TAMPA — Catch a falling star.
That really is what the Bucs hope to do with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft. The league's scouting combine in Indianapolis begins next week, and there will be a lot of talk about the consensus top two players — Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy.
In many ways, the Bucs' fate will depend on what St. Louis does with the No. 1 overall pick.
The Rams are coming off a 1-15 season and are 6-42 over the past three years.
QB Marc Bulger already has cleaned out his locker as it doesn't appear the team wants to pay him $8.5 million to return in 2010. The team has been sold to Shahid Khan (pending league approval), and drafting a quarterback would create more buzz around St. Louis and possibly put fans in the seats at the Edward Jones Dome.
The problem is there are really only two quarterbacks who might be worth a first-round pick: Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen.
Both will attend the combine and have agreed to physicals and interviews. However, neither player plans to work out.
In fact, Bradford's surgically repaired shoulder will prevent him from throwing for scouts until his private workout March 25.
Had Bradford entered the 2009 draft after his junior year, the speculation is he would've been the first overall choice. The Rams have drafted defensive linemen first twice in the past three years, Adam Carriker and Chris Long.
The Rams also passed on QBs Matt Ryan and Mark Sanchez the past two years. Both took their teams to the playoffs as rookies. But the Rams also are believed to be interested in all three of the Eagles' quarterbacks, though the most likely to be traded is Michael Vick.
"If you ever want to have any long-term planning, any long-term winning, it starts with the quarterback," Bucs GM Mark Dominik said.
If only Dominik could convince the Rams of that.
He's trying. The Bucs desperately need a defensive tackle like Suh or McCoy.
Many pundits have recently rated McCoy slightly higher because of his ability to rush the passer. Others believe Suh is the best defensive line prospect in a decade. The Lions, at No. 2, are a lock to draft one of them.
Dominik indicated recently that Suh is at the top of most draft boards, presumably the Bucs'. Of course, that's always subject to change.
With 10 draft picks, including a pair in the second round, the Bucs certainly have the juice to trade up two spots, but the Rams must be willing to deal. Furthermore, the price can't be prohibitive. Giving up a second-round pick to move up two spots might be too pricey.
This week, Foxsports.com reported there has been preliminary discussion between the Bucs and Rams on a deal that would send Tampa Bay's No. 3 overall choice, a third-round selection and QB Josh Johnson to St. Louis in exchange for the No. 1 overall pick.
"Thankfully, we're in a position to go any way in the draft, we really are," Dominik said. "To do what we want to do in this draft, I believe we do (have enough ammunition). The people who are ahead of you have to decide if they want to move or not. If they fall in love, they're not moving. And certainly there's a price for everything, and at that point you have to determine whether it's worthwhile overall.
"But I know we're in a position at least where we'll be able to consider any option, whether that's move up, stay at (No. 3) where we are selecting, or decide to move back a little bit and acquire a couple more picks. But you have to get the right call. It always takes two."
SEARS UPDATE: It won't be a big year for signing free agents for the Bucs. But how much of a boost would they get if somehow G Arron Sears returns to his original form?
Sears, who spent last season on the non-football injury list due to a personal issue, has been working out at One Buc Place, and team officials are hopeful.
"Aaron has been here, he's been in camp, showing up here working out," Dominik said. "We treat him just like one of the other 80 people on our roster, whether he's the first or the 80th. The hope is he can continue to work out and get himself into shape. He's got an entire offseason to see what he can do."