With the draft and free agency behind them and two important front-office executives hired, the Bucs have opened negotiations with Gerald McCoy in hopes of signing him to a long-term contract before he potentially becomes a free agent next year.
GM Jason Licht contacted McCoy's agent, Ben Dogra, to initiate conversations that could result in an agreement before training camp, although there is no real timetable.
McCoy, a two-time Pro Bowl player who has established himself as one of the premier defensive tackles in the league, will earn about $15 million this season as he enters the final year of his contract and a new deal would be structured to give the team some salary cap relief.
Bucs coach Lovie Smith has said locking up McCoy for the long term is a "priority." Not only is McCoy one of the team's most productive players, he's a team captain and the perfect representative for the franchise. McCoy had 9½ sacks last season and 14½ over the past two years.
Complicating matters might be similar talks in Detroit with Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, who is in the final year of his rookie contract.
Suh was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Nebraska. McCoy was No. 3 out of Oklahoma. Both were represented by agent Dogra, but Suh has since hired agent Jimmy Sexton to represent him. McCoy originally signed a five-year, $55 million contract with $20.8 million guaranteed.
Another Bucs player who could be next in the pursuit of a new contract is All-Pro LB Lavonte David, the team's leading tackler the past two seasons.
David is signed through 2015 and will earn $705,612 in base salary this season, making him one of the biggest bargains in the league.
BETTER LEADER: A big reason why Smith decided to go with Bears free agent QB Josh McCown as the starter over Mike Glennon is his ability to lead.
McCown has played for six teams over 11 seasons, and last season he re-emerged as a productive player with 13 touchdowns and one interception in five starts with the Bears.
As a rookie in 2013, Glennon was thrust into the starting role when Josh Freeman was released. It's hard to expect a first-year player to be the leader that position demands.
"It was a combination of both. You saw what he did on the field last year, and everybody documented what he did on the field," Smith said. "I do have a history with him, and it's a combination of both. To me, that quarterback leader that you have, you need to trust him completely, on and off the football field. That's just the case with (McCown).
"There is no rookie hazing. (McCown) will talk to anybody who wants to listen."
CORNERING THE MARKET: Much has been made about the "Dunkaneers'', Licht's description of the team's 6-foot-5 receivers and tight ends.
That's the direction the game has been headed for several years and, as a result, the counter has been taller cornerbacks.
Sure, Titans free agent Alterraun Verner, who already has made the Pro Bowl, is 5-11, 204 pounds. But the Bucs are big on cornerbacks — Johnthan Banks (6-2, 185), Rashaan Melvin (6-2, 193), Danny Gorer (6-0, 180) and Keith Lewis (6-0, 190), a rookie from Virginia-Lynchburg — because of their ability to match up with taller receivers.
"We like our corners, Johnthan Banks — all of those guys are really getting better," Smith said. "You talk about our receivers and the length we have, we need to be able to match up in our division. too; our division got taller. There's a place for those guys (such as) Rashaan Melvin. There's a place for some of those 6-foot-plus corners in our league."
TRADE OPTION: The Bucs had repeated calls from the Browns when they were on the clock with the No. 7 overall pick. The Browns, who had traded down from No. 4 to No. 8 overall, wanted to select Texas A&M WR Mike Evans, the Bucs' eventual pick. But they couldn't come close to reaching Licht's lofty trade terms and Tampa Bay truly didn't want to pass on Evans.