself emotionally into this team just to get disappointed. I know some of you older bucs have endured a lot, but when does it end. Its been far to long since we’ve been to the playoffs and won! I don’t want any more excuses from this organization, glazers and co, just get it done! Or sell the team to someone who will Bc if we end up soiling the bed with this, I will be a very pissed of buc fan.
Instead of making a splash in free agency,we should just get our feet wet.
It’s taken us a while to get this bad and it’s gonna take a while to right the ship…as long as the pieces we are starting to put in place are long time fixes and not just a bunch of hole patching- we should have a competitive in a few seasons that we can be proud of…
Team in a few seasons…wife was talking in my ear as I typed…
That’s funny Cremdonado. If your wife is like mine she’ll claim you weren’t listening. I’ve never been a fan of free agency and it looks like our recent failures have swayed many more to that line of thinking. At one time people blamed the losses on the perception that the Glazers were too tight-fisted. Then they flushed millions down the toilets of Carl Nicks, Eric Wright, Michael Clayton, and last years withered crop with the same on-field results. Licht and Lovie better get it right this off season or as Ricky Ricardo would say, “You got some ‘splainin to do”.
PR dutifully reminded us that the Bucs have some 33 million in cap space and if they cut as is anticipated Collins, Koenen, and Goldson, another 10.25mil could be added to cap space.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but spending in Free Agency is unavoidable, as a matter of fact, mandatory. Gone are the days when NFL owners could sit on cap space – some even being accused of using such funds to buy soccer teams.
Enter the 2011 CBA and the windfall of dollars to the NFL from massive TV contracts that forces teams to spend to a “floor limit” equal to 89% of the cap effective 2013. Going to FA and re-investing in the franchise is in fact mandated by the CBA.
Bottom line the Bucs have to spend in free agency, but there is no rule that says they have to spend foolishly. Instead of buyer beware, the caption should read buyer be Aware! There is nothing wrong with FA. There something really wrong about poor talent or fit evaluation and overpaying more than the talent is worth.
I trust that with the new FO personnel department and the embarrassing lessons from last year, we will produce much better results this year.
Nice job flashgordon on your evaluations! I think the BUCS only missed on two free agents from last year, (Collins and McCown) and should carry over the others, if for no other reason as to serve as back-ups in 2015 and continue to build through the draft and mid-level free agents.
Yeah Cremdo, it can be like rocks rattling around a tin can when they talk at you. When my wife asked who I’m typing to on the computer, I tell her, Jake, from State Farm! Bucs don’t need to rebuild the ship, just patch a few holes. I think Licht said it best when they signed Koetter, that was their biggest free agent aquasition.
Yea bc our special team quality control coach was calling plays last yr.
Having an OC this season cannot be overstated, and we signed a good one who is also already well versed with the NFC South defenses. Cant wait to see if Koetter can develop TE Seferian-Jenkins like he revived Tony Gonzalez’s career in Atlanta.
Ahh the good old days. Man 2002 was a fun time!! Agree with the points above. Bucs are kind of due to hit something in free agency been long dry spell.
Nice to see acknowledgment that it was the offensive overhaul under Gruden that made the Bucs SB champs, would never have happened under a DC who never developed command of both sides of the ball as HC. Thats a lot of the starting lineup on offense, contributing key plays including Pittman, JJ and Keenan in particular to make it all happen. What a year. Thanks, Jon.
100% agree matador, it was Gruden’s team all-around. He left the defense alone but also motivated them to be great rather than real good and challenged them to score more points like great defenses do. It worked. Especially in the biggest game of them all….
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