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Bucs eye Broncos receiver
Javon Walker wants out of Denver, and Bruce Allen reportedly wants to accommodate.
By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
Published February 22, 2008
Javon Walker, catching a touchdown against Arizona, was limited to eight games last season.
[Getty Images (2006)]
Javon Walker: The big target could fortify an aging receiving corps.
Rod Coleman: The tackle has 58 1/2 career sacks but was injury-plagued in 2007.
Alge Crumpler: The tight end can block as well as catch passes down the field.
INDIANAPOLIS - More than a week before the start of free agency, the Bucs already are exploring a trade for a game-changing receiver and accelerating attempts to sign a Pro Bowl tight end and a pass-rushing tackle.
Other than that, it has been a quiet few days for general manager Bruce Allen.
The Bucs, though not saying so publicly, have had discussions with the Broncos about trading for receiver Javon Walker. The Denver Post also has reported the Broncos have expressed interest in dealing with the Bucs for Walker.
Denver has made no secret of its desire to part ways with Walker, who is owed abonus of $5.4-million on March 4. Walker said at the end of this past season he wanted to find a "better fit," elsewhere.
Walker, 29, was hampered by a knee injury last season and played in just eight games, catching 26 passes for 287 yards and no touchdowns. But the former Florida State standout has had 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Broncos in 2006 and Packers in 2004.
The Bucs are looking to upgrade at receiver. Joey Galloway will be 37 next season. Ike Hilliard will be 32, and Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall have struggled to make a consistent impact.
At 6 feet 3, 215 pounds, Walker would give the Bucs a big target who can work the middle of the field and gain yards after the catch.
Thursday, during a rare break at the NFL scouting combine, Allen would neither confirm nor deny the Bucs had talks with the Broncos about Walker.
Following their loss to the Giants in the NFC wild-card game, the Bucs outlined their need to improve their speed and playmaking ability on offense.
"I don't think there's any doubt Michael Clayton will do that, and we feel good about Maurice Stovall. And Ike (Hilliard) had a really productive year for us," Allen said. "But like any position, we're looking to get better; for something to add to our team.
"If you're looking for a component, we need some more speed. That's why (running back) Michael Bennett was somewhat of a priority to re-sign because he brings some more speed to our offense because we need it."
Walker isn't the only player on the Bucs' radar. Allen said the team is pursuing Falcons defensive tackle Rod Coleman and tight end Alge Crumpler. One or both could visit the Bucs' training facility next week.
Allen met with Walker's agent, Pat Dye, on Wednesday and will have talks with Crumpler's agent as early as today.
Allen predicted Coleman could have a new team before the start of the free agent signing period, Feb. 29. Coleman, who has 581/2 career sacks, was plagued by an assortment of injuries last season and played in just five games before finishing the year on injured reserve.
But the Bucs are all too aware of how disruptive Coleman, 31, can be as a pass-rusher, and they are looking to put more pressure on the quarterback. Allen drafted Coleman while with the Raiders in 1999.
"He's been quite a foe for us the last four years," Allen said. "You've been to the games. You've noticed No. 75. We have talked to him. (His agent) is working out Rod's schedule; where to do visits and physicals. We've just got to see where his health is and when Pat decides to get serious.
"He's played very well against us. He has rushed our passers. ... He is a good competitor. That's why he has a lot of interest, and that's why we haven't heard when he's scheduled to visit yet."
Crumpler, 30, has more than 4,000 career receiving yards and 35 touchdowns. Allen said he likes his ability to make plays down the field but said he also is a good blocker. As many as 11 teams are interested in signing Crumpler, including Carolina and Tennessee.
"I'll meet with them. (His agent) is coming here to meet with different teams, and I should meet with him (today)," Allen said.
"He's a very good weapon, and he's made (four) Pro Bowls; amazingly productive and a good all-around tight end. He's not limited to one aspect."
The Bucs will have a long list of playmakers to consider. The Bears did not use a franchise tag on receiver Bernard Berrian, and the Patriots did not tag Randy Moss. Receivers Donte Stallworth and Muhsin Muhammad also can become unrestricted free agents.
Galloway is coming off three 1,000-yard receiving seasons and shows no signs of slowing down. But a shoulder injury made him ineffective against the Giants in the playoffs.
"I don't believe in age discrimination," Allen said. "He's still a terrific home run hitter. As he showed this year, working through a change of quarterbacks again, we asked him to do a lot of things to his game and he picked it up."