The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a lot of holes to fill. Any 2-14 team does, really. And that means they're going to dip into free agency once again. They have plenty of cap space available -- some $30 million before further cuts, which will happen -- so they can sign whoever they can convince to come in and help them out.
Using Pro Football Focus' Top 75 free agents, let's see who the Bucs could and should target. Note that any of these players could be still be franchise tagged, or re-signed by their teams. And some of the top names undoubtedly will be off the market by the time free agency actually starts. That happens every year.
Devin McCourty, S, New England Patriots
McCourty would be my top target for the Buccaneers. The Bucs have Dashon Goldson at free safety, but they can save $4 million by cutting him. His play hasn't been bad, exactly, but he hasn't been the difference maker the Bucs were hoping they'd get when they signed him in 2013. Instead, he's been just another guy -- someone whose absence was barely noticed when he missed games with a suspension or injury.
McCourty is that difference maker, though. Safeties of his caliber rarely hit free agency, and he's versatile enough to do anything the Bucs would ask him to do. Having originally been a cornerback, he can certainly operate in man or underneath coverage, and he's shown himself to be an outstanding deep cover safety in recent years. More than that, he's also a quality and willing tackler. He's not Earl Thomas, but he's one of the top free safeties in the NFL and would provide a significant boost for the Bucs' defense.
Justin Houston, LB, Kansas City Chiefs
Houston put up a ridiculous 22 sacks this past year, after managing 11 in 11 games in 2013 and 10 in 2012. The 2011 third-round pick was seen as a risk when he first entered the NFL as there were significant questions about his level of effort. Those questions have disappeared, and his play has been stellar.
There's one problem with signing him, though: he's been an outside rush linebacker in the NFL, and would have to play with his hand down for Lovie Smith. Is that something he can learn to do quickly and will that diminish his effectiveness? I think he'll be able to make that jump given that he'll still be asked to do what he's always done: destroy offensive tackles.
Orlando Franklin, T, Denver Broncos
Who doesn't want a quality tackle? The Bucs would certainly love him. Franklin isn't perfect, but unlike Anthony Collins he's been a consistent starter for four years. He's basically a plug-and-play lineman who can play both right tackle and left guard, and can probably learn to play a few different positions as well.
That versatility should prove to be a massive bonus for the Bucs, who have a right tackle in Demar Dotson. Dotson could switch to the left side, though he struggled there at the end of the season. Alternatively, the Bucs could try to see whether Kevin Pamphile can build on a few reasonable snaps at that position at the end of the season, keep Dotson at right tackle and move Franklin to one of the guard positions. Versatility helps.
Mike Iupati, G, San Francisco 49ers
The Bucs need a new guard. They have Logan Mankins and no one else -- not even as a backup. Kadeem Edwards ended the year on injured reserve without having taken a single snap during the regular season, so he's certainly not a player to build your line around. Iupati would instantly solve that problem, giving the Bucs a pair of capable starting guards.
One issue: Iupati has primarily played left guard, the same position as Logan Mankins, who's here to stay. One of those guys would have to switch to the other side, and signing someone just to have him switch positions is not ideal. But it shouldn't be a deal-breaker, either.
Clint Boling,G, Cincinnati Bengals
What, another Cincinnati Bengal? Haven't Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins taught the Bucs to stay away from those guys? Of course not. That logic is silly. There's nothing inherent about Cincinnati that makes free agents bust when they go elsewhere -- the Bucs were just unlucky. So, try again.
Boling has four years of starting experience at guard, has played on both the right and left side and even at right tackle and has been dependable if not spectacular. Versatility is valuable for the Bucs, who will likely shuffle some pieces around along the line.
David Harris, LB, New York Jets
I was originally going to put Rolando McClain here, but then he got himself reportedly suspended for four games. Tough, because McClain certainly played well last year. The Bucs need a middle linebacker, though, and Harris has a lot of experience playing that position in both a 3-4 and a 4-3. He's probably a better fit in a more blitz-heavy scheme, but his experience should allow him to adjust well to the Bucs' scheme.
Alternatively, the Bucs could target former Lovie Smith-beau Lance Briggs for some added toughness. Briggs is no longer a three-down starer nor a middle linebacker, but putting him on the strong side while moving Danny Lansanah to the Mike spot should work as well.