The NFL free agency period begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday. For seven consecutive days, The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com will feature one position each day. We'll provide an analysis of the position and list the players to consider: Bucs under contract for 2010, and Bucs and notable NFL players scheduled to become free agents.
OK, Bucs fans. You be the general manager.
Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham faced an unlikely opponent that limited their performances last season.
Their coaching staff.
The Bucs failed to commit to the running game for most of 2009, which did nothing to help rookie quarterback Josh Freeman.
Williams proved he could carry the workload, rushing 211 times for 823 yards and four touchdowns, but the Bucs' coaching staff struggled to integrate Ward into the offense and Graham's carries diminished when he was asked to shift to fullback in place of injured B.J. Askew.
Still, running back does not appear to be an area of great need for the Bucs. Ward and Graham are under contract and Williams is unlikely to leave after receiving a tender offer from the Bucs on Friday.
Return specialist Clifton Smith also remains an option in the backfield - if the Bucs can come up with a game plan for four running backs.
Bucs under contract for 2010
B.J. Askew - Great FB when healthy but is injury prone
Earnest Graham - Unselfish, must compete with Smith
Kareem Huggins - Has some definite upside
Chris Pressley - FB improved as season progressed
Derrick Ward - Didn't say much; production was quieter
Bucs potential free agents
Clifton Smith - Hoping Bucs will reward him
Byron Storer (RFA) - On injured reserve past two years
Cadillac Williams (RFA*) - Team's leading rusher in '09
NOTE: (RFA) - denotes restricted free agent; Bucs have chance to match any offer or receive compensation if player leaves. (RFA*) - denotes restricted free agent if no Collective Bargaining Agreement in place.
NFL potential free agents
Mike Bell, Saints (RFA) - Provides depth for Saints
Chris Brown, Texans - He's 30, on downside of career
Jerome Harrison, Browns (RFA) - Team's top threat
Willie Parker, Steelers - Has become an afterthought
Chester Taylor, Vikings - Lost his job to Adrian Peterson
Pierre Thomas, Saints (RFA) - Hard to not keep him
LaDainian Tomlinson - Wants to be on a contender
Brian Westbrook - Injury prone but still has gas in tank
Tuesday, March 2: Defensive backs
Wednesday, March 3: Receivers/tight ends
Thursday, March 4: Summary and results