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Wright Visits as Free Agency Efforts Continue

Posted Apr 2, 2014

S Major Wright, who played three seasons under Lovie Smith in Chicago, visited One Buccaneer Place On Wednesday, the team confirmed…That and more in the updated Buccaneers Free Agency Tracker

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Free agent S Major Wright, who played three of his four seasons in Chicago under Lovie Smith, visited Buccaneer headquarters on Wednesday
  • Tampa Bay was aggressive early in free agency and continues to shop the market for roster upgrades
  • QB Dan Orlovsky is the most recent player from the Bucs' 2013 squad to sign elsewhere, landing back in Detroit
The initial wave of the NFL's 2014 free agency period may have crested, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to look for roster improvements on the open market.  On Wednesday, the team confirmed that it had brought former Chicago Bears safety Major Wright to team headquarters for a visit.

Wright's visit ended in the late afternoon without an agreement, but the Buccaneers could be looking for more veteran additions to a secondary that has already used free agency to find cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Mike Jenkins.

Wright played his first three NFL seasons under Lovie Smith, the Buccaneers' new head coach, Lovie Smith, after being selected in the third round of the 2010 draft by the Bears.  Many of the free agents who have chosen Tampa as their new NFL home this spring have cited Smith's presence as one of the main lures to join the 2014 Buccaneers.  Smith believes that these players see an opportunity to be a part of something unique.

"They did their research and they did like what we’re getting ready [to do]," he said.  "We haven’t done anything yet; we’re a 4-12 team.  Guys kinda like the challenge and I think guys like to be a part of something that can end up being special from the ground floor, where they can say, ‘Hey, I had a chance to do that.’  I think guys know how we’re going to do things and they want to be  a part of that."

Wright, a former prep star in the Sunshine State was a part of something special at the University of Florida, where he helped the Gators win the BCS Championship in the 2008 season.  He had a productive tenure in Chicago, as well, playing in 54 games with 42 starts over four seasons and racking up 253 tackles, nine interceptions, 18 passes defensed and three forced fumbles.  After setting a personal high with four interceptions in 2012, he recorded a career-best 100 tackles last fall despite missing one contest.  Wright is the only player in the NFL who has returned at least one interception for a touchdown in each of the last three seasons.

S Major Wright is the only player in the NFL who has recorded at least one pick-six in each of the last three seasons

Free agency may be slowing down, but the Buccaneers aren't merely playing out the clock.  As such, it's time to take another look at our Buccaneers Free Agency Tracker, both to review the incredible amount of activity that has taken place so far and to keep abreast of the inevitable further developments.  Below you'll find a summary of the players the Buccaneers have added as well as the status of each of the players from Tampa Bay's 2013 roster who hit free agency this year.  The tracker is updated as additional players sign in Tampa or more of the team's own free agents sign elsewhere.

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2014 BUCCANEERS FREE AGENCY TRACKER

Incoming Players:

Player

Former Team

Signing Date

Length of Deal

T Anthony Collins

Cincinnati

March 13

5 years

G Oniel Cousins

Cleveland

March 16

1 year

LB Dane Fletcher

New England

March 16

1 year

WR Lavelle Hawkins

San Diego

April 7

1 year

CB Mike Jenkins

Oakland

March 20

1 year

DE Michael Johnson

Cincinnati

March 11

5 years

QB Josh McCown

Chicago

March 12

2 years

DT Clinton McDonald

Seattle

March 11

4 years

WR Louis Murphy

N.Y. Giants

March 26

1 year

TE Brandon Myers

N.Y. Giants

March 11

2 years

C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Green Bay

March 14

4 years

CB Alterraun Verner

Tennessee

March 11

4 years

S Major Wright

Chicago

April 4

1 year


The Buccaneers inked Johnson, McDonald and Myers in the first hour of free agency, then seemingly pulled Verner out of thin air later that evening.  All four could step in immediately as starters; in fact, Smith has said that the team was not looking for backups on the free agent market, so all of the newest Bucs could be in the opening lineup.  The two March 16 signings, Cousins and Fletcher, appear to be the two that would face the most competition to start.  Fletcher may end up battling Jonathan Casillas for the strongside linebacker spot while it's not yet clear how a drastically reshuffled offensive line will eventually fall out.  Jenkins and Murphy, a pair of former Bay area prep stars, came about a week later, while Wright and Hawkins were the team's first two signings of April.  Jenkins is likely to be one of the top three corners, and Smith considers his nickel back essentially a 12th starter on defense.  Murphy and Hawkins add experienced depth to the receiver position while Wright gives the team three safeties who were full-time NFL starters the last two years.

