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Marrying 'The Plan' and Free Agency for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For the past three seasons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a plan, supposedly. They wanted to build a team through the draft, re-signing their own drafted players and largely steering away from free agency. The results so far have been mixed. There is talent on the team, but there are some major deficiencies too - and the success of a lot of recent draft picks is still in doubt because of injuries and inconsistent play.

It's not surprising, then, that three years into the plan the Bucs seem to be pushing for a change. The Bucs will be 'involved' in free agency, and they have been making it quietly and subtly known that they will spend some money this offseason. Of course, part of the plan has always been to add a few free agents when necessary.

But what kind of free agent will the Bucs pursue?

Tampa Bay isn't the team to just add free agents willy-nilly. They've always been burned when they do that. What's been successful for this team has been adding free agents who are still relatively young and have some of their best years ahead of them. The free agency route was successful for Tampa Bay when they stuck to that formula: Keyshawn Johnson in trade, Simeon Rice and Brad Johnson in free agency: those were successful additions.

But when they went with the real veterans, the 32-year-old proven free agents - the Derrick Deeses, the Todd Steussies, the Charlie Garners - that's when they failed. That's not exactly surprising: those free agency additions are very rarely successful around the NFL, as older players are more injury-prone and usually have significantly declined by the time they hit the market.

So, don't expect the Bucs to go after the 'proven', multi-year veterans. They'll be active in free agency, to an extent, but they'll go after the younger players as much as they can. Players like Cortland Finnegan, Stevie Johnson, Curtis Lofton, Marshawn Lynch and Carl Nicks are a lot more likely to be Buccaneers next season than Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis or London Fletcher.