The Buccaneers re-signed CB Sammy Davis earlier in the free agency period, but several unrestricted free agents from the '07 team are still looking for '08 destinations
Free agency is not over.
It might seem like all the team-to-team player movement is over, that all the recognizable names found new (or old) homes and that the league moved on to its next big thing with the 2008 draft two weeks ago.
Well, tell that to Takeo Spikes and Daunte Culpepper and Shaun Alexander. Big enough names for ya?
There are dozens of well-known players still theoretically looking for employment in 2008, like Spikes, Culpepper and Alexander. Some of them, like former Carolina defensive end Mike Rucker, have already chosen retirement. Some others will likely make the same decision after drawing little interest. But there are plenty of men still capable of making an impact in the NFL who remain free agents on the 2008 open market.
A couple players from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2007 squad fall somewhere in that continuum. Running back Michael Pittman, for instance, is an unrestricted free agent who has yet to hook on with a new team. The same is true for tight end Jerramy Stevens and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, two players who have so far had just one-season cameos as Buccaneers.
Spikes, Culpepper and Alexander aren't the only gold-plated names that stand out on the list of remaining free agents. One could start up an expansion team at this moment and sign a full starting lineup of men who have at some point in their careers been notable NFL performers. Culpepper could hand off to Alexander, Pittman or Kevin Jones and throw to Troy Brown, Eric Moulds and Koren Robinson. He could find protection behind a five-man line of tackles Sean Locklear and Wayne Gandy, guards Chris Naeole and Ruben Brown and center Jeremy Newberry.
On defense, the line could be anchored by former Pro Bowler Rod Coleman and his one-time Falcons teammate Grady Jackson. The list of available ends is a little thin – Orpheus Roye and Renaldo Wynn, perhaps? – but the linebacking crew could boast Spikes, Warrick Holdman and Lemar Marshall, all of whom have started for very strong defenses at some point in the 2000s. The secondary could line up with Fred Thomas and Jerametrius Butler on the corners and Mike Doss and Deke Cooper in centerfield.
Is such a lineup feasible? Almost certainly not. Recognizable names aside, NFL scouts know whether or not any of the above players can still be strong contributors. It's reasonable to believe that some of them have concluded their NFL arcs. However, it's also likely that there are among those names – and the dozens of other remaining unsigned veterans – a handful of players who will make a difference in the NFL in 2008.
And, thus, free agency is not over. In the few remaining months between now and training camp, there will be a handful of intriguing signings from among the pool of veterans still available. That may even include Pittman, Stevens or Trotter.
A total of 429 NFL players became free agents of one type or another on February 29 when the 2008 league season began. About 20 of those were men who called themselves Buccaneers in 2007. Most of those free agents have locked in their teams for the upcoming season by this point, but a few have not.
Below are the 11 players from Tampa Bay's 2007 squad who became unrestricted free agents on February 29. Note that the list includes two players whose situations changed before free agency began, as fullback Mike Alstott retired and running back Michael Bennett re-signed with the Buccaneers.
|FB Mike Alstott||[Announced his retirement](/news/article-1/a-train-pulls-in-alstott-announces-his-retirement/66AA8EF1-5F4B-47E4-A54E-4D371A1E9B8E) on January 24|
|TE Anthony Becht||[Signed with the St. Louis Rams](http://www.stlouisrams.com/article/67158) on March 6|
|RB Michael Bennett||[Re-signed with Tampa Bay](/news/article-1/back-for-more-bennett-re-signs-with-bucs/360B9A0A-13E2-4A95-901A-AB403FFB82DA) on February 15|
|CB Sammy Davis||[Re-signed with Tampa Bay](/news/article-1/bucs-bring-sammy-davis-back-to-the-pack/CF2F95CD-B023-4326-A186-E7FDDD2F13B6) on March 7|
|WR Mark Jones|
|CB Brian Kelly||[Signed with the Detroit Lions](http://www.nfl.com/freeagency/story?id=09000d5d8071b861&template=without-video&confirm=true) on March 8|
|C Matt Lehr||[Signed with the New Orleans Saints](http://www.neworleanssaints.com/Articles/2008/3/Saints%20Agree%20to%20Terms%20with%20Vet%20OL%20Lehr.aspx) on March 20|
|RB Michael Pittman|
|TE Jerramy Stevens|
|LB Jeremiah Trotter|
|C John Wade||[Signed with the Oakland Raiders](http://www.raiders.com/Common/Article.aspx?id=39732) on March 31|
Every year, the NFL prepares a list of hundreds of players who are going to become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year. By the time the market opens, however, the number of players available is even larger, as teams make moves designed to provide salary cap relief. The players who are released in the days leading up to free agency are not technically considered unrestricted free agents in terms of their relation to their previous teams; that is, they are not part of the Management Council formula that determines the value of the free agents gained and lost by each team.
