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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

S Goldson will visit with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 11:23 AM
TAMPA -

The Buccaneers are reaching for the stars in free agency again this year, and once again they are doing so in style.

Two-time Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson agreed Tuesday to visit the Bucs before contacting any other team, and the Bucs responded by sending a private jet to California to pick him up, Goldson's agent, Ben Dogra, said.

Goldson, a starter for the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl team last year, was expected to arrive in Tampa late Tuesday while the Bucs are hoping a contract can be finalized as soon as today.

The Bucs will have to impress Goldson to get that done. Dogra said Goldson liked what he heard initially from the Bucs but “wants to win'' and must therefore feel comfortable “with the direction of the team.''

The decision to reach out to Goldson was the Bucs' first attempt to repair a pass defense that ranked last in the league last year and fell 37 yards short of being the worst in NFL history.

The decision to fly Goldson to Tampa on a private jet, meanwhile, was similar to a move made last year when the Bucs sent one to retrieve their top three free-agent signees — wide receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright.

Goldson, 28, has 14 career interceptions, including nine the past two years, and 20 pass breakups the past two years. He was considered the top safety available on the free-agent market.

An explosive hitter and run stopper in the box, Goldson is considered to be at his best playing the role of the deep ball hawker, which would seem to make him a good fit alongside Mark Barron, the Bucs' 2012 first-round draft pick.

A signing of Goldson, meanwhile, would mean the Bucs have found a replacement for free agent Ronde Barber, who moved to safety last year after playing his previous 15 seasons at cornerback.

Barber hit the open market when the new league year began Tuesday at 4 p.m., and he is contemplating retirement as well as the possibility of returning to the Bucs in a reserve role or moving on to another team.

Barber met with Bucs general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano last week and learned the Bucs were considering using free agency or the draft to find a replacement for him.

The Bucs are also in the market for a new cornerback or two, and are said to be targeting Falcons free agent Brent Grimes.

They also reached out to Dolphins free-agent cornerback Sean Smith, and there was talk of the Bucs possibly working a trade for the Jets' Darrelle Revis, but there was no confirmation of such a deal from either club.

A CBS Sports report also had the Bucs expressing interest in Detroit Lions free-agent defensive end Cliff Avril, who is considered by many to be the best pass rusher on the market.

Avril, 26, has recorded 29 sacks and 10 pass breakups the past three seasons and has forced 16 fumbles over the course of a five-year career in which he has primarily played left end.

That is the same position that Bucs free-agent defensive end Michael Bennett has played the past three years, but Bennett's chances of returning to the Bucs appear to be fading.

Bennett told The Tribune on Monday that he still hoped to return to the Bucs and set his chances of coming back at 40 to 60 percent. By late Tuesday those chances had slipped to 20 to 40 percent, Bennett said.

Bennett also amended his vow to give the Bucs a chance to match the best offer he received in free agency, saying on Tuesday that the Bucs will now have to better the best offer he receives.

Bennett said he was waiting to learn what teams he may visit in the coming days, but as of late Tuesday no visits had been announced for either Bennett or fellow Bucs free-agent defensive lineman Roy Miller.

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