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Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Breaking down Tampa Bay's free-agent class

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Our final stop in our look at each NFC South team's potential free agents is Tampa Bay.

Unrestricted free agents: Wide receiver Antonio Bryant, cornerback Phillip Buchanon, defensive end Kevin Carter, receiver Michael Clayton, quarterback Jeff Garcia, receiver Cortez Hankton, defensive tackle Jovan Haye, quarterback Luke McCown, safety Jermaine Phillips, defensive tackle Ryan Sims and tight end Jerramy Stevens.

Restricted free agent: Tackle Donald Penn.

Overview: It's a good thing that the Bucs have $40.4 million in salary-cap room right now because they're going to need a good chunk of that to re-sign some players they want to keep. We still don't know what type of offense the Bucs want to run, but that doesn't matter when it comes to keeping Bryant. He'd fit in any scheme and he showed last season he can be a No. 1 receiver.

Bryant wants to stay with the Bucs because new coach Raheem Morris already knows how Bryant turned his life around and he doesn't want to go somewhere where he's starting from scratch. Clayton also could be brought back now that Jon Gruden isn't the coach. Clayton and Gruden didn't get along. Clayton has some solid skills and likes living in the Tampa Bay area. He could thrive with a new offensive coaching staff.

Again, much will depend on what type of offense the Bucs are going to run, but it seems unlikely they'll keep Garcia. It's time for the Bucs to get younger at quarterback.

Defensively, Buchanon, Carter, Haye and Phillips all were starters last season. Look for the Bucs to make a strong run to keep Buchanon, Haye and Phillips. Carter was productive last season, but he's 34. If he's willing to play at a reasonable salary, the Bucs might keep him, but Carter's not a priority.

It will be interesting to see what the new regime does with Stevens. He's had a history of off-field problems, but Gruden never met a player he wouldn't sign. Morris and new general manager Mark Dominik may put more emphasis on character. If they do, they probably won't bend any rules to keep a marginal tight end.

The Bucs also may try to lock up Penn, who has become a solid left tackle, with a long-term contract.