Buccaneers Free Agency 2012: The Manningham/Smith/Sullivan connection

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hired Mike Sullivan as their offensive coordinator, and the first thing a lot of new coaches try to do is get "their guys" in the building. In Mike Sullivan's case, two of his prominent former players will hit the market: receivers Steve Smith (northern version) and Mario Manningham. Will the Bucs try to sign either of these players?

Mario Manningham

Manningham was a third-round draft pick for the New York Giants in 2008, and has caught 160 passes for 2,315 yards and 18 touchdowns in 49 games so far in his career. Those numbers aren't overwhelming, yet Manningham is likely to be a relatively hot commodity - mostly because of his crucial catch in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.

But Manningham is a little overrated. He has shown flashes of great play repeatedly throughout his career, but he's also disappeared for long stretches. His impressive performance in the Super Bowl (5 for 73 yards) came mostly because the Patriots were focused on keeping Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz contained, not because Manningham is a great, unstoppable receiver. Drops have him plagued him throughout his career, and he makes too many mistakes with his route running.

Manningham is a physically talented receiver who is still sloppy and an unfinished product after four years in the league. While he is still young at 25 and has the speed to add a new dimension to the Bucs' offense, he's also not the kind of player you can build around or even trust consistently.

Steve Smith

Smith is basically the opposite of Mario Manningham. He's a polished slot receiver who makes up for his lack of physical gifts with smart play and consistent production. Drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft, he has caught 231 passes for 2,510 yards and 12 touchdowns in 55 games since then.

There are two problems with bringing him to Tampa Bay. One, he is mostly a slot and possession receiver. He won't add a new dimension to the Bucs' passing attack, and slot receiver is the one position where the Bucs did get good production last season with the emergence of Preston Parker.

Second, he looked like a shell of his former last year, ending his second consecutive season on injured reserve. There's a distinct possibility that injuries have sapped of him of any and all effectiveness, making him a risky signing for any team.

Michael Clayton

Just kidding. But it's good to keep in mind that Clayton did spend the past two seasons off and on with the New York Giants.

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