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The Top Ten Free Agent Signings In Tampa Bay History

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What do you think of the list?

Baltimore Ravens v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There’s really no debate when it comes to the best free agent signing for the Bucs.
Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

With free agency rapidly approaching, fans and front office executives are always making a list when it comes to the players they want to bring in to improve their team.

As we all know, sometimes said players are obtained and sometimes they are not, but what matters the most is the type of impact they have when they are signed to a new team.

All teams have made good decisions and all teams have made bad decisions. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have certainly been on both sides of the fence in that regard.

So who are the top ten free agent signings of all-time? Check out the list below and let us know what you think!

10. Antonio Bryant, WR

  • Years played: 2008-2009 (29 games)
  • Career stats (w/Tampa Bay): 122 rec, 1,848 yards, 15.1 ypc, 11 touchdowns

Coming into Tampa Bay, Bryant was viewed as a malcontent. He was known more for throwing his practice jersey in Bill Parcells’ face than for any on-field achievements.

Lack of talent wasn’t the issue with Bryant. He won the Biletnikoff Award as a sophomore in college and was even touted as a Heisman candidate before behavioral issues and injuries derailed his junior season at Pitt.

Regardless, by the time he got to Tampa Bay, things just worked out for Bryant. He finished out his time with the Bucs with the best two-year span of his career and made several highlight-worthy plays in 2008.

The Bucs, unlike the teams before them, got the production and not the headache - and it made for some good memories in the end.

9. Keenan McCardell, WR

  • Years played: 2002-2003
  • Career stats (w/Tampa Bay): 145 rec, 1,844 yards, 12.7 ypc, 14 touchdowns

Another player with a short, but impactful time in Tampa Bay, McCardell added a veteran presence to help complement Keyshawn Johnson for a couple years.

His most noted claim to fame would be the two touchdowns scored in the Super Bowl, but many people also remember the deep pass for a touchdown and the fumble returned for a touchdown on the classic (or heartbreaking) 2003 Monday Night Football game against the Indianapolis Colts.

He was cheap, evidenced by the four-year, $10 million deal signed in 2002. Unfortunately, a holdout caused the Bucs to trade him to the San Diego Chargers for a third- and sixth-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

8. Joe Jurevicius, WR

  • Years played: 2002-2004
  • Career stats (w/Tampa Bay): 76 receptions, 874 yards, 8 touchdowns

While Joe Namath and Dwight Clark San Francisco 49ers may have the most infamous “The Catch” of all-time, Bucs fans have their own appreciation for that title thanks to Joe Jurevicius.

Call me crazy, but Jurevicius is easily one of my favorite Buccaneers of all-time.

I know, the stats and the longevity isn’t there, but the man left us all with some of the greatest memories for a Bucs fan. And while the numbers aren’t that great, you can’t underestimate his importance during the Bucs’ Super Bowl run.

I have just six words: “YOU GO JOE!!” “YOU GO JOE!!”

Just typing that sent chills down my back. Not only did he make the key play to help get the Bucs back into the NFC Championship game, but he also left us with one of the most memorable touchdown grabs during the 2003 season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.

And in case you don’t remember/know the story of the NFC Championship game, just click here and don’t be surprised when your eyes start sweating.

7. Michael Pittman, RB

  • Years played: 2002-2007
  • Career stats (w/Tampa Bay): 594 rush, 2,644 yards, 4.5 ypc, 284 receptions, 2,361 yards, 16 total touchdowns

The OG Muscle Hamster, Pittman was a decent addition, but saved his best performance for Super Bowl XXXVII.

He gashed the Oakland Raiders for 124 yards on 29 carries. To put it into context, the Bucs ran for more than 124 yards as a team just four times during the regular season in 2002. Pittman also never carried the ball more than 21 times over the first 16 weeks.

New Orleans Saints vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers - January 1, 2006
Pittman had a good run in Tampa Bay.
Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Without Pittman, there’s still a good chance that the Bucs are Super Bowl champs, but it wouldn’t have came as easily.

Despite a near-1,000 yard season in 2004, it wasn’t enough to stop Gruden and the Bucs from drafting Cadillac Williams with the fifth overall pick in 2005. After Williams was drafted, Pittman was relegated to a backup role and finished out his days in Tampa Bay behind the thought-to-be future star.

Regardless, he sits at sixth all-time when it comes to career rushing yards in Tampa Bay. Not too shabby, at all.

