TAMPA — The Bucs' biggest need is a receiver who can go long and make short work for quarterback Jameis Winston.
Fortunately, one of the NFL's most electrifying players is on the free-agent market — Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson.
Perhaps no player is as linked to a team as Jackson is to the Bucs, who can start talks today with free agents with signings beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Jackson can line up wide or in the slot. He can catch screens or run sweeps. He is still among the NFL's most dangerous punt returners.
"We want to get some guys, regardless of their age, that still have some gas in their tank," Bucs general manager Jason Licht said.
Jackson, 30, would answer coach Dirk Koetter's desire to add playmakers. He is believed to be seeking a deal in the $12-million range annually and is expected to receive several offers.
The Bucs signed their free agent defensive end William Gholston Monday to a reported five-year, $27.5-million deal. In the next two days, Licht will attempt to sign receivers Russell Shepard, cornerback Josh Robinson, safety Bradley McDougald and running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
"My goal is to at some point not be dabbling in free agency because we're going to be signing out own guys back," Licht said.
Jackson's 17.9 yards per catch last season led all receivers with 25 or more receptions. He topped 1,000 yards for the third time in four years.
Koetter and Licht both have a history with him.
Licht was the Eagles' vice president of player personnel in 2008 when Philly drafted Jackson with 49th pick overall of Cal.
Koetter's 2006 Arizona State team was 3-0 and ranked No. 18 entering a game at Cal. With ASU leading 14-7 in the second quarter, Jackson scored on an 80-yard punt return and 8-yard reception as Cal opened a 28-point halftime lead on the way to a 49-21 win. The Sun Devils would lose three straight to finish 7-6 and Koetter was fired.
When Jackson faced Koetter and the 2010 Jaguars, he had a 61-yard touchdown reception and 153 yards in the Eagels' 28-3 win.
Even if the Bucs acquire a free-agent receiver they could still draft one.
"Last year, it worked out to where we signed Robert Ayers but also drafted Noah Spence," Licht said. "We signed (Brent) Grimes and also drafted Vernon Hargreaves. In a perfect world, I'd love to do that."
Even with the signing of Gholston, the Bucs need defensive help. They had been linked to defensive tackle Calais Campbell of Arizona, Licht's previous front-office stop. Campbell has had at least five sacks in eight straight seasons. His teammate, safety Tony Jefferson, could also be on the Bucs' radar.
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The Bucs are more than $66 million under the salary cap, the fourth highest amount in the NFL, according to overthecap.com.
Staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.