ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest mock draft on Thursday, this time projecting the first two rounds.

Kiper's choice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemed like an easy one, since he said the best available player also fills Tampa Bay's top need.


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Greatest Buccaneers: No. 2

April, 17, 2014
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My series of the top five players in Tampa Bay history continues with No. 2

I’m going with defensive end Lee Roy Selmon (it shouldn't be hard to figure out that Derrick Brooks is No. 1). My choice for the top spot came down to Selmon and Brooks and I don’t think either one would have been wrong.

Selmon was the first star in franchise history. The first draft pick in franchise history, Selmon helped the Bucs grow from an expansion team that started 0-26 to a team that reached the NFC Championship Game in its fourth season.

Selmon was a dominant pass-rusher on some very good defenses. He also was one of the classiest players ever to come through Tampa Bay's locker room. Selmon symbolized all the good things about professional sports and that continued long after his career was over.

Selmon became a staple in the Tampa Bay community. He died way too young, but his impact in Tampa Bay will be felt forever.

NFL Nation Buzz: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

April, 16, 2014
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ESPN.com Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas says the Bucs need a wide receiver to start opposite Vincent Jackson, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they selected a wideout with the No. 7 overall pick.

Greatest Buccaneers: No. 3

April, 16, 2014
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It’s time to continue my series of the top five players in Tampa Bay’s history with No. 3. In this spot, I’m going with defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

Sapp
That should pretty much lead you to the conclusion that Lee Roy Selmon and Derrick Brooks are in the top two spots (and you’ll see the final order tomorrow). Putting Sapp third was a tough call because he was in strong consideration for the top spot.

Sapp changed the position of defensive tackle. He showed that you can dominate a game from the interior of the defensive line. For most of his time with the Bucs, Sapp was the best defensive tackle in the game.

He and Brooks were the cornerstones of a defense that won one Super Bowl and probably should have won more than that if the offense had been better. Sapp was never beloved by the fan base the same way that Brooks, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Mike Alstott were.

That’s largely Sapp’s fault. His personality was unpredictable. He could be warm and funny one minute and vicious the next. There are countless tales of Sapp being rude to fans.

That’s unfortunate, but it was part of the package with Sapp. Say what you want to about Sapp’s personality, but this guy will always be one of the top players in Tampa Bay history.
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All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy insisted Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't have to worry about him holding out this summer while his long-term contract discussions are ongoing.

"When they say report to camp, Gerald McCoy will be there regardless of what happens," McCoy told a group of reporters during a break in the team's offseason condition program, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

McCoy, 26, is entering the final year of his rookie contract, which will pay him a healthy sum of $13 million in salary and bonuses.

That could become the norm for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 draft. His market value could be somewhere in that $13 million-per-year range on a long-term extension.

New Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith said last month that locking up McCoy long-term is one of the team's top priorities.

After battling injuries early in his career, McCoy has emerged as one of the league's best defensive tackles with two straight Pro Bowl nods. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder had a career-high 9.5 sacks last season.

McCoy also said Tuesday that he is excited about resurrecting the classic "Tampa 2" defense under Smith, with McCoy playing the same under-tackle role that Hall of Famer Warren Sapp once played.

"I talked to Sapp the other day, and I told him, 'I can see now why you loved this defense so much,''' McCoy said, according to the Tampa Tribune. "I said, 'This is going to be fun,' and he said, 'Well, it's not going to be easy, because you have a lot of work ahead of you. You have a lot of responsibility as the under tackle.'


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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ranked right in the middle of the pack when it came to spending money on players in 2013. They ranked 16th in the NFL, according to the ESPN The Magazine/Sportingintelligence Global Salary Survey.

The Bucs spent a total of $107.7 million, which came to an average of $2.032 million per player, based on a 53-man roster. The three teams who spent the most were the Minnesota Vikings ($122.7 million), Seattle Seahawks ($122.1) and Chicago Bears ($118.5).

Those figures aren’t the same as salary-cap figures, because they account for actual money spent in 2013 -- including signing bonuses.

That’s why former Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis didn’t rank among the top-10 highest-paid NFL players in 2013. Although Revis made $16 million last year, other NFL players who received lofty signing bonuses ranked much higher (such as quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Tony Romo).

It’s interesting to note how low all NFL teams rank on the overall list among all sports teams around the world. No NFL teams rank in the top 100 on a per-player basis (in part because their rosters are so much larger than basketball, soccer and baseball teams).

But even when it comes to total spending, no NFL teams ranked in the top 20, which was completely made up of major league baseball and international soccer teams. The top three spending teams in all sports last year were the Los Angeles Dodgers ($241.1 million), New York Yankees ($208.8) and Manchester City ($202.7).

Greatest Buccaneers: No. 4

April, 15, 2014
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We continue my series of the top five players in Tampa Bay’s history with No. 4. In this spot, I’m going with Ronde Barber.

Barber
For 16 years, Barber was the model of consistency and competence on and off the field. He thrived in the Cover 2 defense that Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin brought to Tampa Bay and his longevity was impressive.

You could make an argument Barber was the best draft pick in franchise history. He wasn’t taken until the third round, but he blossomed into a player who was selected first-team All-Pro five times and was on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s.

Barber's biggest claim to fame might be the fact that he’s the only player in NFL history with at least 40 career interceptions and 20 career sacks. That alone puts Barber in the conversation for a spot in the Hall of Fame, although he might face a tougher time getting there than teammates Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, who were selected the first time they appeared on the ballot.

But Barber belongs on any list of the top players in franchise history. Perhaps the best thing about Barber was he spent his entire career with the Bucs and things ended gracefully. Some of Tampa Bay’s other all-time greats left on bad terms. But Barber got to decide when it was time to walk away from the game and that was something he richly deserved.

James Wilder Jr. arrested, released

April, 14, 2014
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Former Florida State running back James Wilder Jr. was arrested Sunday on a bench warrant related to driving with a suspended license, jail records show.

Wilder was jailed Sunday night in Tampa, Fla., and released just after midnight on $1,000 bond, according to the records.

Wilder played for the Seminoles for three seasons before declaring for the NFL draft. He ran for 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns in his collegiate career.

The son of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' all-time leading rusher, Wilder worked out for the Bucs on Friday.


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Greatest Buccaneers: No. 5

April, 14, 2014
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I’m taking a little time off. But, while I do, I wanted to leave you with something to keep you entertained.

Starting today and continuing through the rest of this week, I’m going to share with you my ranking of the top five players in Tampa Bay history.

I’m going to start with Doug Williams at No. 5. Williams wasn’t a slam dunk like the first four (although the order on them was a challenge). As I attempted to come up with No. 5, I considered players like John Lynch, Jimmie Giles, Mike Alstott, Paul Gruber and Hardy Nickerson.

After a lot of thought, I chose Williams. My reasoning was simple. Williams and Lee Roy Selmon, who will be a little higher up in the top five, were the two players who first brought respectability to a franchise that began its existence with an 0-26 record.

Williams led the Bucs to the NFC Championship Game in just their fourth year of existence. Williams never put up spectacular numbers, but he had a knack for producing in the clutch. I have no doubt that Williams would have ranked higher on this list if he had stayed with the Bucs longer.

But Williams spent only five years in Tampa Bay. He left for the United States Football League after an ugly salary dispute. The Bucs went into a tailspin after Williams’ departure and some suggested it was karma for the way the team treated Williams.

Things were smoothed over for a while as Williams came to work in the team’s personnel office in the 2000s. But Williams and former general manager Mark Dominik clashed and Williams left the team. It’s a shame that one of the best players in franchise history has an icy relationship with the team.

Free agency after one month

April, 11, 2014
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Getty ImagesDeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers will all be in new cities come the fall.
It has been one month since the beginning of NFL free agency and there has been no shortage of excitement.

Some of the game’s top defensive players have packed their bags, while the Denver Broncos have looked to bolster a defense that was exposed in the Super Bowl.

Here is a look at some of the major free agency headlines so far:

Broncos back at it
The Broncos were among the most active teams in the first few days of free agency.

DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, Emmanuel Sanders, T.J. Ward and Will Montgomery will all wear orange and blue in the fall. Denver is trying to become the third team in NFL history to lose the Super Bowl and then win the game in the following season (Cowboys in Super Bowl VI and Dolphins in Super Bowl VII).

But that effort has not been cheap.

The Broncos have spent more than $65 million in guaranteed money this offseason – second only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Denver seems to be following a similar script to its 2013 offseason, when the team signed five players in the first month of free agency, including Wes Welker and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

While the Broncos have added some notable players, they have also lost some big names. On the offensive side of the ball, Denver will have to replace Zane Beadles, Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno. On defense, the Broncos will look to make up for the loss of Champ Bailey and Rodgers-Cromartie, among others.

Bucs spend big
The Buccaneers have added 15 free agents – the most of any team – so it is no surprise that the effort has been costly.

They’ve spent more than $70 million in guaranteed money in the first month of free agency, including re-signings.

Unfortunately for the Bucs, spending money early in free agency does not necessarily mean the future is bright. Four teams spent at least $50 million in the first month of free agency last season (Lions, Dolphins, Colts, Cowboys) and the Colts were the only one of those teams to make the playoffs in 2013.

Show them the money
In terms of contracts that have been reported, five of the six players to get at least $20 million in guaranteed money were defensive players.

The Saints gave safety Jarius Byrd $26.3 million – the most guaranteed money during the first month of free agency among reported contracts. The next highest was Branden Albert, Aqib Talib, Michael Johnson, DeMarcus Ware and then Vontae Davis (re-signed with team).

Pass rushers swap teams
Since the start of the 2010 season, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers have the first and third-most sacks among NFL North players.

Those two defensive ends changed teams within the division in the first month of free agency. Allen went from the Vikings to the Bears, while Peppers signed with the Packers after being released by Chicago.

Allen and Peppers rank in the top three in sacks among active players and Allen has 10 more sacks in his career, despite playing two fewer seasons.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers already lead the league in one category.

Since the start of free agency, the Bucs have given out $74.3 million in guaranteed money to their incoming free agents and the ones they’ve re-signed, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

No other team is even close. Denver is second with $65.5 million in guaranteed money. The Raiders ($51 million) and the Vikings ($50.2 million) are the only other teams to top $50 million in guaranteed money.

But spending big money in free agency doesn’t necessarily translate into success. Last year, four teams (Lions, Dolphins, Colts and Cowboys) spent at least $50 million in guaranteed money in the first month of free agency. The Colts were the only one of those teams to make the playoffs.

Rotation won't slow Doug Martin

April, 11, 2014
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Even though coach Lovie Smith has said he plans to use a rotation in his backfield, don't go dropping Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin from your fantasy team.

Martin
Martin still is going to be the main ball carrier and that means he still will be a fantasy force. Smith and his staff will work Mike James and Bobby Rainey into the rotation, but that’s not going to diminish Martin’s impact.

If anything, not having to handle virtually all the carries, the way he did under former coach Greg Schiano, should help keep Martin fresh. James and Rainey showed they’re capable runners last year when Martin was out with a shoulder injury.

But James and Rainey aren’t quite in Martin's class and that means the rotation isn't going to split up the carries too much. Martin still will get the bulk of the carries and he’s shown he can produce in fantasy and real life.

The Bucs are going to run the ball a lot, maybe even more than they did with Schiano. James and Rainey will help keep Martin fresh. That little bit of rest could help Martin, who carried 319 times and caught 49 passes as a rookie in 2012, be even more productive.
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John Clayton reveals that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers outspent every other team in free agency for $144.7 million. Yet, with six top-paid players moving off the roster, they cleared $37.2 million of cap room, only $5.4 mil less than they spent..

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