Taking a look at the Bucs' restricted free agents
The Bucs have a long to-do list in the coming days, and among the things on it is dealing with the team's restricted free agents.
Now that we know the parameters for restricted free agency (players whose contracts have expired but have no more than three credited seasons), we can determine who is going to be included in the group. These players must have been given restricted free agent tenders back in the spring prior to the lockout to qualify as RFAs. If they received such tenders, we know the Bucs have a desire to retain them because the team would have the right to first refusal against a competing offer and, in some cases, would be entitled to draft-pick compensation.
Here's a few more specifics on these RFAs. They have until August 12 to sign offer sheets from a competing team, and the Bucs would have until August 16 to match the offer and exercise their right of first refusal. These RFAs still have to sign their tenders and aren't under contract until they do so.
Movement among restricted free agents is considered unlikely given the time crunch before the season begins, still, let's examine Tampa Bay's list of restricted free agents and consider each player's potential role:
K Connor Barth: Barth was a reliable kicker last season, converting 23 of 28 attempts (82.1 percent) and 36 of 36 extra points. His season-long kick was 53 yards. He has done a good job replacing Matt Bryant and the Bucs appear happy with his performance, even if they decide to add a kicker for training camp, which is possible. Look for Barth to again be the kicker. This notion is reinforced by the fact the Bucs tendered Barth at a pretty high level, one that comes with a salary of around $1.9 million and requires a second-round pick as compensation, according to the player.
OT James Lee: The Bucs could potentially address offensive tackle in free agency and are mulling the idea of re-signing Jeremy Trueblood. But Lee is a solid player who took over for Trueblood during his injury absence and never relinquished the job. He is the best candidate, right now, to start at right tackle. If Trueblood is re-signed, expect the Bucs to open the job for a competition. Either way, Lee is a key returner.
S Corey Lynch: The Bucs went deep into their safety group last season after Tanard Jackson was suspended for a year and Cody Grimm later was lost to a broken leg. That's when Lynch became an important part of the roster. Between his ability to fill in when needed (Jackson still isn't eligible for reinstatement just yet) and his superb play on special teams, the Bucs could use Lynch and will try to find a spot for him.
CB Elbert Mack: The Bucs have some questions at cornerback (Aqib Talib) and that might impact the role of Mack. He has fallen behind E.J. Biggers and Myron Lewis on the depth chart and has become largely a special teams player, but he knows their system and has been a key contributor before. Let's see what he does in training camp.
DT Frank Okam: This is a guy who coach Raheem Morris has a particular affection for, and he is unique to the Bucs because of his size. At 350 pounds, he is the biggest defensive lineman on the team, and he showed his potential value when he filled in for injured Gerald McCoy late last season. With Brian Price in danger of missing time this season (fractured pelvis), the Bucs might need some depth at tackle and look for Okam to provide it. The Bucs have plans to use Okam in combination with McCoy at times and, perhaps, with Roy Miller in other cases.
WR Micheal Spurlock: The Bucs actually have some depth at receiver, assuming Arrelious Benn (knee) is ready to go on opening day. Spurlock came into his own as a receiver last year, the former college quarterback shedding his label of return man. But the Bucs could have some decisions to make at receiver when it comes to final cuts. Consider the candidates: Mike Williams, Benn, Preston Parker, Sammie Stroughter, Dezmon Briscoe and Spurlock. That's seven receivers, and there's still a chance they re-sign Maurice Stovall. At most, six receivers will be on the opening-day roster.