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NFL Free Agency Rumors: Buccaneers to be "big players" for Branden Albert

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are supposedly interested in Branden Albert. I'm not buying it.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

According to Tony Pauline of Draft Insider, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be big players in the chase for left tackle Branden Albert. That, at least, is what Pauline "was told" to expect, assuming the Kansas City Chiefs don't re-sign him.

Personally, I think that's rather unlikely. And if true, evidence of some shoddy roster building.

The Bucs currently have Donald Penn under contract at a hefty but not out-of-line $6.75 million in salary, and another $1 million in workout and weight incentives. That's certainly sizable, especially for a left tackle who's coming off probably his worst season as a pro, but it's still significantly less than a top-of-the-market free agent tackle is likely to receive.

Moreover, while Penn had a poor season for his standards, he was still an above-average left tackle by Pro Football Focus' grading. He was not a liability, despite a few high-profile losing plays against Robert Quinn -- at the end of a game, after he'd shut Quinn down for the first 60-odd snaps. Penn will need replacing eventually, but he can probably tough it out for a few more years.

Branden Albert only had a marginally better year, if we can trust PFF's statistics, and he's likely to expect a contract in line with Jermon Bushrod's last year: $7 million per season, with a hefty signing bonus to boot. Plus, Albert's only one year younger than Penn and has a recent injury history, missing four games last year with a knee injury and three games in the previous year with a back injury.

This rumor is probably part of the standard smokescreen stuff we see at this time of year. While the Bucs have the cap space to be pro-active in free agency, signing an older left tackle with an injury history isn't exactly the best way to use that cap space. Especially so given the fact that the Bucs don't really need to replace Penn right now, anyway.