Why the Bucs free agents became exactly that
The Buccaneers had 14 free agents of their own going into the start of this year's jamboree. But when you look around the NFL and desperately assume that the Bucs will sign every allegedly good one, you have to wonder why these players are on the market in the first place. Surely if they were that good, their own teams would have gone to extremes to sign them first. And when you look down the list of the Bucs' FAs, you see a microcosm of why these players are out there looking for deals.

Will Allen - a one-time starter in the defensive backfield who for the past two seasons has been relegated to special teams duties. The Bucs obviously rated his work in this field highly to offer him a one-year deal worth $2.325M but the fact that no other team offered him a secondary role, and the fact that he accepted the Tampa offer so quickly. speaks volumes for his place not just on the Buccaneer roster, but in the NFL in general.

Antonio Bryant - the Bucs are his fourth team and he had been run out of his previous three stops. But the magnificent 2008 season he posted earned him the franchise tag worth almost $10M. Work will continue on a long-term deal that would lower the cap number but for 2009, he is a Buccaneer.

Philip Buchanon came to Tampa as a Texan and Raider cast-off. He has started the past two seasons in Tampa but that would be down to his ability to play corner in a Cover-2 defense. Teams haven't exactly been falling over themselves to offer him a deal and if the Bucs rated him that highly, he would have been re-signed well before free agency began. His eventual signing with Detroit is where ex-Bucs go to wind down until retirement.

Kevin Carter was cut this time last year and then re-signed to a one-year deal to continue his role as veteran mentor on the defensive line and locker room leader. Expect this to happen again as the market for 36-year-old defensive linemen is not that high.

Michael Clayton was allowed to become a free agent and then wound up coming back to Tampa. The way I hear it, is that had Jon Gruden still been head coach, Clayton would have gone somewhere else. But he trusts the new offensive coaching staff and based on his play in 2008 which was actually a lot better than people give him credit for, bringing No.80 back could be a very smart move.

Jeff Garcia was told he was surplus to requirements before free agency started. Thanks for what you have done Jeff but now it is time to move on. Again, how many teams have been banging down his door to talk to him about a deal?

Cortez Hankton signed a one-year deal last season and was then injured in pre-season. The only deal he was offered anywhere in the NFL was for the veteran minimum and even then he would do well to make the Bucs' 2009 roster to earn it.

Jovan Haye was picked up from the NFL scrap heap (Cleveland's practice squad) in 2006 and played well enough to earn his starting role during 2007. But if he had played that well last season, don't you think the Bucs would have signed him to a deal before free agency started? So the Titans replaced Albert Haynesworth with Jovan Haye - wow.

Luke McCown never even got the chance to test free agency as the Bucs gave him what he always wanted, a chance to compete for the starting role. He would never have had this under Jon Gruden in spite of the promise he showed starting at the end of 2007. Now the ball is in his court (or hand) to show what he can do but this was a good re-signing.

Jermaine Phillips is one of the best safeties around when he is healthy which unfortunately is not that often come the end of a season. And he finds himself playing a position where the Bucs have two up and coming young talents in Tanard Jackson and Sabby Piscitelli. Without either of them, Phillips would have been signed to a deal in Tampa. Hence he ended up coming back to Tampa for what was probably less than his real market value. Had he been a free agent two years ago, he would have been a very rich man somewhere in the NFL.

Ryan Sims was another scrap heap reclamation having once been a Chiefs' 1st round pick. He played OK in 2008 and obviously better than Jovan Haye in that he got offered the deal instead of Haye. The Bucs would still like a real pass-rushing defensive tackle (who wouldn't?) which would push Sims into a rotation role with Chris Hovan and Jimmy Wilkinson.

Jerramy Stevens was a Gruden/Allen project when no other NFL team would touch him, Stevens, or "he whose name shall not be mentioned on this show" as JP Peterson called him, he started looking elsewhere on the arrival of Kellen WInslow. But he got another offer from the Bucs which means more gnashing of teeth on 1010 Sports' afternoon show.

And then you can look at the five players that the Bucs released just prior to the start of free agency, Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard and Cato June. None of them have even had a sniff of a new deal elsewhere in the league so far. If they were that good, don't you think they'd have been showing off their new jerseys in press conferences around the NFL by now?

Paul Stewart, March 2009