Bucs target DeShaun Foster
Giving perhaps the clearest indication that the Bucs don't expect to have Cadillac Williams next season, the team has targeted Carolina Panthers free agent running back DeShaun Foster.
The 28-year-old Foster was released Thursday by the Panthers to save about $4.75-million in salary cap room.
The 6-foot, 222-pound Foster was a second-round pick by the Panthers in 2002. But he has struggled with injuries and fumbling problems, never rushing for 897 yards in six pro seasons. Foster is the Panthers career rushing leader with 3,336 yards and has excelled in the post-season. He had a team-record 151 yards rushing in a win over the New York Giants in 2005.
General manager Bruce Allen said Saturday at the NFL combine he has spoken with Foster's agent, Joby Branion. A visit is likely to occur early next week.
""We've had talks with his representative, yes,'' Allen told the St. Petersburg Times.
Williams is recovering from a torn patellar injury he suffered last Oct. at Carolina. It is expected to take between nine and 12 months to completely heal, meaning he might not be cleared to play until the middle of the 2008 season.
Foster appeared in all 16 games last season, but averaged just 3.5 yards per carry while scoring only three touchdowns.
Improving the running back position will be one of the Bucs goals this off-season. Already, the team re-signed Michael Bennett to a three-year contract and are negotiating an extension for Earnest Graham. Michael Pittman is hoping to join another team.
The free agent signing period begins Feb. 29 but the Bucs are getting a pretty good jump on the rest of the league. Allen said Falcons free agent defensive tackle Rod Coleman and tight end Alge Crumpler could visit Tuesday.
Both players have injuries that need to be examined and the Bucs medical staff is in Indianapolis this week for the NFL combine.
""We'll set up their visits as soon as we get back,'' Allen said. ""That's what we're trying to schedule right now.''
The Bucs are expected to be very active in free agency, with more than $30-million under the salary cap. Their focus will be on adding play-makers, particularly on offense.
The team already has had discussions with the Denver Broncos about trading for receiver Javon Walker, who is expected to be released March 4, making a deal unlikely. Patriots receiver Donte Stallworth also is expected to become a free agent. Allen said Saturday the Bucs are not among the teams that have had discussions with representatives of Minnesota Vikings receiver Troy Williamson, who has been given permission to seek a trade.
Of course, the biggest name in free agency might be Patriots receiver Randy Moss, who was not given the franchise tag as expected Thursday.
If that happened, the Bucs might have an interest. But Allen said the word inside the RCA Dome is that Moss has an agreement in principle on a new contract with the Patriots.
Allen said he anticipates 30 percent of the projected free agents will re-sign with their current teams. Allen said he has no immediate plans to release players.
""We will keep re-shaping based on who comes in and making sure we're able to give the newer players that come in an opportunity,'' Allen said.
The Bucs have nine players slated to become unrestricted free agents on Feb. 29, including center John Wade, cornerback Sammy Davis and tight end Jerramy Stevens. Allen said he has had talks at the combine aimed at re-signing some of those players, although most are expected to hit free agency.
""What we've done is we've had meetings and we're going to meet again Sunday and Monday,'' Allen said. ""Give them time to think about parameters we gave them and they've given us their proposals for us to digest that and come back at them.
""We want everyone to understand where we stand, and in some cases, we've agreed the best thing to do is to see what free agency offers them and they'll make a decision based on that.''
In other news, Bucs free agent cornerback Brian Kelly has drawn interest from the Detroit Lions.
""Obviously we're aware of him, as we are other cornerbacks,'' Lions coach Rod Marinelli said. ""Brian has been a fine player.''