With the initial flury of free agency slowing down it appears the Bucs could emerge as the big winners of the offseason. With a shallow free agent pool and an unprecedented 27% increase in the salary cap, the best value this offseason lies in quantity not quality. And no team has signed more players than the Bucs.
Take a look at the right hand side bar, the Bucs have signed at least seven free agents, including five who were not on the team last year (I'm not including Plummer in that number). The Bucs have upgraded three crucial positions on the team which were weaknesses last year, quarterback, offensive tackle and defensive end. More importantly, the Bucs have not broken the bank signing any of these players.
The surplus of cash has resulted in over valued contracts for some of the premier free agents. Joey Porter has received $20 million in guaranteed cash in a 5 year, $32 million contract from the Dolphins. Adalius Thomas has $15 million guanteed in his 6 year contract with the Pats. Patrick Kerney's 6 year contract with the Seahawks includes $19.5 million in guaranteed money. In comparison, the Bucs signed Kevin Carter to a contract with less than $5 million guaranteed. As Buccaneer Harbour points out, that is some shrew maneuvering by Bruce Allen.
After the disasterous '04 offseason which led to the signings of Todd Steusie, Charlie Garner and Darrell Russell (all busts), the Bucs seem to have retooled their approach to free agency. The Bucs have had mixed success pursuing value free agents like Chris Hovan, Jamie Winborn and Ike Hilliard. Some players turn into starters like Hovan, others (like Winborn) don't stick with the team. Either way the Bucs are not spending a good deal of cash signing these players.
On the flip side, the Bucs have only lost two players so far (although if Mahan signs somewhere else it would be a big loss). It is unlikely the Bucs will lose any starters this offseason (although, again, there is a possibility middlebacker Shelton Quarles may be lost for the season due to injury). When taken on the whole, so far the Bucs have come out ahead this offseason. We still have another month or so to go until the draft so it is too early to say for sure the Bucs came out winners this offseason but based on the early reports I would say they have to be front runners for the honor.