2012 Free Agency: Stanford Routt adds to deep cornerback class

The Oakland Raiders have released cornerback Stanford Routt just one year after giving him a massive contract extension. This isn't so much an indictment of Stanford Routt as it is a reflection of the insane contract the Oakland Raiders handed out, and their salary cap problems. At least the Bucs don't have to deal with that right now. Stanford Routt joins a very deep cornerback class in free agency, which is likely to include players like Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan, Aaron Ross, Brandon Carr, Rashean Mathis, Richard Marshall, Carlos Rogers, Terrell Thomas, Eric Wright and Tracy Porter.

All of this is good news for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who likely need to find two new starters this offseason. It is still unclear whether cornerback Ronde Barber wants to return to football, and whether he wants to do that with the Bucs - or whether the Bucs even want him back.

The Bucs' other starter was Aqib Talib, but he faces trial in March for a shooting incident in Texas. Even if he's not convicted chances are Talib won't be a Buccaneer this season. The talented but troubled cornerback may not fit Greg Schiano's 'Buccaneer Way' of Trust, Belief and Accountability. With rumors swirling last offseason that Talib would be released after getting into trouble yet again, it seems unlikely he'll be on the roster this season.

If Barber and Talib do not return, the Buccaneers need to find two new starters in free agency. E.J. Biggers is a decent backup but shouldn't start on any team, while Myron Lewis looked terrible this season. Elbert Mack had a good season, but his physical attributes limit him to playing the slot exclusively. Plus, he's a free agent.

Both this free agency class and this year's draft class look to be filled with quality cornerbacks. The Bucs could add a starter in free agency and draft another one. Cornerback Morris Claiborne out of LSU seems a likely option for Tampa Bay if he's available with the fifth pick, or they could select a second-tier cornerback in the second round.

The fact that rookie cornerbacks tend to take half a season or longer to become quality starters could steer the Bucs toward free agency. Of course, their philosophy of building through the draft and building for the future could lead them to do the exact opposite and draft a couple of young cornerbacks early in the draft. Whichever route they choose, they should be able to find two competent new starters.

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