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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs plotting big free-agent moves in the secondary

Dashon Goldson forces a fumble by Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams.


Dashon Goldson forces a fumble by Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams.



The puzzle is starting to come together for the Bucs.

By day’s end, their secondary could undergo a major overhaul, with Tampa Bay reportedly pursuing 49ers All-Pro free-agent safety Dashon Goldson, the top available player at his position.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reported the news Monday night, and it meshes perfectly with what we told you here earlier the same day: That the Bucs were looking to replace franchise icon Ronde Barber at free safety, leaving his potential role undetermined if he elects to return. Barber's ultimate decision was never going to influence the Bucs' free-agency plans when it came to targeting a top-flight safety.

The pursuit of Goldson is in addition to the Bucs’ hunt for cornerback help, and they are targeting all of the top players on the market, including Brent Grimes (Falcons), Sean Smith (Dolphins), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Eagles) and Derek Cox (Jaguars).

It’s expected the Bucs will land at least one of those cornerbacks and, perhaps, Goldson or another available safety. Goldson is one of the top players available in free agency. Franchised by the 49ers last season, he was unable to come to terms on a long-term contract with the team and will become a free agent and 4 p.m. today when the 2013 NFL calendar begins and 2012 contracts expire.

Goldson, 28, is also being pursued by the Lions and could command a salary that pays as much as $8 million per year. The Falcons re-signed safety William Moore on Saturday for five years and $30 million. Chargers safety Eric Weddle is the league’s highest-paid safety, signing a five-year, $40 million deal ($19 million guaranteed) last year. That could be the baseline for a deal with Goldson.

If the Bucs fail to land Goldson, they could try to swing a deal with one of the other free-agent safeties: Glover Quin (Texans), Kenny Phillips (Giants), LaRon Landry (Jets) and Louis Delmas (Lions).

In addition to their defensive back plans, we've also learned the Bucs consider their defensive-line pursuits a much lower priority, at least at the outset of free agency. Tampa Bay has already expressed an interest in former Falcons defensive end John Abraham.

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 10:11am]


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