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Plenty of time remains to pick up playmakers
By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
Published March 2, 2008
TAMPA - Now that we know the guy snapping the football to quarterback Jeff Garcia, who is going to touch it next?
The signing of Saints free agent center Jeff Faine was a big one in terms of need and expense.
But for a team that entered the offseason bemoaning a lack of playmakers, the Bucs haven't exactly loaded up on offensive weapons in the early days of free agency.
The midnight madness for coach Jon Gruden when the signing period opened Friday was dialing Saints running back Aaron Stecker and Bears third-string tight end John Gilmore, who signed a three-year contract.
No Bernard Berrian. No Donte Stallworth. No Randy Moss, for that matter.
But Saints receiver Devery Henderson paid a visit before re-signing with New Orleans. Oh.
Excluding Joey Galloway, how many touchdowns did Bucs wideouts catch last season? Two. One each for Ike Hilliard and Maurice Stovall.
But the Bucs didn't like the Raiders' Jerry Porter, who signed a $30-million deal with Jacksonville. Word is, they're not that enamored with the Seahawks' D.J. Hackett, either.
Gruden likes Galloway for the same reason kids like Peter Pan - because he can fly.
Therefore, the Bucs want to increase overall speed on offense.
But there's a catch. They are not going to overpay for a receiver or running back because those positions are fairly deep in the draft.
Another factor is that the Bucs agree that Galloway, who is coming off three straight 1,000-yard seasons, needs a pay increase. He is scheduled to earn $1.767-million in base salary next season.
Sure, Galloway is 37, but general manager Bruce Allen has made some free-agent receivers aware that it would be tough to pay many of them more than Galloway, given his production.
This approach might bode well for what the Bucs still think of receivers Michael Clayton and Stovall.
Garcia said it many times last season - these guys might just need more opportunity.
Stovall has shown tremendous ability on special teams and just needs to use that aggressiveness and better technique to get off the line of scrimmage and into his routes.
The Bucs might be waiting for more players to shake out of the tree. Broncos receiver Javon Walker was released Friday.
The Falcons plan to release running back Warrick Dunn as soon as they find a replacement.
During Super Bowl week, Dunn made it clear his preference is to join either the Colts or the Bucs - playoff teams he has some familiarity with.
Dunn is 33 but could provide big plays in the passing game with his speed in the open field. Gruden hated losing him to the Falcons when he arrived in 2002.
There is some speculation that the Bucs and Redskins are pursuing a trade for receiver Chad Johnson. Those deals are rare in the NFL and costly. Not only do you have to pay the player, you lose significant draft picks.
Where are the playmakers? Relax. It's early. In the first few days of free agency, there is a frenzy of big-money signings throughout the league. There's more free agency to come. Then the draft. A long time until training camp starts in July.