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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Carl Nicks on deck for Buccaneers

By Pat Yasinskas

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t waste much time celebrating their acquisition of prized wide receiver Vincent Jackson on Tuesday night.

They didn’t have time because they had to get to the airport to pick up New Orleans guard Carl Nicks. The Bucs are expected to go hard after Nicks, who did receive an offer from the Saints that he termed "respectable." But the fact that Nicks was willing to fly to Tampa late Tuesday night for a Wednesday visit at One Buccaneer Place is a pretty strong indication that Tampa Bay has given signs it may be willing to make Nicks the league’s highest-paid guard.

The Bucs still have plenty of cap room and the fact that Jackson jumped to Tampa Bay so quickly could be a sign that it’s about to become a destination spot for free agents. The fact that Florida doesn’t have a state income tax is also a selling point, but giving free agents the impression that new coach Greg Schiano is on the verge of turning the franchise around makes the Bucs even more attractive.

Landing Nicks after Jackson would be a huge coup for the Buccaneers. Jackson was viewed by almost everyone as the top receiver in free agency. Nicks is viewed by many as the premier guard in the league.

Jackson is 29 and Nicks is 26, so it’s pretty obvious the Bucs are targeting free agents that are still in their prime. That wasn’t always the path taken back when the Bucs last were a strong player in free agency. Former coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen often signed players in their 30s and the results were mixed.

That’s one reason the franchise adopted a policy of building through the draft under current general manager Mark Dominik. That philosophy is still in place. But, after sitting still in free agency last year and going 4-12, the Bucs realized they need to supplement what they build through the draft with some free agents.