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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs looking to retain key free agents



There's a lot of multi-tasking going on at One Buc Place as coach Greg Schiano completes his coaching staff, tries to get up to speed on his new team, all while the club is preparing for the NFL Combine.

The Bucs can also add something else to the long to-do list.

They're already turning an eye toward locking up a couple of key free agents, including Jeremy Zuttah and Connor Barth, both of whose contracts expire at the end of the league calendar next month.

The Bucs have only a handful of key unrestricted free agents, including Ronde Barber, Earnest Graham, Geno Hayes and Sean Jones. But the priorities are likely going to be Barth and Zuttah because of their importance to the team and their youth.

Barth is coming off a record-setting season in which he converted 26 of 28 field goals for a franchise-record conversion rate, 92.9 percent. He also finished the season with a streak of 15 consecutive made field goals, the longest active streak in the NFL. Barth has made it clear he wants to remain a Buccaneer and have the kind of continuity that kickers rarely enjoy.

Zuttah, meanwhile, is not only a starting-caliber lineman, but one who is invaluable because of his versatility. He is equally capable of playing guard and center and has done both as a starter. The likelihood of him sticking around is probably greater now that his former college coach, Schiano, is at the helm in Tampa Bay.

There will be more decisions to make soon. Restricted free agent tags, for example, will have to be applied in the coming weeks. But look for the Bucs to make an effort to lock up these two players before long, possibly before the start of the free-agent signing period on March 13.

[Last modified: Monday, February 20, 2012 2:16pm]


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