Breaking down the Bucs
A little more than two weeks into free agency, let's analyzes what the Bucs have done, what's on the horizon and whether the team is better (or not).
WHAT THEY'VE DONE: Found a new starter - and then some - signing free agent Jeff Garcia and trading for the rights to retiring Bronco Jake Plummer. The Bucs say Garcia and Chris Simms will battle it out for the starting job. But anybody who knows Jon Gruden - including Simms - understands Garcia, 37, wasn't brought in to carry a clipboard.
ON THE HORIZON: Plummer says he has played his last down, but the Bucs aren't buying it. They're willing to send a fourth-round pick to Denver in 2008 if he plays next season, or a seventh-rounder if he does not. Meanwhile, Bruce Gradkowski and Luke McCown get pushed down the depth chart. Don't look for the team to draft a quarterback.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Better. They've avoided a repeat of last year, when Gradkowski, a sixth-round pick, wound up starting 11 games.
WHAT THEY'VE DONE: Re-signed iconic fullback Mike Alstott and Jets free-agent fullback B.J. Askew, who has primarily been a special-teams player. Did not re-sign fullback Jerald Sowell.
ON THE HORIZON: They promise to bring four fullbacks to camp. Expect them to draft a running back to provide depth for Cadillac Williams, Michael Pittman and Earnest Graham. Some speculated Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson was worth the No. 4 pick, but what would that say about Williams, the No. 5 overall pick in 2005?
BETTER OR WORSE?: Worse. They haven't utilized Alstott as a ballcarrier since Gruden arrived. In his 12th season, it's hard to believe Alstott will be a more effective blocker.
WHAT THEY'VE DONE: Have not re-signed Dave Moore. Met with the Seahawks' Jerramy Stevens, but that was before he was arrested and charged with DUI and cited for possession of marijuana.
ON THE HORIZON: Best TE in the draft is Miami's Greg Olsen, but he'll be gone by the end of the first round. If they traded down a few times, he'd be in their range. Stevens' price just went way down, and Gruden isn't afraid of bad apples.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Worse. It's a position that needs to be addressed in free agency or the draft. Alex Smith struggled with injury; Anthony Becht, 29, is showing some age.
WHAT THEY'VE DONE: Drooled over Calvin Johnson. Before free agency, they signed Levon Thomas, who spent most of 2006 on the Saints practice squad. Also restructured the contract of Joey Galloway.
ON THE HORIZON: Johnson, the Georgia Tech star, has freakish ability. At 6-5, 239 pounds, he runs the 40 in 4.35 seconds. They are keeping their fingers crossed that he is still there with the No. 4 overall pick.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Better. Galloway will be happier with extra cash in his pocket, and Michael Clayton will have to train harder knowing he might have to fight to get on the field. Don't forget, Maurice Stovall had some nice moments as a rookie.
WHAT THEY'VE DONE: Signed Dolphins free agent Kevin Carter, 33, and are nibbling on Saints franchise defensive end Charles Grant.
ON THE HORIZON: Big decision on Grant. If they sign him to an offer sheet, they might have to give the Saints two No. 1 draft picks. Or they could strike another deal involving players and/or draft picks. Would love Louisville's Amobi Okoye if they trade down.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Worse, with an asterisk. Biggest need is for an under tackle, where Carter might play. Lost Dewayne White to the Lions. Not many upgrades for a team with only 25 sacks last season.
WHAT THEY'VE DONE: It appears they've taken the Band-Aid approach, signing Giants free agent Luke Petitgout, who missed much of last season with a broken leg. Lost guard/center Sean Mahan to the Steelers.
ON THE HORIZON: Looking at Broncos guard Cooper Carlisle. Anthony Davis could move to left guard if Dan Buenning does not recover from a knee injury.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Better, if Petitgout returns to form. Still need a center. USC's Ryan Kalil could be there in the second round.
WHAT THEY'VE DONE: Signed versatile Colts free agent Cato June, a Pro Bowl player in '05 who led his team in tackles last season.
ON THE HORIZON: Big decision on whether Shelton Quarles may have to retire for health reasons.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Better. June can play multiple linebacker positions and is the heir apparent to Derrick Brooks on the weak side.
WHAT THEY'VE DONE: Loaded up on cornerbacks. Re-signed Phillip Buchanon and Torrie Cox. Added 49ers free agent Sammy Davis. Entertained safety Mike Doss.
ON THE HORIZON: They need to sign another veteran safety to go with Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen. Good draft for safeties.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Better. Good depth with Brian Kelly coming back.
- RIck Stroud