2014 NFL Free Agents: Buccaneers who should leave, and who should stay

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Everything you need to know about the Bucs' impending free agents.

There's a new coaching staff in town, and that means new schemes and new philosophies - which, in turn, might require some re-shaping of the roster to better fit what the new coaches want to do. If that is the case, it could effect which free agents are re-signed to the team, and which are allowed to test the open market. Below is a list of every Buccaneer player who's scheduled to hit free agency come March:

Quarterbacks

  • Dan Orlovsky
Had Schiano stayed with the Bucs, it's very possible that Dan Orlovsky would have been re-signed - he could have justified the signing as giving Mike Glennon a veteran mentor without being a risk to actually challenge Glennon for as starter.

Unfortunately for Mike Glennon, once the new coaching staff gets a chance to watch the game film on his play, it seems highly unfeasible that the team won't bring in someone who can provide a genuine competition for the starting spot in the offseason. If it's a rookie quarterback, then there's a possibility that Orlovsky could, in theory, be retained by the Bucs, similarly to how the Redskins kept Rex Grossman despite drafting Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins in the same draft - just to keep a vet in the room.

With the odds of finding a stud-out-the-gate at pick #7, though, competition may well come from a veteran free agent. If that is the case, then Orlovsky's days of holding a clipboard on the Bucs' sideline is over. Orlovsky will have finished his time as a Buc completing 4-of-7 attempts for 51 yards, appearing in all of 16 snaps in his two years with the team.

Running Backs

  • Brian Leonard
  • Bobby Rainey (ERFA)
Leonard has the remarkable distinction of being the only Buccaneer running back to appear in all 16 games, yet finishing third in snap count, behind Erik Lorig and Doug Martin. The team's primary third-down back all year, Leonard was a role player but played his role very well, finishing with a PFF grade of +6.3 - the fourth-highest grade on offense in 2013, after Demar Dotson, Donald Penn and Mike James.

As the only veteran tailback on the roster, Leonard brought six years of NFL experience to a unit who's next-most experience player was actually Martin. That said, the running back position, with Martin, James, Bobby Rainey and Jeff Demps, is so deep that it's hard to see room on the roster for Leonard to be back.

Rainey started hot last season when Mike James went down, but failed to show enough power between the tackles to make much yardage down the stretch when Mike Sullivan would have him pound up the middle. Still, Rainey is unquestionably explosive on the edge, and should still have a role with the team even when Martin and James are back, especially due to his free agency situation.

As Rainey is only a second-year player, he's just an "exclusive rights free agent". The EFRA tag gives all the leverage to the team - they can offer him any sort of contract they want, and Rainey has just three options: sign that contract, play out the one-year contract that comes with the EFRA tag (and offers little money), or sit at home for the year. As you might be able to guess by the name, Rainey doesn't even have the option of seeking a job with another team unless the Bucs decide they don't want him any more. It's pretty safe to say that Rainey will almost certainly be a Buc in 2014.

Fullbacks

  • Spencer Larsen
  • Erik Lorig
Without fact-checking my work, I feel reasonably confident stating the 2013 Bucs were the first team in 15 years to carry three fullbacks on their active in-season roster.* What is certain is that the Bucs were one of the league leaders when it came to using this most endangered of NFL positions, with Lorig's 391 snaps tying for fifth-most in the league among fullbacks. No-one knows yet whether new OC Jeff Tedford will use the fullback position as much as Mike Sullivan did - but from Cal's 2004 playbook, which has managed to find its way online, it does appear that, at leas tin the past, Tedford to like to have fullbacks in his offense.

Lorig is not the most consistent of blockers, but he's shown upside, and I imagine he'll be cheap to retain. If he can get a few flaws in his technique ironed out (he follows up a magnificent blocking attack - hip low, arms firing out under the defender's pads, standing his defender up - with a frustrating lack of footwork). There's enough upside to re-sign him at least to a cheap contract. Larsen didn't show enough to warrant a second look in my eyes.

*Obvious hyperbole is obvious

Wide Receivers

  • Tiquan Underwood
  • Eric Page (ERFA)
Underwood is a frustrating prospect. He's got the physical build you'd want, plus 4.4 speed (and, unlike other 'speedy' receivers, knows how to use it in pads); yet, he's sloppy with his route running and does sometimes loaf. He did enough to get open on certain deeper routes and coverage busts to make Glennon seem better than he was, but didn't possess the on-field discipline with assignments to take advantage of Jackson being double teamed. Assuming Mike Williams is on-track to make training camp in full health, I think Underwood's imprecision with his actions means he probably doesn't make it back to the Bucs.

