NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 27: A fumble by Mike Williams #19 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is recovered by Cortland Finnegan #31 of the Tennessee Titans during the third quarter at LP Field on November 27, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans won 23-17. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
According to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, the 'talk' at the NFL scouting combine is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are "expressing strong interest" in cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan was with the Tennessee Titans the past six seasons and was named a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro in 2008. Finnegan was originally a seventh-round draft pick out of Samford, but the slightly undersized cornerback quickly earned a starting role and hasn't left the starting lineup since.
Cortland Finnegan really plays the way I love to see a cornerback play football: physically, technically sound and with a nasty streak. Not only is Finnegan an outstanding cover cornerback, he's a very good tackler who routinely racks up over 70 tackles each season. Like Ronde Barber he's capable of moving inside to a nickel role on passing downs, allowing him to blitz and be around the ball more. With 14 career interceptions, he knows how to find the football as well.
The Bucs also have some obvious needs at cornerback. Despite Greg Schiano's reassuring words concerning Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib yesterday, there's a lot of uncertainty at the position for the Buccaneers, and a startling lack of quality depth. It looks like 2010 third-round pick Myron Lewis will not develop his considerable physical gifts, as the cornerback has struggled to play through injury or improve his play in any way. E.J. Biggers was regularly burned during the 2011 season, and would function well as a backup. Meanwhile Ronde Barber is a free agent and clearly declining, while it's impossible to say whether Aqib Talib will be with the team for much longer - or even a free man, for that matter.
So it would seem that Finnegan and the Bucs are a pretty good match. The team has a need for one, two or even three cornerbacks depending on offseason developments. Finnegan, meanwhile, is considered a hard worker and even a leader on defense, something the Bucs have lacked the past seasons. The fact that the Titans are unlikely to reach an agreement or use the franchise tag on the veteran free agent helps the prospect of Finnegan joining the Bucs.
Despite that, there are some concerns about Finnegan, mostly related to a couple of on-field incidents. Finnegan is considered a dirty player, and rightly so: he tries to provoke opponents and isn't afraid to break some rules to gain an advantage. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing: Finnegan isn't a headhunter who hurts his team with constant penalties. Instead, he tries to gain an advantage on the field through his actions, which occasionally backfires.
Despite a high-profile on-field fight with Andre Johnson resulting in an ejection, Finnegan isn't a bad character. In fact, he's heavily involved in personal charities and has never gotten into any kind of off-field trouble - unlike a certain Tampa Bay cornerback. Finnegan is not a bad apple in the locker room, but a hard worker who will do everything to win - and occasionally goes overboard with that attitude. But the Bucs could use someone like that on the field: a player with a nasty streak.
All in all, Cortland Finnegan would fit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like a glove. Whether a deal gets done won't be known until after free agency starts on March 13th, however.