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Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Eddie Royal could fit Bucs' profile

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

We talked previously about how there’s speculation New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham could be a free-agent target for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It’s logical on a lot of levels. Tampa Bay’s new offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan, previously was an assistant for the Giants. The Bucs have a need to improve at wide receiver. As I noted, Manningham wouldn’t solve all of Tampa Bay’s problems. I don’t see him becoming a true No. 1 receiver and, although, he sometimes can make things happen in the deep game, I don’t see him as a consistent downfield threat, which is something the Bucs need. But I do think adding Manningham would help Tampa Bay’s receiving corps.

Now, let me throw another name that I view in a similar way at you. How about Denver’s Eddie Royal?

He’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent and the word is the Broncos don’t want him back. Although free agency hasn’t started and teams can’t talk to players until March 13, I’ve gotten some vibes that Royal might be a receiver the Bucs could be interested in.

Like Manningham, Royal wouldn’t solve all of Tampa Bay’s problems. But, also like Manningham, he could be a nice addition. I don’t see Royal as a No. 1 receiver, but I think he could fit as a No. 2 or 3 receiver. He had a big rookie year under former coach Mike Shanahan in 2008 when he caught 91 passes for 980 yards.

Royal’s numbers have slipped the past three seasons and he bottomed out last season, catching only 19 passes for 155 yards. But any receiver’s numbers are going to dip when Tim Tebow is your quarterback.

I think Royal could be much more productive in Tampa Bay with quarterback Josh Freeman. Royal is only 25 and I think the Bucs will be looking mostly at free agents in that age range. He also isn't likely to command a high price tag. Royal also has excellent speed. Maybe even more than Manningham, he has the ability to stretch the field. He also has ability and experience as a punt and kickoff returner.

Keep an eye on this one if Royal does in fact enter free agency.