After signing WR Jackson, G Nicks and CB Wright, Bucs say they will 'monitor' free agency but not be active
Shortly after Bucs general manager Mark Dominik finished an introductory press conference for three marquess free agents -- Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson, Saints guard Carl Nicks and Lions cornerback Eric Wright -- signing them to a combined $140.5-million in contracts in 24-hours, he announced the the franchise would now turn its attention to the NFL draft.
As for free agency, the Bucs are three-and-out.
“We need to continue to monitor free agency,'' Dominik said, "but I don’t see us being really active or involved in it after today for awhile there. We've made our mark for what we've really wanted to accomplish.
“I would say our eyes are into free agency, but it’s watching it, as you should do as a good general manager and really as an organization.''
Dominik confirmed the Bucs are in discussions with Colts free agent quarterback Dan Orlovsky, would would provide a veteran backup for starter Josh Freeman.
After signing Nicks, Jeremy Zuttah is expected to move to center and Dominik said he plans to have discussions with Jeff Faine and his agent soon, most likely resulting in the release of the 30-year-old veteran.
The Bucs plan to target the top free agents available was a departure for the organization since 2009, when the team purged itself of high-priced veterans in favor of building with young players through the draft. After going 10-6 in 2010, Dominik re-signed several of the Bucs own free agents, including guard Davin Joseph, tackle Jeremy Trueblood and linebacker Quincy Black. But the only outside free agent acquired was Falcons punter Michael Koenen.
The result was a 4-12 record and 10 straight losses, leading to the firing of Raheem Morris and the hiring of former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano.
Because of the NFL lockout prevented free agents from joining their new teams until nearly training camp a year ago, Dominik said he was hesitant to invest too heavily in it.
"We spent money last year. Obviously we spent it at a different level this year,'' Dominik said. "But I think the difference was when you have the caliber to bring the three guys and the ability to do that, with the salary cap and the way it is, it speaks volumes how we were really focused on how we were putting it together,''
“In 2010, we were coming off a lot of lot of wins at 10-6 and then going into ’11 hoping to build on that, so we didn’t get as involved in free agency for two reasons: one, we had young players. And two, I didn’t really like the feeling that you wouldn’t have time to jell with guys who had not been part of your organization or your football team before. I think that’s what’s good about this, you actually have an off-season to spend with the players so they all come together as one football team.’’
The Bucs have other needs they could address in free agency, including linebacker. There has been talk about moving Mason Foster to another position, but on Wednesday Dominik said coaches are willing to give Foster a crack at remaining at middle linebacker. The other needs will likely be addressed in the NFL draft, where the Bucs own the No. 5 overall pick.
What are Dominik's expectations for 2012 with the addition of Jackson, Nicks and Wright? Well, for one thing, he says the Bucs are no longer rebuilding.
“I think we’re tired of rebuilding here,'' Dominik said. "That’s not who we’re trying to be. We want to be the best team we can be in 2012 and we know that these guys can help us become that, along with the players we have, along with the draft. And certainly, we know we’re not a finished product. But we certainly know our eyes are toward the NFL draft and what we can do with the fifth selection, whether we stay there, whether we move, whatever happens along with the other selections we have in that draft are really going to be the next moves and the next steps for this football team in terms of acquiring talent. That’s our goal. Today was a big day. I’m a big believer in quality and I think that’s what today showed. You can do it in different ways. We were going the quality way.''