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Bucs aim high in trying to fix team

General manager Mark Dominik

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

General manager Mark Dominik

The Bucs sent their swanky plane out to California to pick up the top free-agent safety in the NFL.

They're burning up their cell phones trying to swing a deal for the one of the best cornerbacks of this generation.

They're emptying their pockets trying to sign pass stoppers, pass rushers, backup quarterbacks and tight ends.

The franchise is ready to write a bunch of checks full of zeroes and commas.

And that all sounds just peachy … until you realize:

The Bucs are forced to be major players in free agency to make up for all the screwups they've made drafting and developing players over the past several years.

Instead of re-signing their own players to field a really good team, they must chase everyone else's players.

Hey, give the Bucs a little credit. At least they are shooting for the big game. They are going after the 49ers' Dashon Goldson, the premier safety on the market. They are making a pitch for Jets corner Darrelle Revis. They are wooing all the top names.

But they wouldn't have operate this way if they hadn't so badly bungled the draft in recent years.

So while you might be excited about the Bucs' offseason plans, it's important to remember how they got here and what it all means.

Bad drafts

Remember when the Bucs didn't sign anyone (well, other than a punter) in free agency in 2011 and left Raheem Morris with a team so atrocious that he had no prayer of keeping his job? The explanation we were sold back than was that the organization was all about drafting and developing and then using free agency to augment the core.

How has that worked out?

So poorly that now the Bucs are forced to overpay in free agency to make up for all their misses in the draft.

Think about the drafts under general manager Mark Dominik.

Last year's draft looks solid with Mark Barron, Doug Martin and Lavonte David. Before that?

The 2009 draft landed quarterback Josh Freeman and that's about it. Roy Miller was taken that year, but because he isn't going to stick, the Bucs need help on the defensive line.

The 2010 draft produced defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, wide receiver Mike Williams and fullback Erik Lorig, but the Bucs also wasted second-round picks on Brian Price, who is no longer in football, and Arrelious Benn, who is about to be shipped out of Tampa Bay. If Price had worked out, the Bucs wouldn't need help up front. If Benn had worked out, perhaps the Bucs wouldn't have had to spend $55 million to sign Vincent Jackson a year ago.

In 2011, the Bucs took defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. Both are talented, but always seem one play away from injured reserve. Mason Foster was a third-rounder and is an average-at-best linebacker.

And there you have it, folks. A quarterback that not everyone is convinced can be a franchise quarterback. A good defensive tackle. A possession receiver. A fullback. An okay linebacker. A couple of injury-prone pass rushers, a few backups and last year's promising trio.

More bad moves

The Bucs could be on the verge of a huge gamble, giving up a high draft pick and, possibly, spending as much as $16 million a year to bring in Revis, who is coming off a torn ACL. And why? Because the Bucs took another huge gamble drafting head case Aqib Talib, who everyone knew was a head case before they drafted him. That's not on Dominik. Bruce Allen and Jon Gruden are responsible for that colossal blunder.

Those guys also are to blame for second-round pick Dexter Jackson, who could have made bringing in Jackson unnecessary. Add Sabby Piscitelli, another second-rounder, to the list, forcing the Bucs to sweet-talk Goldson today.

Yeesh, the Bucs might lead in the league in second-round busts and that's a round where you just can't afford mistakes.

The bottom line

The Bucs shouldn't be in this mess today and there's no guarantee that writing a bunch of checks is going to bail them out. What if Goldson turns out to be a dud like Derrick Ward? What if Revis gets hurt like Carl Nicks? What if the other cornerback the Bucs go after turns out to be another Eric Wright?

It's all a gamble, something that winning organizations such as the Ravens and Patriots and Steelers and 49ers don't have to take because they draft well and develop great players.

It is the type of gamble that teams like the Bucs take. You see, this is what happens when you rely on free agency to put together a good team. And you rely on free agency when you can't master the draft. Right now, the Bucs are trying to make the best of a bad situation.

Bucs aim high in trying to fix team 03/12/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 12:20am]
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