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Potential 2017 Buccaneers’ Free Agent Targets

Over the next few weeks, The Scrum Sports will explore possible free agent targets for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers going into 2017

The Bucs were one win away from a playoff spot in 2016. Tampa Bay has the third-most cap space in the NFL and with free agency approaching on March 9th, the team has their name pinned to a few free agents who could become instant difference makers inside One Buc Place.

S Eric Berry, Chiefs

Just less than two years after battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Eric Berry is astoundingly hitting the free agent market as one of the top names available.

Berry has been selected to the Pro Bowl five times in seven years, being selected each year he’s been healthy. He’s had 14 INT’s, including 367 tackles in his seven seasons in the NFL.

The 28-year old strong safety has said he will not play under the franchise tag, meaning the Chiefs will need to complete a long-term deal with him. Berry will demand a top-dollar contract after seeing Vikings’ S Harrison Smith and Cardinals’ S Tyrann Mathieu sign major contracts last offseason. He’s actually threatened the Chiefs’ by saying he’ll sit out the 2017 season if he’s hit by another franchise tag.

A move to Tampa Bay would mean it is likely the team would part with Chris Conte, who is also a free agent. But McDougald would not cost the Bucs nearly as much as Berry.

RB Le’Veon Bell, Steelers

Le’Veon Bell could be the best RB in all of football. The 25-year old doesn’t look like he’s going to leave Pittsburgh, as Ian Rapoport reported that Bell is almost certainly going to sign the franchise tag to stay in Pittsburgh, but let’s dream for a minute.

Although Bell has seen suspensions for failing the NFL’s drug policy test, he is one of the most dynamic players in the entire league.

In 2016 alone, he had 7 TD’s and 1,268 yards in only 12 games. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry, which is astounding.

He would instantly put Tampa Bay in playoff talk, if they aren’t already, plus open up the field for Jameis Winston in the passing game.

But he will most likely return to Pittsburgh.

WR Alshon Jeffery, Bears

This is another free agent that Tampa Bay has been linked with, it’s very interesting.

Jeffery has had two 1,000-yard seasons, along with 27 TD’s in five years in the NFL, sprinkled with injuries.

He’s just coming off a franchise tagged season, and it’s anticipated that the Bears won’t tag him again, but sign him to a long-term contract.

In come the Bucs. The team is not hiding the fact they need a solid number two receiver opposite Mike Evans. Many are looking to the draft, others looking through free agency. Jeffery will be that solid number two receiver, although he has number one talent, but many criticize this move coming off of Vincent Jackson.

Alshon Jeffery does not have the breakaway speed the team seeks. A serious speedster across from Evans would open up, not only the passing game, but the running game as well. I’m sure Jason Licht will closely look at Jeffery’s situation going into free agency.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants

The controversial edge-rusher surprised many in 2016. Pierre-Paul performed very well, despite losing multiple fingers in his right hand.

He posted 7.0 sacks, with three forced fumbles in 2016.

Tampa Bay has a serious shot despite the Giants actively trying to resign Pierre-Paul. He’s from Florida and played his college ball at USF in Raymond James.

The former first-round pick in 2012 will not be a cheap signing, but would put this Tampa Bay’s defensive line over the top along with Noah Spence on the outside and potentially William Gholston if he is resigned to the team.

S Johnathan Cyprien, Jaguars

Cyprien is another name Tampa Bay could add to their secondary . Although they showed flashes of greatness, the Buccaneers’ secondary gave up big plays too often and could look to the free agent pool to add-on outside talent.

Cyprien was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft by Jacksonville and had not produced quality numbers up until last season. He gained off of the signing of S Tashaun Gipson, allowing Cyprien to play up in the secondary¬†and led all DB’s with 127 total tackles in 2016.

Another motive to sign Cyprien is due to his lack of production in his early years. It makes GM’s wonder whether he could be a one-year wonder. Being only 26, no matter where Cyprien goes he’ll be in the prime of his career to showcase himself. With that being said, many teams won’t offer too much money to the young safety. Perhaps the Buccaneers could pull of a low-risk, high-reward type deal with Cyprien.

As of now, it looks like a 50-50 move whether he will move from Jacksonville or not.

WR Desean Jackson, Redskins

Although Jackson turned 30 in December, he’s still faster than most receivers in the NFL. This is exactly what the Bucs need.

He may come at a price like most vets do, but Desean Jackson would open up the field for both Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. I believe this is what the team needs more than anything, a speedster who is capable of beating every defender in a foot race.

Signing Jackson would defeat the need to draft a receiver in high rounds of the draft, meaning they can use those picks for better use. There are many needs throughout this team, defeating the need for a number two receiver could start here.

He would get the long-term deal he wants, plus it would make sense for both sides, who are trying to compete for a Super Bowl. This move, although aggressive, makes a lot of sense in the end.

DB Micah Hyde, Packers

Hyde can help at corner and safety, as well as return kicks, which this team has longed for, for many years.

He’s become a plug-in the run game for Green Bay, stopping huge runs in front of him, before the break away. Hyde is an above-average tackler, he just has to take the next step and become a top cover man as well. Being only 26, the soon to be free agent has much time to grow into a top-tier talent.

This signing by no means would turn every head in the Bay, but it could be an under-the-radar deal that could give Tampa a quality utility man, such as a Russell Shepard.

The market for Hyde right now is very unpredictable, because when Green Bay’s defense is fully healthy, Hyde is not a starter unless in a nickel package. So whether the Packers decide to resign him or not would more-than-likely depends on how much other teams are willing to spend.

WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings

This is the most unpredictable free agent in this years group. Patterson was a first round pick in 2013 and has completely been a failure thus far.

Patterson has made it clear he wants to play. He told Minnesota he’d like to return but he will only return if he is promised to play, otherwise, he’s leaving. I’m sure anywhere he goes he’ll have to prove himself before he’s promised a spot.

Patterson had so much potential after being picked 29th overall to the Vikings and showed it in his rookie season, he’s the explosive outside threat the Bucs have been looking for. But his inconsistency has teams on their toes about signing him.

But he has a lot going for him, he’s only 26-years old, he is also a great kick-returner, plus Patterson has made it clear he’s interested in moving to running back, where he thinks he can exceed. For someone with great elusiveness, Tampa Bay may need to give a look to Patterson.

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