On some occasions, however, the teams that have released these players are interested in signing them back. And quite often they are players who prove attractive to other teams. Therefore, they are worth tracking along with all of the other men who became free agents in the conventional way.
The following 2007 Buccaneers became free agents when they were released just prior to the start of the new league year:
|DE Kevin Carter||[Re-signed with Tampa Bay](/news/article-1/bucs-welcome-back-carter/1E6BEE04-A0CC-4AFF-A108-D32567FDEF1D) on March 25|
|DE Greg Spires|
There is a significant difference between restricted and unrestricted free agency. A player must have four years of free agency credit under his belt and an expiring contract to become a UFA. Unrestricted free agents may negotiate and sign with any team, and their previous teams have no compensation or right-of-first-refusal rights.
Players with expiring contracts who have three years of credit become restricted free agents, assuming their teams extend the proper tender offers. Restricted free agents may also negotiate and sign with any team, but their previous teams have the opportunity to match any contract that is signed. If the previous team does not match the contract and the player goes to a new team, that team must immediately surrender draft-pick compensation. The amount of compensation is determined by the type of tender offer that the original team extends at the beginning of free agency.
Restricted free agents had until April 18 to sign a contract with a team other than the ones they played with in 2007. After that deadline, any unsigned restricted free agents could only negotiate with their previous teams.
The following 2007 Buccaneers became restricted free agents on February 29 after receiving tender offers from the team:
|DT Jovan Haye||[Re-signed with Tampa Bay](/news/article-1/free-agent-dt-haye-re-ups/4CDA3280-0A27-411E-B284-FE0AE9E25994) on May 13|
|S Kalvin Pearson||[Signed with the Detroit Lions](http://www.detroitlions.com/document_display.cfm?document_id=469609) on March 13|
The Buccaneers also declined to extend a tender offer to one potential restricted free agent, making him, in effect, an unrestricted free agent. However, as is noted below, that was not due to a lack of interest in keeping that player:
|LB Antoine Cash||[Re-signed with Tampa Bay](/news/article-1/cash-returns-to-buccaneers/AFA511C2-CFFD-4784-8CEE-4FDD5E1C0572) on March 1|
Players with expiring contracts and less than three years of credit fall into a third category: exclusive rights free agents. That is what it sounds like – the player's existing team retains exclusive rights to negotiate a new contract as long as they extend the necessary tender offer at the beginning of free agency. That was the case with the players listed below. If players who fall into this category are not extended tender offers, they become free agents who may sign with any team.
The Buccaneers definitely wished to retain those rights on their own list of ER free agents. However, once the free agency period began, there was no rush to actually finalize the contracts for these men. They will likely sign their tender offers at some point in May, and when they do the Buccaneers will have to release another player for each man they sign. Until they officially sign, these exclusive rights free agents do not count against the 80-man offseason roster limit.
The following 2007 Buccaneers became exclusive rights free agents on February 29:
|DE Charles Bennett|
|LS Andrew Economos|
|WR Chad Lucas|
|S Donte Nicholson|
|T Donald Penn|
|DE Greg White|
Unrestricted free agents still have a couple months to shop their services, as their signing period runs out on July 20. The main signing frenzy happened during the first few weeks of March, as usual. However, that doesn't mean the market is closed. Keep the Buccaneers.com Free Agency Tracker bookmarked to follow all of the movement of Tampa Bay's own free agents this offseason.