The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a plan. They have not gone out and signed any highly priced free agents. But they do have a plan: build through the draft. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are trying to be the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers: draft your players, reward them if they play well and very rarely sprinkle in a starter in free agency. Don't use free agency to build depth on the team, either get a starter or nothing. So far, the Bucs have gotten one whole starter: a punter. But they are sticking to that plan, and it has brought them the most talented young roster in the NFL.
Of course, some may see this as a justification for a low payroll. And to be fair, the Bucs have been near the bottom end of payrolls in the past years. They slashed spending last year, and had the second-least amount of cash committed to 2011, behind only the Carolina Panthers. But the Bucs have to spend now, and that's exactly what they're doing.
Does a cheap team give Davin Joseph a $53 million, $19 million guaranteed contract? Does a cheap team give Quincy Black a bigger contract than any other OLB who signed somewhere this offseason? And does a cheap team give that deal to a punter/kickoff specialist? Remember that free agency is far from over. In fact, it hasn't even officially begun yet: veterans can't sign contracts until 6 p.m. today.
You can question the wisdom of not signing a premier free agent when you have the cap space to do so, and you can question the wisdom of giving players expensive contracts. I'm not too concerned with the value the Bucs are getting, though. Value of contracts is hard to judge because the market changes every year, and because they are likely front-loading these contracts the future cap situation won't be badly affected. What looks expensive now can look cheap in two years. All indications are that the Bucs at least made plays for Doug Free and Johnathan Joseph, and maybe Nnamdi Asomugha - though we don't and won't know how serious those overtures were.
The Bucs have a plan and they seem to be sticking to it. Feel free to criticize them for that and call them out for their moves. But don't call a team that has paid premium money to their free agents cheap: that doesn't work.