I'd be surprised if Page isn't slapped with the ERFA tag, but he's going to have to fight like buggery to make it out of training camp. A small-bodied receiver, Page saw just 57 snaps in 2013, and was routinely sub-par as a returner. He'll make it to camp because the team have no reason not to bring him in to see how he does in Tedford's offense, but I'd be surprised if he's still on the team come September.

Tight Ends

  • Kyle Adams (RFA)
  • Nate Byham (RFA)
The Bucs put so many tight ends on injured reserve in 2013 that it led Sander to write this headline. While Can O'Coke never did do much for the Bucs on the field (though he was praised for his work in the community), Kyle Adams was one of two Bucs tight ends to finish the year healthy. Adams was pretty non-descript during his time here, not making a single catch all year. However, Adams was actually open surprisingly often on those occasions the Bucs let him run routes - Glennon would just never look his way. A former Chicago Bear during Lovie Smith's final two years with the team, that connection may see him slapped with a one-year RFA tender to get him into camp.

Byham was, when he was still healthy, actually a pretty good player in my eyes. In many ways, he is what Tom Crabtree was sold as being - a genuinely solid blocking TE who could get open on routes. Once the coaching staff have seen the tape on Byham, I fully suspect he'll be at least offered an RFA tender - keep your eye on him, he's probably my 'dark horse' player for 2014.

Offensive Line

  • Jamon Meredith
  • Ted Larsen
Five different offensive linemen started at left guard for the Bucs in 2013 after Carl Nicks' toe injury flared up during the bye week; though he was the last of the five to start there, Jamon Meredith manned the position longest this season, starting eight games at left guard. A natural tackle who was first pushed into guard duty last season, where he started 12 games after Davin Joseph went down in the preseason and Ted Larsen struggled in the first two games, Meredith initially provided a spark to the Bucs' running game with his physical play. The spark would prove to be short-lived, and Meredith's play notably declined over the course of the season (as it did in 2012), and he was finally benched midway through the Week 16 game against the Rams in favour of Larsen. Though the ability to play tackle and guard is a useful ability in a backup lineman, the fact that he was benched doesn't bode well for his future with the team.

Larsen, on the other hand, is more likely in my eyes to be re-signed. While nothing like a stellar player, Larsen has proven useful over his four seasons with the team, starting at both guard spots and center for the Bucs. Initially pressed into the starting lineup at left as a sixth-round rookie in 2010, due to Jeff Faine going down and Zuttah having to play center, Larsen actually played well enough that, when Faine recovered, the team decided to continue starting Larsen, sending Zuttah to the bench. He saw some spot duty at left guard in 2011, then was the initial right guard in 2012 for a handful of games, as mentioned above. When Nicks' toe injury grew severe enough to land him on IR, Zuttah was switched over to left guard and Larsen played out the year as starting center. Though his play was inconsistent in 2013, his play over the four years as a whole merit some consideration to signing him to a cheap contract to retain him as a utility back up.

Defensive Line

  • Gary Gibson
  • Daniel Te'o-Nesheim
An eight-year vet, Gibson was initially cut after training camp, but was soon signed back to the team. Manning the 1-tech, Gibson got frequent game time relieving Roy Miller in 2012 and Akeem Spence this season, but never pushed for serious starting time. He was a functional player, but hardly a key cog, especially as one of the traits he was praised for - his ability to move when the line were executing their stunts - should hopefully not be such a requirement in the team's 1-techs going forward. In 13 games, Gibson racked up just 3 tackles last season, and was otherwise absent from the stat sheet. It's hard to see Gibson being re-signed.

Te'o-Nesheim was one of Mark Dominik's practice squad pillagees, being signed from the Eagles' practice squad in 2011. He took over the starting RDE spot in 2012 when Adrian Clayborn was placed on IR early, getting four sacks. When Michael Bennett wasn't re-signed, and Da'Quan Bowers proved unable to step his game up, 'DTN' started the majority of the season on the left side of the defensive line. In thirteen starts, he only notched one sack, though as ex-Buccaneer and SBNation blogger Stephen White often pointed out on Twitter, this was as much due to the fact that Sheridan would have Te'o-Nesheim effectively playing as a 3-4 end, which would by definition take him out of a lot of pass-rushing situations, in order to give other players involved in stunts or blitzes a better opportunity to hit the quarterback. Over the course of the season, he found his playing time reduced in favour of William Gholston, who ended up starting at LDE. Whether it was because of his assignments, or because of his lack of ability, he hasn't done enough to earn a second contract from the team.

