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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Don't forget about Bucs' undrafted free agents

You're going to hear a lot of anticipation of the free-agent signing period that is expected to begin shortly after the lifting of the NFL's ongoing lockout. With a number of premier players expected to hit the market, this is understandably creating a great deal of buzz.

But something that Bucs fans shouldn't overlook is the upcoming signing of undrafted free agents, something that was prohibited after the draft because teams cannot yet sign players to contracts.

Typically, there is a flurry of signings of undrafted free agents immediately following the NFL Draft. This year, however, those players have been sitting around waiting for the work stoppage to end.

Similarly, the Bucs and general manager Mark Dominik have been eager to sign them because this  is an area where the Bucs have had much unheralded success.

While it's far more important that draft picks like Gerald McCoy and Josh Freeman pan out, it's also critical to have some breakthroughs among undrafted players, as the Bucs have. Preston Parker, Demar Dotson, Derek Hardman and Kareem Huggins are not household names, but they are players the Bucs targeted as undrafted free agents who remain with the team. Each has spent time on the active roster and each has a great deal of upside and could help the team going forward.

Let them serve as evidence that pinpointing undrafted free agents most fans have never heard of can pay big dividends. And the Bucs have had two and a half months since the draft to ponder which rookie free agents appeal to them. There's always a lot of competition to sign the top college free agents, but all things being equal, those players should know joining the Bucs affords them a better shot at making the final roster than many other teams.

When you see the signings of five or six rookie free agents announced, hopefully very soon, you'll probably be inclined to ignore the news. But pay close attention to the names, because if the Bucs pick the right guys, you'll be hearing about them again.

[Last modified: Friday, July 8, 2011 12:50pm]


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