Our unexpected 2012 Free Agent spending spree was a very pleasant surprise, and we have freed up an almost equal amount for 2013. The potential salary actions with CB Eric Wright and LB Quincy Black could free up even more. The total could ultimately be upwards of $40 million.
OK - so how will it be spent? We certainly all have our favorite available players and likely as many different reasons for wanting them. Even finishing at a respectable 7-9, we still have a surprising number of needs. We should always be in pursuit of better depth. Injuries will deplete all teams over the course of a 17 week season, so planning ahead for this could salvage a potentially good season. I can imagine 3 or 4 good F/A signings coming our way.
As I see it, the main needs are at CB, FS, DT, DE and TE. To a lesser extent RB, OL, LB and QB. This is how I would personally approach the signing period, that quickly begins on March 12th:
1. CB - This is arguably our greatest need. We were basically driving past bus stops and car washes looking for warm bodies to sign. We are not completely devoid of talent, but most would qualify as depth. Based on the system we are currently running, Sean Smith, Derrick Cox, Mike Jenkins and Keenan Lewis would likely be among some of the favorites here.
2. FS - My favorite option, FS Jarius Byrd, has been franchised by BUF and is no longer available. Dang! I would now turn to pursuit of Dashon Goldson, Glover Quin and Kenny Phillips. Glover would clearly be the most expensive of the 3, but any would be a considerable upgrade for us. We could Draft a FS, and still might do just that, but I'd prefer some NFL experience working alongside Mark Barron.
3. TE - The need for a better TE is clear, though how much he will actually be utilized is still under some debate here. Clearly, behind Luke Stocker we have very little left on our roster. Some names like Martellus Bennett, Dustin Keller, Fred Davis, Jared Cook and my personal favorite James Casey, have all been thrown around. Signing one F/A TE and drafting another may be best way to add some much-needed talent here. We have enough camp bodies.
4. RB - Making this position the 4th highest need may seem like a reach to some, but the uncertainty of LeGarrette Blount's future here and the potential over use of Doug Martin makes this position an important one to address. My personal favorite here is NOs RFA Chris Ivory. He has trucked many a Buc LB over the years. Some other versatile RBs that won't "break the proverbial bank" might be Felix Jones, Ryan Grant, Tashard Choice and Tim Hightower.
5. QB - This choice will easily be the most controversial here. Even if you are satisfied with the progression of Josh Freeman (as you all know - I am not) the need for a legitimate back-up QB cannot be argued. If Freeman went down for an extended period of time, our season would be all but over. Dan Orlavsky holds a mean clip board, but can not win games for us. Some vets that could step in and actually give us a chance to win could be Matt Moore, Jason Campbell, David Carr and Drew Stanton. Not much available right now.
Signing these four positions would likely cost us around $25 million or so (CB - 8 mil., FS - 7 mil., TE - 4 mil., and RB 4 mil.). That still leaves us plenty to potentially re-sign Micheal Bennett (meh!) and all of our Draft selections. I would pursue another QB over the re-signing Bennett (if he gets $$ unreasonable) - but that's just me.
If I had MY hand on the checkbook, the F/A shopping results would look something like this:
CB - Mike Jenkins
CB - Derrick Cox
FS - Dashon Goldson
TE - James Casey
RB - Chris Ivory
QB - Matt Moore
*I believe this list would cost us in the neighborhood of $30-32 million - perhaps a little less. I also expect Michael Bennett's and Roy Miller's salary demands to be too costly, so DE/DT would be addressed above in the upcoming Draft.
... and my 2013 Draft would look something like this:
1) CB Xavier Rhodes (*unless Star Lotulelei were to somehow slip here to Pick 13)
2) DE Margus Hunt
3) C Travis Frederick (*I would move up a little if necessary to get Frederick)
4) FS DJ Swearinger (*RT like Jordan Mills or RB Jonathan Franklin if we sign a vet FS)
4) DE Devin Taylor
5) DT Montori Hughes (*would take WR Aaron Mellette here if Lotulelei was taken earlier)
6) TE Levine Toilolo
7) RB Knile Davis
As always, this list is not considered all-inclusive. Many more salary cap casualties will be hitting the market as teams scramble to meet this upcoming deadline. All civil comments are more than welcome and these opinions do not necessarily represent the views of management or SB Nation readers in general (although they should because they are just awesome).