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Don’t discount free agency for Buccaneers

Posted Feb 17, 2011 by Ira Kaufman

Updated Feb 17, 2011 at 11:54 AM

By IRA KAUFMAN

TAMPA—In their efforts to bolster a weak pass rush, the Buccaneers may dip into free agency.

Despite their 10-6 record, the Bucs applied little heat off the edges in 2010 and defensive end ranks as a top priority for a team with the 20th pick in the April draft. This college crop is deep at the posiiton, but the Bucs would be wise to consider adding a proven veteran who can force quarterbacks into mistakes and hasten the development of young defensive tackles like Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller.

Tennessee’s Jason Babin would be an intriguing addition if the Titans don’t franchise the 30-year-old defensive end with a relentless motor.

Babin, a converted outside linebacker, registered 12.5 sacks last season coming off the left side. That’s almost half of Tampa Bay’s total of 26 sacks for the entire year and Babin earned his first Pro Bowl berth, adding 58 tackles and two forced fumbles.

If a new labor agreement can be forged in time to allow free agency, Babin’s production will make him a coveted target for many teams and the lack of continuity in Nashville won’t help Tennessee’s efforts to re-sign him. The Titans have replaced head coach Jeff Fisher with Mike Munchak and Babin’s defensive line coach, Jim Washburn, left for Philadelphia, with Tracy Rocker coming aboard.

At this stage of his career, Babin wants to cash in on his success last season. If Babin’s contract demands are deemed reasonable, the Bucs certainly will have the cap space to add him to a defensive front that lacks proven pass rushers at the NFL level.

It may be the right time for the league’s youngest club to make a bold statement by landing an impact free agent in his prime.

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