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Sean Smith rumors: Buccaneers, Cardinals, Patriots leading candidates

Tyler Barrick

According to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots are the leading candidates to land cornerback Sean Smith this offseason. After the Chiefs signed Dunta Robinson, they reportedly dropped out of the running. Roy Cummings confirms that the Buccaneers have spoken to Sean Smith's agent.

The 'legal tampering' period has been underway since midnight and during that time, the Bucs (nor any other team) can sign one of the unrestricted free agents -- or even reach an agreements. Apparently, teams can only have conversations with nothing resembling an agreement.

Of the three teams mentioned, the Buccaneers have by far the most cap space and therefore are in excellent position to sign Smith. According to Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN, the Bucs have $32.2 million in cap space, while the Cardinals are stuck at just $3.3 million and the Patriots have a pretty good $26.6 million. The Bucs can easily add some $11 million to that cap space by releasing Eric Wright and Quincy Black, which is likely to happen sooner rather than later. While the Cardinals are unlikely to fit Sean Smith under the cap, the Patriots could -- but they generally shy away from highly priced free agents.

Sean Smith is probably Tampa Bay's top target in free agency this season. The Bucs have a massive need at cornerback, and Smith is the best one on the market right now. He's big, physical and an excellent tackler -- all things the Bucs value in cornerbacks. In coverage, though, he's inconsistent. He has games where he's outstanding, and then games with a few too many lapses -- not unlike Aqib Talib. He would step in as a starting cornerback immediately -- and the Bucs are likely to pursue a second cornerback in free agency as well. Getting two new starting cornerbacks would be a massive step in the right direction to fix what was arguably the league's worst pass defense.