I love rumormongering in free agency. So many possibilities, and no one knows what's going on. Who guessed the Buccaneers would sign both Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson last season, but pass on Curtis Lofton? And be right about all three of those moves (although signing Eric Wright turned out to be less fortunate). So, any excuse for some speculation, right? The Buccaneers need a cornerback, and there are cornerbacks aplenty on the market. So who will the Bucs go after?
My favorite free agent cornerback has to be Sean Smith, currently with the Miami Dolphins. He's young (26 when the season starts), has played well if a little inconsistent, but most importantly for the Buccaneers: he is big, physical and a willing tackler. He's not the true shutdown cornerback, and he's not a great ballhawk (5 interceptions in four years), but he is a very solid cover corner. His physicality and willingness to tackle may be his most important traits for the Buccaneers, who need aggressive and willing tacklers at cornerback to defend the run.
Fortunately, Ian Rapoport has heard that the Buccaneers are interested in Sean Smith. Unfortunately, they also have a bunch of competition.
3) The free-agent market for cornerbacks is looking really solid, offering maybe the most depth at any position. There's Aqib Talib from the Patriots, Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from the Philadelphia Eagles. Maybe the most coveted, at this point, is Sean Smith of the Miami Dolphins. The 6-foot-3 former second-round pick is valued by cornerback-needy teams, a list that includes the Eagles, the San Francisco 49ers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Detroit Lions. Word is, Philly likes him a ton, though the price he commands could be out of their ballpark. The Eagles' best bet is to let Rodgers-Cromartie walk, get Nnamdi Asomugha to take a pay cut and then try to sign Smith. That would improve their team immediately.
Two positive notes, here. First, the Buccaneers have more cap space than any of the other cornerback-hungry teams, so they can easily afford to outbid their competitors. But more importantly: there's a lot of depth in this free agent class, so they could pick up someone like Derek Cox and still walk out of free agency with a quality starter.
Just remember: the Buccaneers want physical players and willing tacklers. And that means no Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.