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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' free agent shopping list should start big

Bring me the head of Albert Haynesworth.

Eventually, you can also bring the feet of Haynesworth, and the biceps, and of course, that building-sized body. Free agency being what it is, however, the head will do for a start. All by itself, the head would be the second-best tackle on the Bucs' line.

While you are at it, bring me the arm of Matt Cassel. Bring me the hands of Nate Washington. Bring me the legs of Bryant McFadden.

Above all, when it comes to the recently redesigned Tampa Bay Bucs, give me a few clues.

When the NFL begins its annual free agent yard sale Friday — Come early for the parking! Stay late for the bargains! — the most intriguing part is going to be whether a team that has changed everything else has altered its approach. This time, as the Bucs look for answers, they're going to provide a few along the way.

For instance, all we know about general manager Mark Dominik is that he's a sharp guy. But is he willing to pay where former GM Bruce Allen would pass? We'll see.

For instance, all we know about coach Raheem Morris is that he's so enthusiastic you wonder if he has been in Martin Gramatica's old water bottle. But can he convince a player he will flourish in his system where perhaps former coach Jon Gruden could not? We'll see.

In recent years, you might have noticed, the Bucs dabbled in free agency. They paid center Jeff Faine a lot of money, and they paid receiver Antonio Bryant a little, but they never spent much money, and the team never got much better because of it. This time? Well, we'll see that, too.

So what should they do with free agents and other big names who might be available?

Albert Haynesworth, defensive tackle: Let's start with the big guy from the Titans. Every other team will. By the end, owners are going to rain so much money that Haynesworth will think he's at one of Pacman Jones' birthday parties.

And, yes, the Bucs should be interested, too. Yes, Haynesworth is going to want a fortune, and yes, he will remind you it should be called Pay-Through-the-Nose Agency. But no one argues that he's the best player available, and he would immediately add an impact the Bucs haven't had since Warren Sapp left town.

Opinion: Go get him.

Matt Cassel, quarterback: This isn't likely to happen. For one thing, the Patriots have franchised Cassel, which means he would cost a fortune in draft picks and in salary.

For another, the Bucs just promised Luke McCown he would get to compete for the starting job. But a team wouldn't pay what it would take to acquire Cassel unless it was certain he would be its starter.

Opinion: The Bucs should stay on the phone, and they should be aware of the price. Still, I'd take the passive approach.

Marvin Harrison, wide receiver: Harrison becomes a free agent in the next day or two, but teams looking for a bargain should look elsewhere.

Harrison is still going to cost too much. And after franchising Antonio Bryant, the Bucs can't afford to pay more than $20 million to receivers. That means letting Harrison run elsewhere. The answer is the same when it comes to Anquan Boldin (who would also cost draft picks) or T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Opinion: Pass, and take a chance on the Steelers' Washington or the 49ers' Bryant Johnson.

Michael Vick, quarterback: I know, I know. The mere mention of Vick's name makes you want to hug your dog.

Still, Vick is going to interest teams as soon as the Falcons release him. And despite the protests, he's worth a look for the right team. But, no, not this one.

For Vick, the right team seems to be one with a strong, unchallenged coach — Bill Belichick or Mike Tomlin, for instance. Of course, that means he'll end up in Oakland or Dallas, doesn't it?

Opinion: Lie down with Vick, and a team will get fleas.

Julius Peppers, defensive end: Stop your drooling. No way the Panthers would ever trade Peppers within the division.

It's a shame. Yes, Peppers is worth the purported price of a trade (one No. 1 and two No. 3s). It just isn't going to happen.

Opinion: Make the phone call, but look at Chris Canty instead.

Ray Lewis, linebacker: Lewis is a great player, and Derrick Brooks once talked about playing beside him.

Given the Bucs' strength at linebacker, however, Lewis isn't a good fit. The money it would take to sign him would be better spent elsewhere.

Opinion: Thanks, but no.

Bryant McFadden, cornerback: If the Bucs can't sign Philip Buchanon, McFadden is an interesting alternative.

Opinion: Keep his phone number handy.

Fred Taylor, running back: Taylor has been very good for a very long time. Still, running backs over 30 should come with warning labels.

Remember this: Taylor is 33, and his old team (Jacksonville) didn't even want him back at a reduced rate. I'd pass. (If LaDainian Tomlinson is released, I would change my mind).

Opinion: Yes, the Bucs could use another back, but only if he's a star.

Plaxico Burress, wide receiver: Hey, he might become a free agent yet. Hey, the Bucs need weapons, don't they?

Opinion: Duck.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' free agent shopping list should start big 02/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:53pm]
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