The Buccaneers brought McCown in for a visit as soon as free agency started but didn't get his name on a contract until the next day, as the former Bears quarterback carefully considered where his best NFL landing spot would be.  McCown has been in the league since joining the Arizona Cardinals as a third-round pick in 2002, but this is his first real opportunity to hit free agency as a highly-coveted player.  McCown joins a team that still has its incumbent starter on the roster in 2013 rookie Mike Glennon, but Smith has stated that the veteran passer will open up the competition as the top name on the depth chart.

The signing of Verner allowed the Buccaneers to replace one Pro Bowler with another at left cornerback, and at a substantially less costly cap hit, as Darrelle Revis was subsequently released.  The Bucs also believe Johnson is an all-star caliber player, targeting him immediately as the best edge rusher available on the market.  Collins will step right in at left tackle to replace Donald Penn and Dietrich-Smith could line up at either center or guard.  Myers has 126 catches over the past two seasons but the Buccaneers coveted him for their starting tight end spot because they believe he is also an adept blocker at the line of scrimmage.  McDonald had 5.5 sacks in a reserve role for the Super Bowl champion Seahawks last year but has a very good chance to step up to starter status and line up next to Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy on the Bucs' interior line.

The table above includes only players who were on a team at the end of the 2013 and subsequently became unrestricted free agents.  Players such as long-snapper Jeremy Cain, cornerback D.J. Moore and quarterback Mike Kafka, who were not on teams at the end of last season and could be signed by any team at any point since January, are not included.

**

The Buccaneers finished the 2013 with 19 players on their roster due to hit unrestricted free agency on March 11.  Until that date, they had the exclusive rights to negotiate with and re-sign those players before they hit the open market.  As is the case every year and in virtually every NFL city, the Buccaneers added to that list of free agents by releasing some players who were still under contract for the 2014 season.  Some of those moves happened before the March 11 opening date, some after.

Below, you can review the status of players in eight different categories: those who became unrestricted free agents (UFAs), restricted free agents (RFAs) or exclusive rights free agents (ERFAs) on March 11; those who were re-signed before they could become free agents of any type; those who were under contract but released prior to the start of free agency; and those who were released after the start of free agency.

1. Buccaneers' Unrestricted Free Agents:

Player

Status

TE Kyle Adams*

Unsigned

CB Michael Adams

Unsigned

TE Nate Byham

Unsigned

LB Jacob Cutrera

Unsigned

LS Andrew Economos

Unsigned

DT Gary Gibson

Unsigned

CB Danny Gorrer

Re-signed with Tampa Bay (1 year) on 3/14

LB Adam Hayward

Signed 3-year deal with Washington on 3/11

FB Spencer Larsen

Unsigned

C/G Ted Larsen

Signed 2-year deal with Arizona on 3/12

RB Brian Leonard

Unsigned

K Rian Lindell

Unsigned

FB Erik Lorig

Signed 4-year deal with N.O. on 3/18

G Jamon Meredith

Re-signed with Tampa Bay (2 years) on 3/11

QB Dan Orlovsky

Signed 1-year deal with Detroit on 4/2

DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim

Unsigned

WR Tiquan Underwood

Signed with Carolina on 3/21

LB Dekoda Watson

Signed 3-year deal with JAX on 3/12


* TE Kyle Adams essentially became an unrestricted free agent when the Buccaneers chose not to extend the qualifying offer that would have put him in the restricted free agency category.

