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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Free agency 2014: Your unrestricted primer

Free agency is still almost two weeks off, but we're offering up a primer of sorts to help get everybody understanding what's ahead for the Bucs as Lovie Smith and Jason Licht get their first chance to overhaul the roster of a team that went 4-12 last season. Here you go -- we'll be happy to answer any questions left in the comments, as always ...

WHEN IT BEGINS: March 11 at 4 p.m. -- that's the official start of the league year, when teams must be under the salary cap and can start signing free agents from other teams. Teams can re-sign their own players before then, but cannot sign players who finished the 2013 season with other teams until the new year begins.. …

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Bucs reward elementary students for fitness

The unknown addition and subtraction of NFL free agency is fast approaching, but the Bucs made a celebratory stop at Pizzo Elementary in Tampa on Thursday morning, with six players honoring the school for winning the team's 2014 "Play 60 Challenge."

The Bucs players -- receiver Vincent Jackson, tight end Tim Wright, defensive ends Da'Quan Bowers and William Gholston, linebacker Ka'lial Glaud and safety Keith Tandy -- were joined by cheerleaders and mascot Captain Fear, as Pizzo's fifth-graders amassed more than 164,000 minutes of exercise in the month of January, winning the Bucs' district and earning $2,000 in new physical education equipment for their hard work.

"We are your fans today," Jackson, the team's Man of the Year for 2013, told the students. "Today is about you and your achievements."

Students got white Bucs rally towels and fifth-graders got "Play 60" shirts, running through a tunnel of high-fives from players as they left the school cafeteria. Students also got a look at the Bucs' new redesigned logo and helmet. …

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Teams contact Bucs about trading for Revis. Will high cap number put him on the move?

Teams have contacted the Bucs about trading for Darrelle Revis and many believe the Pro Bowl cornerback could be dealt by the start of the league year.

Although the Bucs did not initiate the talks and are not shopping Revis, several teams at the NFL combine in Indianapolis began to explore whether Tampa Bay would consider a trade that would save $16-million on the salary cap to improve in other areas while potentially netting more draft picks.

Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports, who first reported the interest in Revis Tuesday, said rival executives believe a deal could be possible.

Bucs coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht inherited Revis and Smith has publicly refuted speculation that Revis would not be a good fit for the Bucs Cover 2 scheme.

Smith and Licht were not available for comment Tuesday.

Revis signed what amounts to a series of six, one-year contracts worth $16-million per year with no guaranteed money and is under the Bucs’ control through 2018.

It means Revis, who turns 29 in July, is occupying a huge chunk of the projected $132-million salary cap in 2014 that the Bucs could use to greatly improve their team, perhaps netting as many as three free agents. …

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Free agency: Ten potential targets with ties to Bucs

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, left, mixes it up with the Bucs' Donald Penn during a 2012 game.

AP photo

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, left, mixes it up with the Bucs' Donald Penn during a 2012 game.

TAMPA -- The start of NFL free agency is two weeks away, and it could be a busy first offseason for new Bucs coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht, who are tasked with turning around a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game since the Super Bowl in 2003.

With a fresh set of eyes looking over a team that went 4-12, change could come nearly anywhere, but you can connect the Bucs to many notable free agents just in the direct familiarity of Smith and Licht and the assistants they've assembled. If they choose to pursue the established players they know best, there are plenty of solid options. Here are 10 whose names you should know two weeks from now. ...

1. Jared Allen, DE, Vikings (31): He played under Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier in Minnesota the last six seasons. Allen had at least 11 sacks every year in that span, including 22 in 2011 -- that production has been sorely missed by the Bucs at defensive end. …

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Bucs unveil new helmet, enhanced logo

New Bucs helmet

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New Bucs helmet

If bigger is better, the Bucs will be dressed for more success this season.

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp and two-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy unveiled the Bucs' enhanced logo and helmet during Total Access on the NFL Network Thursday.

The red of the flag is more vivid, the skull has more intimidating eye sockets, and the logos on the helmet are much larger.

"Look at the more vibrant red," McCoy said. "But even more important, we want everybody to know the Bucs are coming. Look how big this flag is."

Everything about the Bucs' new helmet is brighter. In addition to the logo, the pewter is more radiant, there is a hand-painted shading technique that provides for a darker pewter and the team will have the only chrome facemasks in the NFL.

Read the full story and view a photo gallery here.

And here are some videos courtesy of the Bucs:

360-degree view of the Bucs' new helmet

Bucs reveal enhanced logo

 

 

 

 

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Smith says QB will be at No. 7 for Bucs and 'you have to consider that.'

