There is an old adage in the NFL that implies you cannot buy a championship. Daniel Snyder and scores of Washington Redskin fans would be hard pressed to argue with that line of thinking. The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles are another shining example of spending a lot of money and not quite getting the return on it you had hoped for. That brings us to the 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 60 million reasons they can become major players in the NFL (and more importantly, the world of fantasy football). After losing their final ten games in the 2011 season -- including a pair of losses to Carolina and a humiliating pounding at the hands of the Jaguars in that span -- it is time for the Buccaneers to challenge that old football adage. Building through the draft and relying on the development of young talent has not worked out for the Buccaneers. That strategy led to the coaching staff being shown the door en masse and needs to lead to free agents being shown the cash. The 2002 Tampa Bay offense was not one ripe with home grown talent and it is time for the pewter and black to go back to the future.
The Raheem "I'm just one of the guys" Morris regime has been replaced by the high energy of Greg Schiano, and the experience of advisor to the head coach Butch Davis. After the monumental backslide the Buccaneers offense took in 2011, it is very obvious that an influx of talent needs to come on board. Fortunately for the Buccaneers, they have the means to go out and get that talent. Upwards of 60 million dollars is available to Tampa Bay under the salary cap heading into 2012 and they need to spend it wisely. More importantly, they need to spend it on some premium offensive talent to help Josh Freeman regain the form he showed two years ago. Some pundits have suggested that after taking care of their own prospective free agents that the Bucs won't have nearly as much money as it appears to be for big players in the free agent bidding pool. With that being the scenario, then it is time for the Buccaneers to say goodbye to some of their own underperforming players and hello to some big time free agents. Do not throw good money after bad players who helped your franchise to lose ten straight games. Say so long to the dead weight that is Albert Haynesworth (pun intended), and thanks for the memories Ronde, but it is time for you to join Tiki. Michael Bennett is a nice young talent, but if he decides he wants a huge contract then look to Cliff Avril, John Abraham or Robert Mathis in the free agent market. The Tampa Bay defense struggled mightily throughout 2011 and not one player on that side of the ball could try and hold the Bucs over a barrel to be brought back. The list of possible free agent defenders to be had is a deep, deep one at every position. Some of the notables are DQ Jackson, Stephen Tulloch, Courtland Finnegan, Curtis Lofton and of course Mario Williams. Tampa should jump at the opportunity to sign one or more of these top level defensive players.
Mike Sullivan is the new offensive coordinator in Tampa and has the reputation as a coach who can elevate his quarterback's play as well as bring out the best in young wide receivers. Fantasy wise, the Buccaneers offense was a waste land except for possibly Kellen Winslow in a PPR format. Josh Freeman regressed horribly in his second season and could definitely use some help in developing his game (if he is ever to be fantasy relevant again). Tampa has a bevy of young receivers in Mike Williams , Desmond Briscoe and Arrelious Benn for Sullivan to work with. That being said, the Buccaneers need to go out and get a top level wide receiver to help out Freeman right now. Vincent Jackson is out there for the taking and the Bucs need to go hard after him. Should Jackson sign elsewhere, the Bucs have the chance to stick it to a division rival by pursuing Marques Colston. The list of free agent wide receivers is as deep as it has been in many years and the Buccaneers must get at least one of the big names on board. Legarrette Blount is an exclusive rights free agent, so Tampa can tell him what he is going to make in 2012. Let's be honest here, whether it is fair or not, Legarrette is still playing under the shadow of 'the punch' so should be happy to be on a NFL team. That may be rude and wrong, but it is right on the money. That being said, should Blount seem unhappy with this direction at Tampa then they can simply explain to him that Trent Richardson will be available for the drafting at the number five spot and enjoy your year out of the NFL. Once Blount is placated, then Peyton Hillis or even Mike Tolbert could be brought in to tote the rock in Tampa alongside Lagarrette thus enabling the Bucs to take Morris Claiborne at the five spot in the draft.
The bottom line is that the Buccaneers find themselves in the enviable position of having a bounty to spend in free agency in a year where the pickings are very good. As it stands now there would be very few Tampa Bay players in the top 20 on anyone's fantasy draft boards. By going out and signing a Vince Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Peyton Hillis or Dwayne Bowe and that all changes. Josh Freeman was a pre season top 10 fantasy prospect heading into 2011 and could possibly regain a top 10 -12 position heading into 2012 if the Bucs get him some quality offensive weapons. The money is there and the time is now for the Buccaneers to go out and buy that championship.