The 2010 NFL draft is shaping up to be one of the deepest in recent memory. Bucs General Manager Mark Dominik had a feeling it would be. That is why he has spent the past year stocking up on draft picks.
Dominik said he always looks ahead a year to the next draft, and when he looked ahead to this year's draft he realized it would be one of the richest ever in terms of talent.
"You always try to forward think and forward plan," he said. "It's a good way to determine the avenue you want to take each year in building your team, and that's why we're putting so much emphasis on the draft this year.
"It's a talented pool, and as the process continues to move on, as it's viewed by fans watching the NFL Network or reading reports, they're going to see that this is a really talented pool."
The same can't be said of this year's free agent pool. With less than 200 unrestricted free agents, it is considered one of the weakest ever. That's one reason the Bucs aren't likely to wade too far into it.
Dominik said the Bucs' approach to free agency could change dramatically if the pool of free agents deepens when teams start cutting players to cut costs.
The Bucs will likely be among the teams helping to expand the pool this year, but the free agent pool isn't likely to deepen dramatically until after a new collective bargaining agreement is struck.
That agreement could put more than 500 players in the next free agent pool, and even for teams like the Bucs that favor building through the draft, that could prove to be too enticing to ignore.
"As far as free agency goes, our feelings haven't changed," Dominik said. "We'll see what happens, but so far we've just been dealing with our players and our agents. The draft stays our main focus, and for good reason."
The Bucs have decided to keep quarterback Byron Leftwich, at least for now, and could carry as many as four quarterbacks into their offseason program. It was expected the Bucs would release Leftwich before a $3.5 million roster bonus was due, but the bonus did not kick in because he didn't play in enough games, Dominik said. The Bucs also have Josh Freeman, Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter at quarterback. ... Like most draft prospects, Florida WR Riley Cooper will be happy to go anywhere in the NFL. It's obvious, though, that his wish is to stay near his Clearwater home and land with the Bucs. "That would be sweet," Cooper said Friday. "To be a hometown guy, that's what I want to do."
Keep him or cut him: Be the Bucs' GM
Who would you bring back for the Bucs next season and who would you let go?
Tuesday, March 2: Defensive backs
Wednesday, March 3: Receivers/tight ends
Thursday, March 4: Summary and results