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Bucs coach Lovie Smith says he believes a 'franchise quarterback,' worthy of the seventh overall pick will be available when the Bucs make their first-round selection in the NFL draft.

If so, Smith says, don't be surprised if they take him.

“I know enough about that draft to know, yeah, there’s someone that would be worthy of the seventh pick because everything is on the board right now,'' Smith said at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. "Whenever you have a chance to get a franchise quarterback, you have to consider that.''

Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater are expected to be among the top 10 players selected in the 2014 draft according to many experts, perhaps in the top five. Fresno State's Derek Carr, who was impressive in the Senior Bowl and will throw Saturday at the NFL Scouting combine, could elevate himself to a high first round pick with a good workout.

The Bucs have only two quarterbacks under contract: Returning starter Mike Glennon and former Northwestern University and Eagles quarterback Mike Kafka. …

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Bucs sign ex-Rutgers, CFL linebacker Munoz

Greg Schiano is gone, but the influx of former Rutgers players to One Buc Place lives on, as the Bucs on Tuesday signed former Scarlet Knights linebacker Damaso Munoz, who played the last three seasons with the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos.

Munoz, 27, had 88 tackles in each of the last two seasons with Edmonton -- he's listed on their site at 5-foot-11, 219 pounds, and is most likely to help the Bucs on special teams if he can make the 53-man roster. Munoz was Rutgers' leading tackler under Schiano as a senior in 2009, finishing with 81 tackles (one more than current Patriots star Devin McCourty), along with 8.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. The Miami Southridge graduate finished his Rutgers career with 200 total tackles and got a look with Lovie Smith in Bears rookie minicamp in spring 2010.

"Now I'm taking my talents to God just blessed me!!!" Munoz wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday afternoon, and was promptly congratulated by former Rutgers teammates Devin and Jason McCourty. …

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Bucs will reveal new helmet and logo for 2014

The Bucs ditched their orginal orange and white color scheme and Bucco Bruce logo for pewter and red with a flag bearing a skull and crossed swords in 1997.

Times files

The Bucs ditched their orginal orange and white color scheme and Bucco Bruce logo for pewter and red with a flag bearing a skull and crossed swords in 1997.

The Bucs new look for 2014 won't stop with coach Lovie Smith.

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp broke the news on Twitter that the Bucs will reveal a new helmet and logo during NFL Total Access on Thursday at 8 p.m. on the NFL Network. He will be joined by All Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for the unveiling.

It's the first uniform change for the Bucs since 1997, when they ditched their orginal orange and white color scheme and Bucco Bruce logo for pewter and red with a flag bearing a skull and crossed swords.

In his tweet Wednesday, Sapp mentioned fire and chrome, if that gives you a hint.

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Don't expect Bucs to use franchise or transition tag this year

Today is the first day NFL teams can apply the franchise or transition tag to one of their players set to hit free agency, but don't expect the Bucs to use either designation this year.

Generally, that is a good thing. A club applying the franchise tag guarantees a player the average salary of the top five players at their position. The transition tag is the average salary of the top 10 players at any given position. It's extremely costly and can wreak havoc with the salary cap.

The fact that the Bucs don't have a free agent to franchise can be good or bad, depending on your view point.

Had quarterback Josh Freeman reached his potential and posted good numbers in 2013, instead of going 0-3, completing less than 50 percent of his passes and forcing the club to release him, the Bucs may well have been forced to use the franchise or transition tag on their 2009 first round pick since he would be eligible for free agency. In the meantime, a long-term agreement could've been hammered out in the off-season. …

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Bucs sign CB Moore, TE Maneri as free agents

The Bucs continue to tweak their roster before the start of free agency, adding two street free agents on Friday: former Bears cornerback D.J. Moore, who had 10 interceptions from 2009-12 playing under Lovie Smith, and former Chiefs and Bears tight end Steve Maneri.

Moore, who played briefly with the Panthers in 2013, played well as a backup for Smith in Chicago, totaling 115 tackles in four years, with two of his interceptions returned for touchdowns. Maneri has played parts of four NFL seasons, totaling six catches for 52 yards. Those two join former Eagles quarterback Mike Kafka as the first additions undder Smith and new general manager Jason Licht. Both will likely battle for backup spots on the 53-man roster this fall.

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Never too early to talk Bucs, mock drafts ...

Some prognosticators have the Bucs taking Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack with the seventh overall pick.

AP photo

Some prognosticators have the Bucs taking Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack with the seventh overall pick.

