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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs building depth, competition through free agency



The Bucs have been busy this week making a number of signings from the free-agent market.

But they aren’t the sort of moves that will excite a fan base thirsty for upgrades and improved results. There hasn’t been a big-name cornerback to address the lackluster play at that position in 2012, leading to even more frustration.

Yet, signing the likes of Steve Smith, George Selvie, Brian Leonard, Derek Landri, Jonathan Casillas and Nate Kaeding does accomplish something very important for Tampa Bay. The Bucs are adding depth and competition with these moves, which is exactly what they set out to do.

Too often in seasons past the Bucs have seen players earn starting jobs and roster spots without much resistance. And anyone who has watched the team play has seen coaches scramble to integrate players signed off the street after a wave of injuries. It’s something that has undermined this team in the past, including last season.

And because the Bucs haven’t had consistently strong results in the draft, the problem is only exacerbated (that’s where most teams’ depth originates).

That brings us to this week’s moves.

Take Leonard, for instance. The Bucs see him as a possible third-down running back, as the former Rutgers standout is adept at catching balls out of the backfield and blocking, when necessary. He’ll probably compete with D.J. Ware for that role.

Compare the current situation to last season, when the Bucs didn’t have a reliable third-down option until Ware was signed mere days before the season opener. He had so little competition that he walked in and earned the job from Day 1.

Steve Smith (the other one) hasn’t done anything meaningful in the past two seasons, catching a total of 25 passes in that span. But if he can stay healthy and benefit from playing under offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan – his former receivers coach with the Giants – you can see how Smith might factor in a competition with Tiquan Underwood, Kevin Ogletree and other backup receivers.

Building depth and competition is a process, but it’s absolutely necessary. And these moves by the Bucs, while not sexy, are a nice step toward that goal.

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 12:51pm]


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