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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL free agency: Top bargains, busts

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With 2014 free agency set to begin at 4 p.m. today, here’s an overview of some available players who loom as potential bargains and busts

Good Value

GOLDEN TATE, WR, SEAHAWKS

This second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame in 2010 broke through last season, emerging as Russell Wilson’s most dangerous target. Tate averaged 14.0 yards on his 64 catches and 11.5 yards per punt return, including a 71-yard dash against the Bucs that sparked a huge Seattle comeback.

S MALCOLM JENKINS, SAINTS

By drafting Kenny Vaccaro last season, New Orleans announced its intention to move on from Jenkins, the 14th overall pick in the 2009 draft. Jenkins is versatile enough to play either safety spot and does everything well, illustrated by his 69 tackles, 21⁄2 sacks, two picks and two forced fumbles last season.

LB DARYL SMITH, RAVENS

Any team seeking a dependable inside linebacker with some thump should consider the 31-year-old Smith, who turned in another solid season. Smith led Baltimore with 123 stops and added five sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.

WR TED GINN, PANTHERS

Cash-strapped Carolina doesn’t want to lose Ginn, who gained the confidence of Cam Newton during the 2013 season, averaging 15.4 yards per catch with five touchdowns. The former first-round pick is also a threat returning punts (12.3 average) and kickoffs (23.8). In Carolina’s 27-6 rout of the Bucs in December, Ginn cleanly beat CB Darrelle Revis on a stop-and-go route for an easy 36-yard TD catch.

DT LINVAL JOSEPH, GIANTS

You don’t often find 25-year-old run-stuffers available in free agency, and Joseph also can provide a decent inside push on passing downs. The Giants don’t want to lose him and he won’t lack for suitors on the open market.

TE GARRETT GRAHAM, TEXANS

Unless Houston can strike a deal before free agency begins, Graham will be a coveted target for several franchises seeking a rangy red-zone threat. Graham caught 49 passes and scored five touchdowns amid the chaos last season, and he’s a decent blocker.

WR JULIAN EDELMAN, PATRIOTS

He might not be a flashy No. 1 receiver, but Edelman, 27, has plenty of qualities that pro coaches look for. He’s tough and smart as a slot target, and his ability to contribute on special teams makes Edelman even more intriguing.

Buyer Beware

T BRANDEN ALBERT, CHIEFS

Most reports have him going to the Dolphins, but if Albert was indeed a dominant left tackle, the Chiefs wouldn’t have selected Eric Fisher No. 1 overall in the 2013 draft. Giving Albert a big contract would be Dennis Hickey’s first mistake as Miami’s new GM.

WR ERIC DECKER, BRONCOS

Decker has been quite productive with Denver, but he wants to be compensated like a No. 1 receiver and someone will be tempted to overpay. Decker knows how to work the middle of the field, but he’s not particularly quick and he looked lost on the Super Bowl stage.

WR HAKEEM NICKS, GIANTS

Nicks has abundant talent, but his recent numbers suggest he is an underachiever. His best game in the past couple of years came when he toasted former Bucs CB Aqib Talib for 10 catches and 199 yards early in the 2012 season as New York rallied past Tampa Bay with a 25-point fourth quarter.

TE JERMICHAEL FINLEY, PACKERS

Few NFL executives question the pass-catching skills of Finley. Still, injury concerns are legitimate and Finley benefited from having Aaron Rodgers delivering the ball accurately and on time. He won’t come close to matching the numbers he put up in Green Bay from 2011-12.

RB DARREN MCFADDEN, RAIDERS

He can still break off a 60-yard run on occasion, but McFadden has rarely lived up to the hype. He has missed 29 games in six NFL seasons and is coming off two dreadful years in Oakland. At best, he can contribute as a situational back.

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