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By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
Published February 24, 2008
[Bill Serne | Times (2005)]
INDIANAPOLIS - Giving perhaps the clearest indication the Bucs don't expect to have running back Cadillac Williams next season, the team has targeted DeShaun Foster, who was released Thursday by the Panthers.
The 6-foot, 222-pound second-round pick in 2002 has struggled with injuries (playing 16 games just once) and fumbling (seven this past season) during his six-year career. In the past three seasons, he has rushed for 876, 897 (career high) and 879 yards.
Foster, 28, whose release saved $4.75-million in salary cap space, is Carolina's career leader in rushing yards (3,336) and holds its playoff record with 151, against the Giants on Jan. 8, 2006.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said Saturday at the scouting combine that he has spoken with Foster's agent, Joby Branion. A visit is likely to occur early next week.
Williams tore the patellar tendon in his right knee Sept. 30 against the Panthers. It is expected to take 9-12 months to heal, meaning he might not be ready until the middle of thisseason.
He played in all 16 games last season but averaged just 3.5 yards while scoring three touchdowns.
Improving the running back corps will be one of the Bucs' goals in the offseason. They re-signed Michael Bennett to a three-year contract last week and are negotiating an extension for Earnest Graham. Michael Pittman is hoping to join another team.
Coming in: The free agent signing period begins Friday, but the Bucs are getting a pretty good jump on the rest of the league. Allen said Falcons free agent defensive tackle Rod Coleman and tight end Alge Crumpler could visit Tuesday.
Both have injuries that need to be examined, and the Bucs' medical staff is in Indianapolis.
"We'll set up their visits as soon as we get back," Allen said.
Looking at receivers: The Bucs, more than $30-million under the salary cap, are expected to be very active in free agency. Their focus will be on playmakers, particularly on offense.
The team already has had discussions with the Broncos about receiver Javon Walker. But he is expected to be released before March 4, when he is due a $5.4-million roster bonus, making a deal unlikely. Patriots receiver Donte Stallworth also is expected to become a free agent.
Allen said the Bucs have not talked to the Vikings about receiver Troy Williamson, who has been given permission to seek a trade.
Of course, the biggest name in free agency might be Patriots receiver Randy Moss, who was not given the franchise tag.
If that had happened, the Bucs might have had an interest. But Allen said word inside the RCA Dome is Moss has an agreement in principle with the Patriots.
In-house personnel: Allen said he has no immediate plans to release players.
"We will keep reshaping based on who comes in and making sure we're able to give the newer players that come in an opportunity," Allen said.
The Bucs have nine players slated to become unrestricted free agents, including center John Wade, cornerback Sammy Davis and tight end Jerramy Stevens. Allen said he has had talks at the combine aimed at re-signing some of those players, although most are expected to hit free agency.
"What we've done is we've had meetings and we're going to meet again (today) and Monday," Allen said. "Give them time to think about parameters we gave them, and they've given us their proposals for us to digest that and come back at them.
"We want everyone to understand where we stand. And in some cases, we've agreed the best thing to do is to see what free agency offers them and they'll make a decision based on that."
Ex-Buc watch: Free agent cornerback Brian Kelly has drawn interest from the Lions.
"Obviously we're aware of him, as we are other cornerbacks," said Lions coach Rod Marinelli, the Bucs' former defensive line coach. "Brian has been a fine player."
[Last modified February 23, 2008, 21:32:03]