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2012 Free Agency: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Must Pursue Cornerbacks and Linebackers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been publicly stating that they will spend in free agency this offseason. This departure from years past brings up an immediate question: where and how will they spend this money? I can think of two excellent spots to start: cornerback and linebacker.

Those two positions are large needs for the Bucs for different reasons. At cornerback the Bucs are likely to lose Ronde Barber, and even if he returns he is clearly a declining player. In addition, Aqib Tailb faces trial in March and may not return to the team even if he's not convicted of a felony. Behind those players the team has little depth, and they must find replacements for those two starters.

At linebacker, the Bucs don't really have any quality starters. Mason Foster showed some promise as a middle linebacker early last year but he regressed throughout the rest of the season. Geno Hayes and Quincy Black both had terrible seasons, and Hayes is unlikely to return as his contract has run out. Behind them, Dekoda Watson isn't consistent enough to be a quality starter and Adam Hayward is nothing more than a useful and versatile backup. The Bucs must find at least one and preferably two new starters for next season.

As it so happens, this is an excellent season to find new cornerbacks and linebackers in free agency. Both positions are likely to be very deep, although undoubtedly the list will look less appealing once franchise tags and re-signings have happened.

Still, the list of linebackers is impressive. Curtis Lofton, Dan Connor, Stephen Tulloch, Barrett Ruud (maybe shouldn't have let him walk, huh?), D'Qwell Jackson, David Hawthorne, Joe Mays, Ahmad Brooks and a host of other names are scheduled to hit the market. Signing just one of these players should immediately improve the Bucs' terrible defense.

Similarly, the team is likely to have plenty of options at cornerback. Cortland Finnegan stands out, but he is far from the only cornerback to hit the market. Brandon Carr, Brent Grimes, Stanford Routt, Carlos Rogers, Terrell Thomas, Aaron Ross, Eric Wright and Rashean Mathis will all be free agents this offseaon - and the Bucs could certainly find a quality starter among them.