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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A free agency breakdown

The Bucs have fallen $61 million under the salary cap, more than any team. Simply put, they own Park Place and Boardwalk when it comes to free agency. After Wednesday's cuts of Derrick Brooks and four others, the Bucs have needs at defensive tackle, receiver and linebacker. And they would like to pick up another veteran quarterback. What remains to be seen is whether they will be in the bidding for Titans DT Albert Haynesworth, who wants to be the highest-paid defensive player in football. Just to get to the floor of the salary cap, the Bucs must spend about $30 million. They'll start by trying to re-sign CB Phillip Buchanon. A look at the Bucs' free agent puzzle:

Gone but not forgotten

LB Derrick Brooks, RB Warrick Dunn, WR Joey Galloway, WR Ike Hilliard, LB Cato June, QB Jeff Garcia, DT Jovan Haye

Could return

CB Phillip Buchanon: The Bucs' priority is to sign him to a contract extension before today's free agent signing period. Buchanon would fit snugly in the new defensive scheme under Jim Bates that emphasizes bump coverage. But the two sides were thought to be considerably apart.

WR Michael Clayton: He would like to return to the Bucs, all things being equal. But Clayton is thought to be seeking a deal similar to the four-year, $20 million contract signed by Falcons WR Michael Jenkins. The Seahawks and Broncos are thought to have an interest, and Clayton will definitely test the market.

S Jermaine Phillips: The Bucs have an interest in re-signing Phillips, but his health is an issue. He broke both forearms last season. And the team is hoping Sabby Piscitelli will emerge as a starter, so value is hard to gauge. He will definitely test the market.

DE Kevin Carter: If the Bucs want to get younger, Carter, 35, might not fit the criteria. But he has never missed a game and is versatile enough to play inside or outside in any defense.

S Will Allen: The former starter and special teams captain will probably move on for the right opportunity.

No thanks

TE Jerramy Stevens: He's a productive receiver, especially in the red zone. But new Bucs brass might want to move away from reclamation projects (other than Antonio Bryant, of course).

Restricted free agent

LT Donald Penn: He was given the maximum tender of $2.8 million, meaning the Bucs would receive a first- and third-round pick if they don't match an offer sheet Penn might sign with another team.

Players of interest

Defensive line

Albert Haynesworth, Titans: A lot has been said about Haynesworth, the prize of the free agent class. But he wants to be the highest-paid defensive player, easily eclipsing the more than $30 million guaranteed to DE Jared Allen by the Vikings last season. Haynesworth will be 28 on opening day and has never played 16 games in a season. The Bucs have the need at defensive tackle and certainly the salary cap room.

Antonio Smith, Cardinals: The high-motor pass rusher could draw interest from many teams.

Linebacker

Jonathan Vilma, Saints: The Bucs had Vilma on the radar in 2004, but he went to the Jets three picks before they chose WR Michael Clayton. Vilma was solid for the Saints last season, recording 132 tackles with two forced fumbles, a sack and INT.

Bart Scott, Ravens: He thrived in a 3-4 system. And he's an interesting possibility for the Bucs at outside linebacker.

Cornerback

Bryant McFadden, Steelers: After starting eight games last season with two interceptions, he could become a quality player.

Quarterback

Byron Leftwich, Steelers: He improved his stock with some solid performances in relief of Ben Roethlisberger last season, but his slow delivery and lack of mobility are concerns.

J.P. Losman, Bills: He lost his starting job to Trent Edwards but could be a very capable backup with some upside.

Receiver

Nate Washington, Steelers: He has more than 16 yards per catch in his career.

Deverey Henderson, Saints: He has a knack for big plays.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A free agency breakdown 02/26/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 27, 2009 7:24am]

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