Linebackers

  • Jonathan Casillas
  • Jacob Cutrera
  • Adam Hayward
  • Dekoda Watson
The largest crop of free agents come from the linebackers. The team headed into 2013 with an open competition between Casillas and Watson for the starting strongside linebacker role. While Watson eventually won the role of starter, the two would often split snaps during games, and though neither were spectacular, both were solid. Both are now also free agents. Casillas racked up 24 tackles, adding a forced fumble and two pass break ups, while Watson had 37 tackles, two sacks and an interception, along with a forced fumble and a pass break up. Despite being the nominal starter, Watson actually started less games of the two - three starts to Casillas' five. With strongside linebacker an increasingly diminishing position in the modern NFL, I'd wager that only one of these two get re-signed, and neither will make any significant money either from the Bucs or elsewhere.

Hayward has spent his entire seven-year career with the Bucs, and I'd be surprised if he's let go. A two-time special teams captain who has appeared in all but five games for the Bucs since 2007, Hayward has never been a particularly flashy player, but his versatility had made him the primary back-up at all three linebacker spots for a few years now. With just over 100 tackles over his entire career and just one sack, Hayward will probably be cheap to re-sign, and so it would be surprising to see him with another team in 2014.

Cutrera has almost certainly seen his last days with the team. He appeared in eight games in 2011 and another eight in 2012, being placed on IR before the 2013 season started. This is his statistical history, according to Pro Football Reference:


No, I didn't remove any columns. Cutrera has yet to register a single NFL statistic except for "games appeared in". Enough said.

Defensive Backs

  • Michael Adams
  • Danny Gorrer
  • Deveron Carr (ERFA)
In his one year with the Bucs, veteran Michael Adams spent most of his time with the team injured, appearing in just six games before being put on injured reserve in mid-November. Primarily playing in the slot, Adams was often burnt by the faster and shiftier receivers he covered, though he did manage to get a sack. Unlikely to return.

Danny Gorrer is perhaps most famous for arguably costing the Bucs a victory against the Eagles in 2012, dropping an easy interception that would have ended the Eagles' attempt at a last-minute comeback drive. Instead, the Eagles managed to make their way into the end zone and pull off the upset, giving Nick Foles his only win in 2012. Despite that dropped interception, Gorrer actually improved as the season went on, and began his preseason in fine form, picking off reigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco in the preseason opener against the Ravens, and making a key third-down pass breakup to end another Ravens drive. Sadly, Gorrer was injured on that very play, and was placed on 'short-term' IR. Eventually activated, Gorrer appeared in seven regular season games for the Bucs, but never again showed those flashes we saw in the preseason.

Like Jacob Cutrera, first-year player Deveron Carr is yet to register on the stat sheet. Appearing in nine games, Carr didn't see a single snap on defense, only special teams. His status as an EFRA will most likely be enough to get him to training camp, but he's yet to give a reason to stick with the team beyond that.

Specialists

  • Andrew Economos
  • Rian Lindell
  • Lawrence Tynes
Yes, Lawrence Tynes is still officially a Buccaneer. The way his MRSA infection was handled by the Bucs was, I would argue, pretty reprehensible, but his time as a Buc is almost certainly done, as is Lindell's. With Connor Barth coming back and, presumably, healthy, it's almost a certainty that the two kickers won't be retained. Lindell, for all that he earned the ire of Bucs fans, wasn't far off the league average for kickers, making 23 of 29 attempts (79.3%), while making every PAT. The stats aren't bad, but after what Bucs fans have been used to, he was unfairly criticised more harshly than he deserved. I guess Barth has ruined Bucs fans for other kickers.

Long snapper Andrew Economos is the longest-tenured of all Buccaneer specialists. He was the Bucs' special teams captain until an offseason injury put him on the PUP list for 2011, resulting in Hayward being named captain. Economos and Hayward were both elected to captaincy in 2012, but Economs lost the "C" from his jersey this past year. He's been a reliable long snapper throughout his career with the Bucs, and together with Davin Joseph has been with the Bucs longer than any other player, joining the team in 2006. As long as the contract is relatively cheap, I fully expect Economos to be re-signed by the team.
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