The NFL free agency period begins at 12:01 a.m. March 5. For seven straight days, the Tampa Tribune and TBO.com will feature one position each day. We'll provide an analysis of the position and list the players to consider: Bucs under contract for 2010, and Bucs and notable NFL players scheduled to become free agents.
Okay, Bucs fans. You be the general manager.
A unit that was expected to be a strength of the 2009 Bucs struggled on most Sundays last fall. Tampa Bay failed to establish an offensive identity, and the underachievers up front must take some responsibility.
Left guard Arron Sears missed the entire season due to lingering personal problems. Jeremy Zuttah was thrust into a starter's role and he struggled for most of his second pro season. Right guard Davin Joseph appeared to take a step back from his 2008 Pro Bowl form. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood blocked well at times, but has yet to learn how to channel his aggressiveness.
Left tackle Donald Penn faltered down the stretch, and the Bucs are concerned about his excess weight. And when veteran center Jeff Faine missed a month with a triceps injury, Tampa Bay lacked a capable reserve.
Penn and Trueblood, restricted free agent candidates, received tenders Friday that likely assure they will be back for 2010.
If Sears returns in 2010, offensive line coach Pete Mangurian will have more flexibility. The Bucs are intrigued with the potential of 6-foot-9 tackle Demar Dotson, who played nine games as a rookie last season, but they would like to add a guard and a tackle, either through free agency or the draft.
The key to success this fall is developing young players like Zuttah, Trueblood and Joseph into the cornerstones the Bucs envisioned when selecting them with premium draft picks.
Bucs under contract for 2010
C Jeff Faine - Veteran team captain is a quiet leader.
RG Davin Joseph - Solid player with talent to be a stud.
LG Jeremy Zuttah - Better suited as a valuable backup at this point.
C Jonathan Compas - Played in two games as a rookie.
T Marc Dile - Former USF standout was signed to practice squad in October.
T Demar Dotson - Big man with an athletic upside.
T Xavier Fulton - A torn ACL wrecked his rookie season.
T James Lee - This third-year pro is seeking his first NFL start.
G Shaun Murphy - Ex-Dolphin made his pro debut in season finale vs. Atlanta.
G Arron Sears - Off-field issues mark him as a mystery man.
Bucs' potential free agents
LT Donald Penn (RFA) - Reliable blind-side blocker wants to be paid.
RT Jeremy Trueblood (RFA) - Could be challenged for starting job in training camp.
NFL potential free agents
T Chad Clifton, Packers - Still smart and capable, but turns 34 in June.
G Harvey Dahl, Falcons (RFA) - Solid vet would bring a nasty attitude.
C Chris Spencer, Seahawks (RFA) - Former first-round bust needs a change of scenery.
NOTE: RFA denotes restricted free agent if no collective bargaining agreement in place. Bucs have chance to match any offer or receive compensation if player leaves.
Tuesday, March 2: Defensive backs
Wednesday, March 3: Receivers/tight ends
Thursday, March 4: Summary and results