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Tampa Bay Buccaneers have plenty of receiving options in free agency

. fast facts

The series

Friday: Running backs

Saturday: Offensive line

Today: Wide receivers

Monday: Linebackers

Tuesday: Defensive backs



Reggie Wayne, Colts

At 33, he's getting up there in age, something that might prevent him from landing the kind of contract he'd prefer. But there's going to be a lot of interest in a receiver who — until 2011 — had a streak of seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons. There's talk Wayne has his sights set on a team that's contending for a title, and that would make sense. He's the kind of sure-handed veteran who could put the finishing touches on an offense missing a key piece.

2011: 75 receptions, 960 yards, 12.8 yards per catch, four touchdowns

Price tag: $$$

Brandon Lloyd, Rams

St. Louis is poised to lose Lloyd, who in 2010 led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards without the benefit of an elite quarterback. He's capable of providing the big-play threat the Bucs need, but there's already talk he could be eyeing a reunion with his coach in Denver, current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Lloyd, 30, could appeal to the Bucs from a leadership standpoint. Their top four receivers in 2011 had less than three years of experience.

2011: 70 receptions, 966 yards, 13.8 yards per catch, five touchdowns

Price tag: $$$

Laurent Robinson, Cowboys

The big question here: Is he a one-hit wonder or simply a late bloomer? That unknown hurts his market value, but you can't argue with Robinson's production. He's a force in the red zone, scoring 11 touchdowns despite being no better than Dallas' third option (not including tight end Jason Witten).

2011: 54 receptions, 858 yards, 15.9 yards per catch, 11 touchdowns

Price tag: $$

Marques Colston, Saints

The Bucs are, obviously, familiar with Colston, their nemesis who has excelled against them while playing for the division rival Saints. New Orleans is pressed up against the salary cap and is trying to keep important pieces together. But Colston might just get away.

If that happens, the biggest question is if he can have comparable success without quarterback Drew Brees. Colston arrived in New Orleans in 2006, the same year Brees signed on, and has never played without him.

Colston has averaged 1,040 yards in his six seasons, often benefitting from single coverage as defenses struggle to contain one of the league's deepest receiving corps.

What's undeniable is Colston's size (6 feet 4, 225 pounds). He isn't the consistent deep threat the Bucs likely want, but he's a reliable target.

2011: 80 receptions, 1,143 yards, 14.3 yards per catch, eight touchdowns

Price tag: $$$$





TAMPA — Is Mike Williams a true No. 1 receiver? Is Arrelious Benn a deep threat after all? Does Preston Parker have more upside?

There's a protracted list of questions facing the Bucs' young group of receivers. The answers, meanwhile, remain elusive.

So the Bucs have a choice. They can wait another year and see if the current collection of wideouts fulfills its potential — something they remain confident is possible. Or they can proceed to Plan B, augmenting what's already here in a concerted fashion by making an offseason splash.

If they opt for the latter, the Bucs' timing is optimum.

When the free agent signing period begins Tuesday, several potential game-changing receivers will be up for grabs, and Tampa Bay will have a chance to add the sort of consistent downfield threat it seemingly lacks.

Given this possibility, let's take a look at the top wide receivers available in a deep class of unrestricted free agents:

Vincent Jackson, Chargers

One of the prizes of this class, Jackson is the classic deep threat the Bucs sorely need. San Diego seems unlikely to pay what it will take to keep him, so it's expected Jackson will make it to the market. Don't be surprised to see a bidding war.

Jackson, 29, in pewter and red would instantly change the complexion of the Bucs offense. He would create favorable matchups for Williams and Benn while stretching the defense, making opponents less likely to load the box to stop LeGarrette Blount and the running game. And because he has shown an ability to beat double teams, he'll still get his share of catches and make big plays.

For the Bucs, they'll face the same challenge they do with every expensive free agent: matching other teams' up-front money. The Bucs just don't make a habit of handing out big signing bonuses, instead using guaranteed annual salaries, reachable incentives and other techniques. Jackson wants to make a trip to the bank on the day he signs, and someone likely will give him the bonus he seeks.

2011: 60 receptions, 1,106 yards, 18.4 yards per catch, nine touchdowns

Price tag: $$$$

Marques Colston, Saints

The Bucs are, obviously, familiar with Colston, their nemesis while playing for the division rival Saints. New Orleans is pressed up against the salary cap and is trying to keep important pieces together. But Colston, 28, might just get away.

If that happens, the biggest question is if he can have comparable success without QB Drew Brees. Colston arrived in New Orleans in 2006 as a seventh-round pick, the same year Brees signed on, and has never played without him. He has averaged 1,040 yards in six seasons, often benefitting from single coverage as defenses tried to contain one of the NFL's deepest receiving corps.

What's undeniable is Colston's size (6-4, 225). He isn't the consistent deep threat the Bucs likely want, but he's a reliable target. A concern: He has had six known surgeries in his NFL career, five on his knees, according to profootballtalk.com

2011: 80 receptions, 1,143 yards, 14.3 yards per catch, eight touchdowns

Price tag: $$$$

Laurent Robinson, Cowboys

The big question: Is he a one-hit wonder or simply a late bloomer? That unknown hurts his market value, but you can't argue with his production. The 26-year-old's a force in the red zone, scoring 11 touchdowns despite being no better than Dallas' third option (not including tight end Jason Witten).

2011: 54 receptions, 858 yards, 15.9 yards per catch, 11 touchdowns

Price tag: $$

Brandon Lloyd, Rams

St. Louis is poised to lose Lloyd, who in 2010 led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards while with the Broncos, without the benefit of an elite quarterback. He's capable of providing the big-play threat the Bucs need, but there's already talk he could be eyeing a reunion with his coach in Denver, current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Lloyd, 30, could appeal to the Bucs from a leadership standpoint. Their top four receivers in 2011 had less than three years of experience.

2011: 70 receptions, 966 yards, 13.8 yards per catch, five touchdowns

Price tag: $$$

Reggie Wayne, Colts

At 33, he's getting up there in age, which might prevent him from landing the kind of contract he'd prefer. But there's going to be a lot of interest in a receiver who — until 2011 when Peyton Manning was out — had a streak of seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons. There's talk Wayne has his sights set on a team that's contending for a title. The former University of Miami star is the kind of sure-handed veteran who could put the finishing touches on an offense missing a key piece.

2011: 75 receptions, 960 yards, 12.8 yards per catch, four touchdowns

Price tag: $$$

. fast facts

Key

$$$$: More than $8 million per year or more

$$$: $5 million-$8 million per year

$$: $2 million-$5 million per year

$: Less than $2 million per year

Tampa Bay Buccaneers have plenty of receiving options in free agency 03/10/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 10, 2012 6:03pm]

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