Before free agency comes and goes, before the NFL combine for that matter, it's early to have any real sense of authority in a mock draft -- even if you can rank a team's needs, you don't know which will be filled in free agency, let alone how a team ranks its options at each position.

Mock drafts are, however, a great conversation piece to help get year-round football fans from February to May -- at this point, it's just identifying options and storylines that will play out over the next three months. With that in mind, the early mock drafts you're seeing on major sports sites are all over the map for the Bucs with the No. 7 pick -- if there's a player you want the Bucs to take, with rare exceptions, someone has a scenario where that play is available at No. 7, and might even be passed over there.

Here's a rundown of the major mocks out there and who they have the Bucs taking. Again, this is something we'll be visiting on here all the way to May, but it's nice to get the conversation started and see how opinions form and shift over time. ... …

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Police: Damage to door prompted Williams' charges

Bucs receiver Mike Williams is due in court later this month on misdemeanor charges because of minor damage caused to a Hillsborough County woman's front door, according to documents from the state attorney's office.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Bucs receiver Mike Williams is due in court later this month on misdemeanor charges because of minor damage caused to a Hillsborough County woman's front door, according to documents from the state attorney's office.

Bucs receiver Mike Williams is due in court later this month on misdemeanor charges because of minor damage caused to a Hillsborough County woman's front door, according to documents from the state attorney's office.

Williams, 26, is facing a charge of trespass, a first-degree misdemeanor, as well as a second-degree count of criminal mischief, which by Florida Statutes covers any act to "willfully and maliciously injure or damage" property with damages of $200 or less. According to the charges, Williams trespassed at the property of Gabrielle Edwards on Dec. 13, and the unspecified damages were done to her front door. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office turned its findings over to the state attorney's office, which found enough evidence to press charges; Williams has an arraignment Feb. 24.

Williams signed a six-year, $40-million extension with the Bucs last summer, but played only six games in 2013 due to a hamstring injury that put him on injured reserve for much of the year. The Bucs have a new coach in Lovie Smith and a new general manager in Jason Licht and issued a brief statement Saturday after Williams' charges were made public. …

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Carimi, Landri among Bucs' first 2014 cuts

In the first signs of a new coach and general manager evaluating their roster, the Bucs cut four players on Monday, waiving offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, running back Michael Hill and quarterback Jordan Rodgers and releasing defensive tackle Derek Landri.

The team also confirmed the signing of quarterback Mike Kafka, a former Northwestern starter who was a backup with the Eagles from 2010-12.

Of the four cuts, Carimi is the most surprising -- the Bucs gave up a sixth-round pick in this year's draft to acquire Carimi from the Bears last summer. He was a first-round pick by Chicago in 2011 (when Lovie Smith was head coach there) but was used primarily as a sixth linemen in the second half of the season, starting three games early as injuries limited the Bucs' guards. …

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Bucs add QB depth by signing ex-Eagle Kafka

With backup Dan Orlovsky an unrestricted free agent, the Bucs on Monday added another quarterback to add depth and competition this summer, signing former Eagles backup Mike Kafka to a free-agent deal.

Kafka, 26, was out of the NFL last year after going to camp with the Jaguars. The former Northwestern starter was a fourth-round pick of the Eagles in 2010, playing only sparingly in his three seasons in Philadelphia. He passed for 107 yards and two interceptions with no touchdowns in relief action during the 2011 season.

Kafka gives the Bucs two quarterbacks on roster for 2014, along with returning starter Mike Glennon. The team on Monday waived Jordan Rodgers, who spent much of last season on the practice squad and was signed after the season. Orlovsky could return, but with a new coaching staff, that's less likely -- the team is still almost certain to add another quarterback, either in free agency or the draft, to compete with Glennon for the starting job.

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Doug Williams back in NFL with Redskins

Former Bucs quarterback and executive Doug Williams is back in the NFL again and back with the Redskins, announced Monday as Washington's new personnel executive.

Williams is reunited with some of his colleagues during his last stint with the Bucs from 2004-10 -- Washington general manager Bruce Allen, as well as new coach Jay Gruden, who was an offensive assistant on his brother Jon's staff. Former Bucs coach Raheem Morris is the Redskins' defensive backs coach as well.

"It's great to be home again," Williams told the Redskins' official site. "It also is great to be affiliated with a GM and coach who are so focused and dedicated to winning. I have only one mission: to help this team obtain the talent it needs so the fans can experience the Super Bowl they deserve."

Williams is in the Redskins' Ring of Fame, having led Washington to a Super Bowl XXII victory against the Broncos. He spent parts of the last three seasons as head coach at his alma mater, Grambling. 

 

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