Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A look at Bucs free agency decisions in 2016

The free agency period in the NFL starts March 15, but the Bucs can begin talks with their own potential free agents any time. Here's a look at those on whom they need to make decisions:

Chris Conte, S, 26: Missed the final two games with a knee injury, but was fourth on the team with 79 total tackles, along with two interceptions. Conte has expressed an interest in returning — his best years have come in Lovie Smith's defenses in Chicago and with the Bucs.

Larry English, DE, 29; Da'Quan Bowers, DT, 25: English spent the season on injured reserve and hasn't been seen around the team since August, and Bowers was only signed after multiple season-ending injuries at defensive tackle. If either came back, it'd be at the league minimum with only an outside chance of making the roster in September.

Mike Jenkins, CB, 30: Jenkins got a look as a starter early in the season, but has been relegated to special teams. He has made minimal impact in two years, so he could seek a larger role elsewhere.

Doug Martin, RB, age 26: Both sides have expressed an interest in a new contract — Martin was second in the NFL in rushing with 1,402 yards and headed to his second Pro Bowl. How much will Martin merit? The Bucs, who declined a fifth-year option that would have paid Martin $5.6 million, are likely to have to pay that much on average — if not more — in a deal likely to be four or five years in length. The guaranteed money is usually front-loaded in the first two years.

Henry Melton, DT, 29, and Tony McDaniel, DT, 30: The two veterans came in on one-year contracts, intended to provide depth behind Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald. Injuries have pressed them into larger roles in the second half of the season. Both could be back, but it's unlikely either would command significant money.

Sterling Moore, CB, 25: Brought in last year with an eye on the nickel position, he entrenched himself as a starting cornerback in the second half of the season. He made $1.5 million on a one-year deal, but it's hard to ballpark his open-market value with only four career interceptions in five NFL seasons.

Bobby Rainey, RB/returner, 28: Rainey's role as a third RB has greatly diminished with Doug Martin and Charles Sims healthy all season — from 148 touches in 2013 to 127 last season to ... eight in 2015, for a modest 34 yards. He's been the Bucs' primary returner on punts and kickoffs. No touchdowns on returns, but could come back at a modest salary to compete for a similar special-teams and backup role.

Keith Tandy, S, 26: Always a contributor on special teams, Tandy has made it clear he'd like to return, and unless another team sees him as a starter, he could return as a versatile DB and special-teams leader without costing much.

Restricted free agents

The Bucs would generally offer them the "low" tender of one year and $1.6 million, which would allow them to match any outside offers. None of these are Bucs draft picks, so there would only be draft-pick compensation with a higher tender, which seems unlikely.

Jorvorskie Lane, FB, 28: He beat out a draft pick to stay on the roster this season, but with a devastating injury at the end of the season and limited snaps all season, nothing's guaranteed for his role.

Danny Lansanah, LB, 30: He has been the primary strongside linebacker all season — not the splash he had in 2014 with three interceptions, two for touchdowns, but certainly productive in limited playing time.

Bradley McDougald, S, 25: He started all but one game at safety this season, so it's hard to imagine him not getting a chance to return with a tender, even if he has to compete with a newcomer for a starting job.

Russell Shepard, WR, 25: His value is on special teams. Limited role at receiver, even with multiple injuries at the position — just three catches and his first NFL touchdown this year.

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