The NFL calendar officially flips to 2014 with the start of free agency on Tuesday. A three-day negotiating period begins today, allowing teams and prospective free agents to begin the match-making process.
With $20 million available under the $133 million salary cap, the Buccaneers are expected to address a number of needs as the first-year tandem of head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht shape the roster.
For seven straight days, The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com will feature one position each day. We’ll provide analysis of the position and list the players to consider. So, here’s your chance, Bucs fans — you be the GM.
Go to TBO.com/Bucs and tell us what you would do.
Working primarily through the draft, the Bucs have spent five years trying to build this unit into a pass-rushing and run-stopping force, but all it really has to show for it is two-time Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy. Beyond that, there is not one player whom Bucs coach Lovie Smith considers to be at an elite level, and he’s not likely to take any chances waiting to see if Adrian Clayborn, Da’Quan Bowers or William Gholston can get there. This is an area the team is almost certain to address in free agency. The greatest need is for a dominant pass-rushing end — or two. With Carolina and Washington putting franchise tags on Greg Hardy and Brian Orakpo, respectively, the two best are all but off the market.
Bucs under contract for 2014
DE Da’Quan Bowers – Second-round pick in 2011 has mostly disappointed.
DE Adrian Clayborn – First-round pick is solid, but Smith says “solid isn’t good enough.’’
DT Everett Dawkins – Former FSU star has ability to contribute in a rotation.
DE William Gholston – Flashed some elite skills down the stretch last year.
NT David Hunter – Has ability to push for playing time.
DT Matthew Masifilo – Will have to work hard to earn a roster spot.
DT Gerald McCoy – Best the Bucs have had at under tackle since Warren Sapp.
DE Steven Means – Still an unknown, but has an intriguing skill set.
NT Akeem Spence – Proved to be a solid starter as a rookie last year.
Bucs potential free agents
DT Gary Gibson – Not bad in a pinch, but best days are behind him.
DE Scott Solomon – Seems destined to join fourth team in as many years.
DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim – Overachiever best suited for a backup role.
NFL potential free agents
Jared Allen, Vikings – At 32 he’s a gamble, but the payoff could be huge.
Lamarr Houston, Raiders – Superb run stopper was Raiders’ best player last year.
Michael Bennett, Seahawks – Never wanted to leave Tampa Bay in first place.
Michael Johnson, Bengals – Sack total dropped from 11.5 to 3.5 last year.
Willie Young, Lions – A bit of a sleeper, he could be dominant in right scheme.
Thursday: Running back
Friday: Offensive line
Today: Defensive line
Sunday: Wide receiver/tight end
Monday: Defensive back