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Bucs being choosey in free agency

Of Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, returning an interception against the Bucs, Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik publicly remains noncommittal about acquiring him. But, he says, “We have a plan, and we’ve been sticking to that plan.”

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Of Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, returning an interception against the Bucs, Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik publicly remains noncommittal about acquiring him. But, he says, “We have a plan, and we’ve been sticking to that plan.”

TAMPA

If you're looking for a firm answer on whether the Bucs will acquire Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, you're not going to find it here. Things are still too fluid.

But if you want to know whether the Bucs are serious about adding players of Revis' caliber, that's something we can shed light on.

The short answer is yes. But there's a larger point. The historically frugal franchise is willing to spend big on talent, evidenced by Wednesday's signing of 49ers All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson for five years and $41.25 million ($22 million guaranteed). The Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks signings of 2012 are more examples.

However, the club will be extremely deliberate. That's a result of a new focus on getting the best players money can buy, as opposed to players who aren't great but are rewarded with rich contracts anyway.

Take Revis. General manager Mark Domi­nik was asked last week about the team's intentions. He didn't offer much clarity, but his answer still spoke volumes.

"We don't stop," Dominik said. "We're going to continue to look in any way that we can to improve the football team. Just know that Coach (Greg Schiano), myself, our front office, we're still all looking. The Glazer family continues to provide us resources, and we're going to continue to look to see if there's anything that we think is rare and unique or a player we really think can help our football team."

Pay particular attention to "rare," which applies to Revis, the best cornerback in football (and likely to become the highest-paid, too).

Though you're likely wondering if the Bucs will ever sign a cornerback to improve what was the NFL's worst secondary in 2012, this attitude explains why the team didn't bite on the likes of Dolphins free agent Sean Smith, who signed with the Chiefs for three years and $18 million ($11 million guaranteed).

The Bucs have salary cap space and could have acquired most any of the free agents you've seen sign in the past week. But for better or worse, they're going to be choosy.

"We do a lot of strategic planning three, four, five years out to make sure we don't put ourselves in a situation where we can't sign players that we want to retain and make sure that when players like Dashon Goldson become free agents, we're able to strike and attack," Dominik said.

"I wouldn't count us out of anything, because I think we want to keep our doors open. But we have a plan, and we've been sticking to that plan."

The Bucs might pass on some of the smaller fish, but if they're to be believed, they're going to relentlessly pursue the big ones.

MORE REVIS: A factor in a Revis trade is his surgically repaired knee left, but the Bucs aren't terribly concerned. A key milepost in recovery from a torn ACL is when someone begins running. Revis is at that point, meaning doctors can better determine how his knee is responding to stress.

BENNETT VS. BOWERS: If it seems like the Bucs didn't put up much of a fight to prevent defensive end Michael Bennett from leaving for the Seahawks, it's because they didn't.

Bennett signed a one-year, $5 million deal Thursday, one the Bucs surely could have matched. But they determined long ago they weren't going to work hard (or pay much) to keep him.

Why? The reasons are more about Da'Quan Bowers. The Bucs, rightly or wrongly, believe the 23-year-old has more upside than Bennett. The 2011 second-round draft pick led the nation in sacks in his final season at Clemson with 151/2. Bennett has 15 career sacks in the NFL and wasn't drafted.

As for not keeping Bennett for depth, the Bucs figured if Bowers plays every down at left end, as they envision, there would be minimal opportunity for Bennett to contribute. Time will tell if they made the right call.

New tight end: The Bucs signed tight end Tom Crabtree late Friday. Crabtree, 27, 6 feet 4, 245 pounds, had eight catches for 203 yards and three touchdowns for the Packers last season.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @HolderStephen.

Bucs being choosey in free agency 03/16/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 10:52pm]
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