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Winning offseason often for losers, but Bucs may be different

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider

Like fellow signees Carl Nicks and Eric Wright, Vincent Jackson is in his prime years. (Getty Images)  
Like fellow signees Carl Nicks and Eric Wright, Vincent Jackson is in his prime years. (Getty Images)  

Plenty of teams have won the offseason and then imploded when actual games were played. Nothing is more meaningless than capturing the offseason Super Bowl.

The Eagles did it last year and finished as an average team. Washington under Danny Snyder has won many offseasons going back to signing an aging Deion Sanders. On and on it goes ... the Jets were recently offseason champs. The Bears with Jay Cutler. It's an annual tradition this declaration of offseason titles. Which brings us to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Peyton Manning's destination notwithstanding, so far at least we might have another offseason winner, as the Buccaneers have done perhaps the best job of stocking their roster. What they're doing is impressive. Extremely impressive.

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In fact, these Tampa moves are so solid I think the Buccaneers will beat the trend of the offseason champion turned regular-season flop. I'm not crazy about Greg Schiano as a head coach but it's hard to argue with the moves Tampa has made.

They signed Vincent Jackson, the best receiver in this free-agent class. Risky, yes, after all, he has two DUIs, leading to the NFL suspending Jackson. But he's a huge, powerful target for young thrower Josh Freeman. Most importantly, he's not an aging star. Signing old men beyond their prime is a staple of offseason champs. Jackson is in his.

They added Carl Nicks the best guard and maybe second best offensive lineman on the free agent market. During the season Nicks expressed on more than a few occasions his unhappiness with how New Orleans was handling the situation. Well, he's gone from the Saints, and the $31 million in guaranteed cash he's getting will surely ease the pain of leaving. Again, there's a risk factor, as that much guaranteed money for a guard is a lot.

They finished an initial flurry of moves by signing cornerback Eric Wright, a solid player who will help a defense that needs plenty of it.

The Bucs are doing exactly what they should. The team entered free agency with a team-high $44 million available in cap room. They are not only spending that cash, they are doing so wisely. "If we didn't believe it could happen here," said Jackson, "we would have stayed where we were at."

Schiano picked up the players at the Tampa airport at four in the morning. I don't know what that means. I just found it interesting. It's almost a college-type move.

People around the league are watching. One general manager said the Bucs have done the most impressive job in free agency of any team thus far.

Now, again, we've heard this before. Think back to almost this time last year. The Eagles had signed a number of great players. By the time their offseason was done the media had dubbed Philadelphia "The Dream Team." It was unfair because the organization didn't say this; Vince Young did. But the name stuck.

Snyder remains the ultimate offseason winner. He became the first owner of a team whose payroll surpassed $100 million. In those early years of Snyder, the reckless Redskins signed Jeff George, Sanders and Bruce Smith. It was a disaster.

These aren't those moves. Tampa went younger, adding both stars and depth.

I'm told that when Schiano became head coach he was promised the team would utilize all of its resources to get better. That sounds simple enough, but not all organizations actually do that, or if they decide to, they then make really dumb moves.

"It's an opportunity to do something special," said Jackson at a news conference on Wednesday. " ... we're all hungry."

Hungry and smart.


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