Meredith's signing came on the opening day of free agency and was reported after 4:00 p.m.  Depending upon the time at which he inked his name, he may or may not have briefly tasted free agency, but the result is the same as he returns on a two-year deal and will battle for a starting spot on that reworked front line.  Gorrer, who has battled injuries but flashed some potential in parts of two seasons in Tampa, quietly returned to the fold a few days into free agency.

So far, the total number of defections from the 2013 roster has been relatively small.  Of the three players who started at least one game at strongside linebacker for the Bucs last year, two have departed, with Hayward heading to Washington and Watson to Jacksonville.  (See below for the third player in that group.)  The Cardinals' web site refers to Larsen, a part-time starter over four seasons in Tampa, as a "depth signing" for their O-Line.  Perhaps the most interesting move so far is that of fullback Erik Lorig, who got four years to jump teams but stay in the NFC South in New Orleans.  That Lorig would have suitors is not surprising; that he would wind up with the Saints, who seemingly haven't had much use for a fullback in recent signings, is surprising to some degree.  However, New Orleans gave a significantly higher percentage of snaps to FB Jed Collins in 2013 than 2012, and Collins has departed for Detroit.  The most recent 2013 Buccaneer to sign elsewhere also ended up in the Motor City, as Dan Orlovsky returned to one of his former teams on April 2.

2. Potential UFAs Re-signed Before Free Agency:

LB Jonathan Casillas

Re-signed with Tampa Bay (1 year) on 3/7


Casillas was the only player on the original list of 19 UFAs that the Buccaneers re-signed before the first day of free agency (see above on the timing of the Jamon Meredith signing).  Casillas will have an excellent opportunity to compete for the SAM linebacker job, particularly with Watson and Hayward moving on, but no matter what he provides on defense he will be a very valuable member of the special teams units.

3. Restricted Free Agents:

None

As noted above, the Buccaneers had only one player slated for this category of free agency, which is a bit unusual, and they took that number down to zero when they choose not to tender TE Kyle Adams.

4. Potential RFAs Re-signed Before Free Agency:

None

5. Exclusive Free Agents:

None

6. Potential ERFAs Re-signed Before Free Agency:

CB Deveron Carr

Re-signed with Tampa Bay (1 year) on 3/11

WR Eric Page

Re-signed with Tampa Bay (1 year) on 3/11

RB Bobby Rainey

Re-signed with Tampa Bay (1 year) on 3/5


Exclusive rights free agents can negotiate only with their existing team, as they have fewer than three years of accrued free agency credit.  As such, they almost always return to the same club as long as that club is interested enough to extend a minimum salary tender before the start of free agency.  The Bucs would have done so with Carr, Page and Rainey; however, they found a simpler way by simply re-signing all three to what were essentially the one-year deals they would have gotten by signing those tender offers.

7. Buccaneer Players Released Before Free Agency:

T Gabe Carimi

Signed 1-year deal with Atlanta on 2/17

RB Michael Hill

Signed 2-year deal with Green Bay on 2/26

G Davin Joseph

Unsigned

DT Derek Landri

Unsigned

QB Jordan Rodgers

Signed with Miami on 4/3

K Lawrence Tynes

Unsigned


Carimi, a first-round pick by Chicago just three years ago, will play for his third team in three years after moving a bit north to Atlanta.  The Buccaneers' previous management traded a sixth-round pick to the Bears last spring to get Carimi and he would go on to start two games at left guard before spending most of the season as a reserve.  Hill goes back to the team for whom he was toiling in 2013 before the Bucs plucked him off the Packers' practice squad.  Of the remaining four players on that list, Joseph, a two-time Pro Bowler and a starter since his 2006 rookie season, is the one likely to see the most interest on the open market.

8. Buccaneer Players Released After Start of Free Agency:

T Donald Penn

Signed 2-year deal with Oakland on 3/19

CB Darrelle Revis

Signed 1-year deal with New England on 3/17


Both Penn and Revis quickly found new homes after leaving Tampa.  Penn will try to keep his 108-game starting streak alive on just his third NFL team.  He was on the Vikings' practice squad as a rookie in 2006 when the Buccaneers signed him away.  Revis returns to the AFC East one year after going from the Jets to the Buccaneers in an offseason trade.
Game Rewind: Tampa Bay Buccaneers