The first day of NFL free agency is officially behind us, and we can now recap what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to do in one of the more active days of NFL moves I can remember:
Okay, that's a bit unfair. The Bucs re-signed a few of their own, and are bringing in a series of mid-tier free agents for visits. But anything resembling a big move was curiously absent yesterday, and nothing resembling that appears to be forthcoming either.
Lest you think this is a break with what the Bucs did last year, when they spent the first few days of free agency furiously pursuing a number of high-profile free agents, this is actually fairly similar. While the Bucs were quicker to act last year, the players they're focusing on are similar: mid-tier free agents. The kinds of players, like Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins, who are no sure things, but represent some potential at a relatively modest price.
Yes, Johnson and Collins were signed at modest prices last year. Their respective salary were half of what the top players at their positions earn. Neither was paid like a true, top-tier free agent. They were paid like what they are, and what the Bucs are pursuing now: mid-tier free agents who represent value.
Visiting free agents
Several reports had the Bucs bringing in four players for visits, and the Bucs confirmed all of those today. Oakland Raiders center Stefen Wisniewski, Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Henry Melton, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter and Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte are all coming in for a visit.
None of these players are exactly at the top of their game or position, but they all represent upgrades for the Buccaneers. Unlike last year, though, none of these players are necessarily immediate starters, if they sign. Wisniewski will have to compete with Evan Dietrich-Smith and Kadeem Edwards for a starting spot at either center or guard. Bruce Carter will have to compete with Danny Lansanah at middle linebacker. Henry Melton can't even really compete -- he'd be a backup three-technique and rotational pass rusher behind Gerald McCoy. And Chris Conte is likely to either displace Dashon Goldson's salary, but he'll likely face some competition at free safety, too.
There's one more player the Bucs are going to bring in: Derrick Morgan will visit the Bucs after visiting the Atlanta Falcons, per Rand Getlin. That's assuming he doesn't sign a contract in Atlanta before heading out.
Re-signings and cuts
The Bucs spent most of their first day not on new free agents, but on shoring up their existing roster. That started with re-signing Leonard Johnson and Bobby Rainey. Rainey could very well start this year, but Johnson's return is a little perplexing. He keeps getting on the field, even though he keeps struggling at slot cornerback. I can't imagine him being more than offseason competition, but he's surprised me before.
Meanwhile, the Bucs also cut Anthony Collins in the most predictable move ever. This does leave them with a hole at left tackle and no one to fill it, though. Kevin Pamphile was kind of promising last year, but relying on him would be a massive gamble. And free agency is awfully empty right now: the perpetually injured Jake Long is the only offensive tackle available right now.
The Bucs also added some more depth to the roster by re-signing defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.
Beyond those confirmed visits and moves, the Bucs have been tied to plenty of other free agents. Jabaal Sheard has been a common name, although the pass rusher is currently visiting the Patriots. Linebacker Jacquian Williams has also been linked to the Bucs, and even DeMarco Murray's name has surfaced -- though I'd disregard that one.
One final and completely unsubstantiated rumor: the Saints trading Drew Brees, possibly to the Buccaneers, possibly for the first overall pick. That rumor has no substance to it, though. No reports. Nothing. Just some speculation.