- First off, my apologies for my infrequent posting. Life and the real world has kept this already sporadic blogger from writing as frequently as I would like. I've mentioned this a few times but you can also find me writing at the Sticks with two recent posts on college basketball in Florida and Rays blogs going into spring training.
- The Bucs have made their first big splash of the offseason, signing Jeff Faine to the biggest contract ever for a center. The Bucs certainly had a need at center and were $44 M under the cap, but they still overspent on Faine. As the Tribune article points out Scouts.com didn't even have Faine rated as the top free agent center much less the best center in the league. What kind of precedent does this set when the other young lineman (Davin Jospeh, Jeremy Trueblood and Aaron Sears) become free agents? The Bucs can not afford to overpay everyone on the o-line.
That being written Faine certainly upgrades the center position. I have to admit even though Faine played the last few seasons with the Saints I knew nothing about him. Buccaneer Harbour says Faine is a much better pass blocker and slightly better run blocker than former Bucs center John Wade, and unless I see different I'm inclined to believe that.
One final thought on the Faine signing, what does this mean for Dan Buenning? He had an excellent rookie season playing at left guard but injuries and Aaron Sears have forced him to switch positions. It was originally believed that Buenning would be moved to center but it now looks like he will become the team's backup/utility interior lineman. Buenning makes a little over $500,000 for the next two seasons before becoming a free agent in 2010.
- With the center position covered the Bucs are now looking to pickup a receiver in free agency. According to the Times Bucs Beat the Bucs have stayed away from the bigger names at receiver, which makes sense with the big money being thrown at Jerry Porter ($30 M) and Bernard Berrian. Randy Moss is off the table as he will likely command the most money ever paid to a receiver. That leaves the Bucs with DJ Hackett and Devery Henderson, or possibly Donte Stallworth.
Hackett and Henderson have both been unimpressive and neither is the answer for the Bucs at reciever. Hackett appears to be a more hyped version of Michael Clayton and Henderson was sporadic as best last season with the Saints. Stallworth would be a valuable addition to the team, but he doesn't fit the Gruden model of a tall, physical receiver and there are no indications the Bucs are interested in him. The Times Bucs Beat seems to believe the Bucs will target a receiver in the first round, and I'm inclined to believe that as well.
- This falls under the obligatory mention of the draft but I feel very strongly that the Bucs will draft one of four players in the first round: Limas Sweed, Mario Manningham, Malcolm Kelly or DeSean Jackson. All four are considered the top four receivers in the draft although everyone has them ranked differently. At least two of the players will be available when the Bucs draft at #20.
UPDATE [3:44] - The last two days show the value of blogs as the Bucs blogs of the two major newspapers in Tampa Bay have broken most of the news about free agent signing and visits. I've already mentioned the Times Bucs Beat, but the Tribune's Bucs Report has been active the last two days as well. Also, the Pewter Report has a good roundup of activity by essentially turning their message board into a moderators-write only blog. BucStats also has a free agency tracker with a more detailed roundup.
Tightend Ben Troupe is visiting One Buc Place today and I hope the Bucs are able to sign him to a contract. Maybe I'm being swayed by my love of the Gators but I always thought Troupe had the ability to be a productive tightend in the NFL. He is in the mold of Alex Smith, i.e. is more of a pass catching tightend. His production has slipped the last few seasons but I like to think that is more a result of playing with Vince Young than a measure of his abilities.