Commentary

Key free-agent signings set Bucs up nicely for draft

Scouts Inc. puts the Buccaneers on the clock, breaking down their offseason moves and looking at what questions still need answers.

Originally Published: March 25, 2008
By Keith Kidd | Scouts Inc.

As the NFL draft approaches, "SportsCenter" is putting every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock," and Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.

Free-Agent Tracker
Buccaneers
For a complete list of all of the Buccaneers' free agents and all their offseason signings, check out Scouts Inc.'s free-agent tracker.
Who they signed
Who they lost
Complete free-agent tracker
The Buccaneers won their second NFC South title in three years in 2007, which was good enough to get head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen new three-year contracts through the 2011 season. However, Tampa Bay played in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL last season and was bounced out in the first round of the playoffs by eventual Super Bowl champion New York. Allen put another aggressive game plan in place during the offseason as the Buccaneers attacked the free-agency market with over $44 million in cap space.

Offensively, the Buccaneers found their short-term QB answer last season in Jeff Garcia and an unproven running back in Earnest Graham, who capably replaced the injured Cadillac Williams. Nevertheless, this offense needs to add more explosive playmakers on the perimeter. Defensively, signing defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to a multiyear contract extension was huge for a unit that finished second in the NFL in total defense last season. Still, Gruden and Allen will have their work cut out for them over the next few weeks as they prepare to defend the NFC South divisional crown and make a run in the playoffs.

Key Additions

Tampa Bay has been one of the most aggressive teams in free agency. It is obvious the Buccaneers wanted to address needs while creating as much competition and depth as possible on the roster ahead of the draft. C Jeff Faine filled the Bucs' most glaring need and will stabilize one of the youngest offensive lines in the NFL. Tampa Bay also added speed and blocking ability at tight end with Ben Troupe (Titans) and John Gilmore (Bears). Troupe will be a unique addition in the passing game with his speed and athleticism, while Gilmore excels as a run-blocker. The Buccaneers also brought back running back Warrick Dunn (Falcons) to give themselves a very good change-of-pace back.

They also traded for backup QB Brian Griese (Bears), who gives them good competition behind Garcia. Another intriguing addition was street free-agent WR Antonio Bryant, who is a very talented player but sat out last season after being released by the 49ers in March 2007. He has put up some impressive numbers over his career but also had some character concerns. Defensively, the Bucs added defensive ends Marques Douglas (49ers) and Jimmy Wilkerson (Chiefs), linebackers Teddy Lehman (Lions) and Leon Joe (Bills), and corner/safety Eugene Wilson (Patriots). Douglas, Lehman and Wilson are under-the-radar additions who could pay off big-time in 2008.

Mock Draft: Buccaneers
The Pick (No. 20 overall):
CB Aqib Talib, Kansas
Insider

Talib
Todd McShay: Cornerback is a secondary need and Talib would be a good value at this late point in the first round.
Complete mock draft Insider
Vote: Team needs

Key Losses

The biggest offseason departure was the retirement of veteran FB Mike Alstott. Even though Alstott didn't play in 2007, he is a six-time Pro Bowler and a fixture within the organization. Alstott was hindered late in his career by a neck injury but will be sorely missed as a veteran leader and an example of outstanding work ethic. The Buccaneers also lost backup TE Anthony Becht (Rams) and versatile backup offensive lineman Matt Lehr (Saints). Defensively, they lost starting LDE Greg Spires (released), along with CB Brian Kelly and S Kalvin Pearson, both of whom were reunited with former Bucs assistant Rod Marinelli in Detroit.

Remaining Questions

Based on the Buccaneers' aggressive approach in free agency, they are in position to take the best available player with the No. 20 overall pick in the upcoming draft. However, with the uncertainty surrounding Bryant, the advanced age of both Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard, and Michael Clayton's lack of development, Tampa Bay is in need of a playmaker at wide receiver, especially one who will excel in the red zone. Running back could also be addressed given the durability concerns for Williams. The biggest question defensively revolves around defensive tackle, and the Bucs also need to find the eventual successor to longtime WLB Derrick Brooks. Cornerback is also an area of concern as Ronde Barber is getting on in years and the Buccaneers also could use a solid No. 2 corner opposite Barber to shore up their Tampa 2 system.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.