Players such as unrestricted free agent S John Howell know that the signing period is still very active in May and June
Three weeks after the draft and a little over a month before the end of their offseason program, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could hardly be more pleased with their offseason.
The draft was the centerpiece of the Bucs' offseason strategy, and it indeed it brought both numbers (a dozen young players added to the roster) and hopefully immediate help (Cadillac Williams, Alex Smith, etc.). However, the Bucs have also made key additions through unrestricted free agency (Anthony Becht, Chris Hovan), retained several of their own open-market players (Joey Galloway, Dexter Jackson) and even bolstered the quarterback position via a trade (Luke McCown).
The Bucs have accomplished much since March, including a cleansing of the salary cap. But it's not necessarily over.
The NFL's unrestricted free agency period continues into July, and sometimes gets a new wave of available players after June 1, when teams can release a player and have his salary cap hit spread over two seasons. The great majority of impact signings have already occurred, but most teams, like the Buccaneers, feel like their roster work is never done.
In other words, stay tuned. Last year, the Bucs signed linebacker Ian Gold in late April and wide receiver Bill Schroeder just before training camp. In 2003, they traded for running back Thomas Jones in mid-June and re-signed punter Tom Tupa four days later. Of course, the 2002 squad first signed Tupa on May 10 and picked up tackle Roman Oben on May 20 and wide receiver Keenan McCardell in the post-June 1 wave.
Several players from the Bucs' 2004 squad hope the free agency action remains hot. On March 2, 483 NFL players became free agents of some variety or another, including 19 who were Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004. Many of those men are still looking for new homes.
As of May 13, 10 of the Bucs' unrestricted free agents had landed new contracts, either with the Buccaneers or another team. Check the chart below for details.
Will some of the players remaining on the list return to Tampa? Well, the decisions made by Galloway, Dave Moore, Jameel Cook and (in moves that potentially avoided free agency) Brian Griese, Mike Alstott and Greg Spires, indicate that most of the team's players would prefer to stay and help return the Bucs to championship form.
"The players want to come here," said General Manager Bruce Allen. "The Tampa Bay area is exciting; our coaching staff is the best in the league across the board. There's excitement about the franchise."
Below, we will keep track of the movement of all of the Buccaneers who became free agents on March 2. As players re-sign or move on to new teams, their lines will be updated. You can return to the free agency tracker at any time to see how the team's roster is taking shape this offseason.
The players who became free agents on March 2 fall into three categories, though only the unrestricted free agent group will have truly significant movement. Unrestricted free agents are free to sign with any team without their former teams receiving compensation of any kind. Restricted free agents can sign with other teams but the former teams can either match the offer or receive draft-choice compensation. Exclusive rights free agents, those who have less than three years of NFL experience, can only negotiate with their existing teams. Those players are not included in the league's lists of free agents and signings, but we will track them here regardless.
For a more detailed explanation of these terms, please click here.
The following Buccaneers became unrestricted free agents on March 2. As their situations are resolved, we will update the chart:
|DE Chidi Ahanotu|
|WR Tim Brown|
|LB Keith Burns||Signed with Denver on March 25|
|G Cosey Coleman||Signed with Cleveland on March 8|
|FB Greg Comella|
|FB Jameel Cook||Re-signed with Tampa Bay on March 16|
|DT Chartric Darby||Signed with Seattle on March 21|
|TE Ken Dilger|
|TE Rickey Dudley|
|WR Joey Galloway||Re-signed with Tampa Bay on March 8|
|S John Howell|
|CB Corey Ivy*||Signed with St. Louis on April 28|
|S Dexter Jackson||Re-signed with Tampa Bay on April 1|
|WR Charles Lee||Signed with Arizona on May 25|
|TE Dave Moore||Re-signed with Tampa Bay on March 4|
|G Matt O'Dwyer||Signed with Green Bay on March 24|
|S Dwight Smith||Signed with New Orleans on March 7|
(NOTE: Ivy and Murphy would have become restricted free agents had they received tender offers. When they did not they became, in effect, unrestricted free agents.)
The following Buccaneer became a restricted free agent on March 2:
|LB Ryan Nece||Re-signed with Tampa Bay on March 5|
The following Buccaneers became exclusive rights free agents on March 2. As their situations are resolved, we will update the chart: