Sunday, March 11, 2012

Finnegan, Rogers and Carr provide best options for Tampa Bucs at cornerback

Free agency begins Tuesday and with more cap space than any other team and perhaps more needs, it will be interesting to watch the Tampa Bay Bucs.

The Bucs need help in the their back seven, particularly the secondary and could also use some size and speed at receiver. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get some veteran leadership into the linebacking corps.

But the Bucs biggest need is at cornerback. There is a severe lack of talent and uncertainty, which is exacerbated by the division it plays in that forces them to face New Orleans Drew Brees, Atlanta's Matt Ryan and now Carolina's Cam Newton twice a year.

Ronde Barber has been a staple at CB, but turns 37 next month and his 22 missed tackles last season have to be a concern along with allowing nearly 65 percent of the passes thrown in his area. Aqib Talib could be in jail or suspended by the NFL when his trial in Texas concludes and his performance last season took a nose dive.

There are plenty of top notch free agent cornerbacks available, including San Francisco 49ers Carlos Rogers who was passed over last year by the Bucs when he was on the market from Washington. He had perhaps the best year of his career last season and could provide instant relief for Tampa's wounded secondary.

Rogers is 30 years old. His age might preclude teams from signing him to a long term deal, which should make him more appealing to Tampa, especially if Barber does not return. His six interceptions tied for third highest among CBs.

The name being tossed around a lot is Tennessee Titan Cortland Finnegan (see photo) who has also been promoting himself to the Bucs.

Finnegan proved very efficient at covering the slot, was tagged for just eight missed tackles all season and allowed just 8.8 yards per reception compared to Barber's 12.7 average.

He is a physical corner/safety though his over-aggressiveness has gotten him into hot water with the NFL. At 5-10 with 4.54 speed, he lacks the height and quickness you would like in a CB, but he could move to safety and provides a nastiness the Bucs secondary desperately needs.

At one time Finnegan said he aspired to be the dirtiest player in the league and went all out to reach that goal. Joining a secondary that had the most missed tackles last season, he does fill a need.

If the Bucs do pursue Finnegan they could likely get into a battle for his services with new St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher and that would raise his price and could chase them away. There is also talk Dallas' maligned secondary will sway owner Jerry Jones to join the Finnegan pursuit.

Kansas City's Brandon Carr is the best available free agent CB in many eyes and perhaps will be the most sought after defensive back. It will cost some bucks to get him, which should give Bucs fans an inkling into how serious the front office is in pursuing the top flight free agents.

Younger at 25 and taller at six-feet, Carr (207 pounds) might be a better option for the Bucs than Finnegan. He had a career high four interceptions last year and is a solid cover corner with good size. He allowed less than 50 percent of the passes thrown into his area to be completed.

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