TAMPA — Bill Sheridan had been at One Buc Place for only a few days after being hired as defensive coordinator when he watched game tape from the 2011 season. He saw a lot of Bucs defensive backs chasing receivers to the end zone.
"One of a few things that really stood out is the volume of big plays that they gave up here a year ago," Sheridan said.
The Bucs allowed 30 touchdown passes last season, third most in the league behind the Vikings (34) and Raiders (31). Quarterbacks completed 62.6 percent of their passes and had a 97.2 rating.
There are a lot of reasons for the Bucs giving up a team record 494 points. Tampa Bay's 23 sacks were the fewest in the NFL, and it allowed 49 pass completions of 20 yards or more.
So a priority in free agency is acquiring a defensive back.
The Bucs told Ronde Barber they would welcome him back for a 16th season, but he is still undecided. Aqib Talib is scheduled to go to trial in Texas on March 26 on a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon, and would likely face an NFL suspended if found guilty.
Potentially needing two starting cornerbacks, the Bucs might have a few of these unrestricted free agents on speed dial.
Brandon Carr, CB, Chiefs
The 6-foot, 207-pound Carr has demonstrated good man-to-man coverage abilities and has 48 starts in four seasons. He had 45 tackles, four interceptions and 15 passes defended last season. At 26, he is just beginning to reach his prime with plenty of size to handle almost any receiver. He allowed less than 50 percent of passes to be completed against him last season. $$$$
Cortland Finnegan, CB, Titans
The feisty Finnegan, 28, gets under the skin of receivers. He's best in zone coverage and solid against the run but had only one interception last season. Finnegan plans to make several visits before making a decision. The fourth leading tackler for the Titans last season, Finnegan wants to be among the highest paid cornerbacks at approximately $10 million. There are reports that he'll try to recruit Chargers WR Vincent Jackson to come with him. $$$$
Carlos Rogers, CB, 49ers
Rogers, 31, led the Niners with six interceptions. He's capable of moving inside and covering the slot on passing downs, which could be enticing should Barber retire. The former Auburn star is not a great tackler and had an ACL tear while with the Redskins, but he's hitting the free agent market at the right time. $$$
Tracy Porter, CB, Saints
The Bucs are familiar with Porter, a solid starter with a Super Bowl ring. Porter turns 26 in August, and it doesn't appear the Saints can keep him since they are only $5 million under the salary cap. Porter had 52 tackles, one interception and two forced fumbles in 14 games last season. Knee and calf injuries the past two seasons could cut his price tag. $$$
Aaron Ross, CB, Giants
Ross, who turns 30 in September , has a background with former Giants defensive coordinator Sheridan. Ross started all but one game for the Super Bowl champions last season, recording 60 tackles and four interceptions. Ross has had bouts of inconsistency and many teams may not see him as a starter. But he was a first-round pick in 2007 and has pedigree to attract some teams. $$