6. Jeff Garcia, QB

  • Years played: 2007-2008
  • Career stats (w/Tampa Bay): 453 of 703 for 64%/5,152 yards/25 TD/10 INT/92.4 QB Rating

Like Johnson, Garcia didn’t ever really do anything flashy, but he was effective and helped Tampa Bay win games in his two short seasons with the Bucs.

Garcia helped Tampa Bay win the NFC South and land a home playoff game in 2007 before the Bucs lost the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. He also had the Bucs in first place in the division at 9-3 before the epic collapse of 2008 that cost Jon Gruden his job.

Garcia played well, but was nothing more than a bandaid while Gruden continued his never-ending search for the quarterback of his unreachable dreams.

5. Donald Penn, T

  • Years played: 2007-2013 (112 games)
  • Career stats (w/Tampa Bay): 112 games played, 1 Pro Bowl, 2 TD receptions

As soon as the Minnesota Vikings cut Penn in 2006, the Bucs scooped him and made him the starter at left tackle for the next seven seasons.

During that span, Penn played in all 112 games and made one Pro Bowl. It was enough to earn him a six-year, $48 million deal with the Bucs in 2010 that made him one of the highest-paid tackles in the league.

He also graded out at 74.6 or higher every year that he was in Tampa Bay, according to Pro Football Focus.

It’s hard to judge an offensive lineman’s overall impact without watching film, but there’s no doubt that Penn was a key cog for this franchise.

4. Vincent Jackson, WR

  • Years played: 2012-2016 (63 games)
  • Career stats (w/Tampa Bay): 268 rec, 4,326 yards, 16.1 ypc, 20 touchdowns

Outside of Mike Evans, it’s hard to think of any other wide receiver that had as much as an impact as Jackson in their first few years on the team.

Jackson started off with three straight 70+ catch seasons that saw him eclipse 1,000 yards in each one. He led the NFL with an absurd 19.2 ypc amongst players with at least 12 catches in 2012.

The immediate return was great for the Bucs considering they signed Jackson to a five-year, $55.5 million contract. Even though he came at a high price, there is no doubt that he was worth just about every penny. Jackson’s 4,326 receiving yards was good enough to place him fourth all-time in franchise history.

3. Greg Spires, DE

  • Years played: 2002-2007 (90 games)
  • Career stats (w/Tampa Bay): 26 sacks, 256 total tackles, 6 FF, 4 FR

“The Crane” finally found a home in Tampa Bay in 2002. Spires was the perfect complement to Rice. He was a big, tough, durable presence off the edge that could rush the passer and help defend in the run game.

Buccaneers v Redskins
“The Crane” was always where you needed him to be.
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

His versatility was key, too. Oftentimes, Monte Kiffin would play him at under tackle as well as end, and it helped Spires reach a career-high mark of eight sacks in 2004. It also helped him land a five-year, $17.1 million deal in 2005.

That’s a bargain for a player that locked down one end of the defensive line for seven seasons.

2. Brad Johnson, QB

  • Years played: 2001-2004 (49 games)
  • Career stats (w/Tampa Bay): 1,040 of 1,683 for 62% comp/10,940 yards/54 TD/41 INT/82.9 QB Rating

While he wasn’t the flashiest quarterback of all-time, there is no doubt that Johnson was instrumental in helping the Bucs reach their only Super Bowl title in 2002.

In just three seasons (2001-2003), he led the Bucs to a 26-19 record that included two playoff appearances and the Super Bowl title. 2002 was easily one of his best seasons, as he finished fourth in the NFL in passer rating and held the lowest interception rate out of all starting quarterbacks.

He was only around for four seasons, but it was enough to land him in the top ten of every major passing category in Bucs history, including the Super Bowl win.

1. Simeon Rice, DE

  • Years played: 2001-2006 (87 games)
  • Career stats (w/Tampa Bay): 69.5 sacks, 242 total tackles, 4 INT, 19 FF,

There are few things in life that do not require debate and this is one of them.

Rice is easily the best free agent signing for the Bucs. He was an absolute game-changer and broke the mold for defensive ends. His combination of speed, length, and athleticism made him a nightmare for opposing left tackles. He finished his career in Tampa Bay ranked third in sacks amongst all defensive lineman from 2001-2006.

It’s a shame that he isn’t in the Hall of Fame, but he will get there sooner rather than later.

Honorable Mentions: K Matt Bryant, C Jeff Faine, QB Brian Griese