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Thursday, January 7, 2010

2009 Tampa Bay Free Agent Review

Before the 2009 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made bold moves to get younger.  A lot of chances were taken by cutting veteran players and exposing unproven and inexperienced players to the starting lineup.  The final record showed the inexperience, but a youthful core of offensive and defensive players emerged with a lot of game experience.  Was it all worth it?

Players Lost during 2009 Free Agency

Noah Herron
, RB - was signed by the Cleveland Browns but produced no recorded statistics.
Phillip Buchanon, CB - was signed and played for the Detroit Lions in 2009 appearing in 13 games, starting 11.  Buchanon recorded 38 tackles and 5 assists with a sack and 2 forced fumbles.
Paris Warren, WR - was signed by the New Orleans Saints but produced no recorded statistics.
Jovan Haye, DT - was signed by the Tennessee Titans appearing in 15 games and starting each one.  Haye recoded 20 tackles and 12 assists with half a sack.

Buchanon and Haye were obvious losses on a defense that struggled all year.  Buchanon was a questionable tackler and did not fit the mold of the press corners the Buccaneers wanted going into the 2009 season.  His season statistics for Detroit were only down slightly from his last season with the Buccaneers (and he played three fewer games).  Haye was the biggest loss as Tampa Bay struggled in the defensive trenches for most of the season.  Haye was undersized for the even front defensive scheme the Buccaneers planned to implement in 2009.  Nonetheless, Haye's statistics for the Tennessee Titans were comparable to his final year at Tampa Bay.

Players Cut during 2009 Free Agency

Will Allen, S - rejoined the Buccaneers after a veteran safety received a suspension and a string of injuries at safety.
Jeff Garcia, QB - appeared in two games for the Philadelphia Eagles.  Garcia recorded no passes and three rush attempts for a net of -2 yards and a lost fumble.
Cato June, LB - played preseason for Texans and was cut.  Signed with Chicago and appeared in one game but was cut again.  June produced no recorded statistics in either situation.
Joey Galloway, WR - since we last checked in, Galloway signed with Pittsburgh for Week 16 and is still on the roster, although he has not produced any recorded statistics.  For the 2009 regular season, he played in three games (starting in two) recording 7 receptions for 67 yards (all while at New England).
Derrick Brooks, LB - was not signed and did not play in 2009.
Kevin Carter, DE - was not signed and did not play in 2009.
Patrick Chukwurah, DL -was not signed and did not play in 2009.
Warrick Dunn, RB - was not signed and did not play in 2009.
Brian Greise, QB - was not signed and did not play in 2009. 
Ike Hilliard, WR - was not signed and did not play in 2009.
Anthony Mix, WR - was not signed and did not play in 2009.

This is the group which made the 2009 offseason (and the beginning of GM Mark Dominik's tenure at the top of the organization) unforgettable for Buccaneer fans.  It was a bold and daring change removing Brooks, Carter, Dunn, Garcia, Galloway, and Hilliard in one fell swoop (Griese a bit later) as each man was a 10+ year veteran of the NFL.  The balance of the 2009 offseason was spent gathering offensive players to replace the two quarterbacks, a running back, and two wide receivers in this group.  This was the defining moment for Dominik - putting his imprint firmly on the franchise - clearly demonstrating the Buccaneers would no longer rely on aged veterans but would instead build with youth.  All these players were important to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their careers. But the 2009 results indicate that, indeed, it was time for them to move along after fruitful careers.

Players Retained during 2009 Free Agency

Micheal Clayton, WR - after being sought after by the Seahawks and Vikings, the Buccaneers signed Clayton to a two year deal.  His 2009 numbers were not exceptional:
Cortez Hankton, WR - cut early in the 2009 season.
Donald Penn, T - An integral part of a young offensive line, Penn faced many of the best pass rushers in the NFC during 2009 and fared well.  Unfortunately, he only signed a one year deal.
Jermaine Phillips, S - Although often injured Phillips still seems to be the 2nd best safety for Tampa Bay.  His deal was for one year.
Jeremy Stevens, TE - Was productive in 2008 and signed a two year deal.

Clayton, Penn, Phillips, and Stevens each served an important role last offseason.  So much experience had already been trimmed.  Penn and Phillips were needed for stability.  Clayton had been in the doghouse with the prior regime for so long nobody knew what he still had.  Stevens provided competition for new TE Kellen Winslow.  These were key parts and needed to be retained.

So was it a good 2009 free agency period?  For most fans, emotionally, it was not.  Familiar faces are what the fans like to cheer for.  But for the long term success of the franchise it was inevitable.  The Buccaneers could have purged slowly, but at what cost?  The 2009 season saw the emergence of young players already on the roster at many of the released veterans positions such as Geno Hayes (Brooks), Cadillac Williams (Dunn), Maurice Stovall (Ike Hilliard), and provided opportunity for rookies to shine such as Josh Freeman (Garcia, Griese) and Sammie Straughter (Galloway).  None of these young players are complete replacements but, long term, I believe the Buccaneers will reap great benefits from finding out that there was already competent youth on the roster.

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