The Bucs took huge steps toward rebuilding their once-proud defense by taking Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price with their first and second round picks.
"It starts up front around here. It's always started up front. That's never been truer," coach Raheem Morris said. "Get those guys up front humming and it makes your linebackers better, your secondary better, the guy calling the plays better, everybody better."
"I don't think I can compare to Warren Sapp by any means," McCoy said. "He's a great player, a Hall of Fame guy and I wouldn't take anything from him... I haven't proved anything at all."
Tampa Bay entered the draft needing to find some targets for QB Josh Freeman and did just that in the second round, selecting Illinois WR Arrelious Benn. Then on Saturday, the Bucs selected Syracuse receiver Mike Williams with the third pick in the fourth round Saturday.
Williams had numerous off-field issues that caused him to be suspended or miss games at Syracuse. But at 6-foot-2, 221-pounds, Williams is an enormous talent. In 2007, he caught 60 passes for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns. Last year, he had 49 receptions for 746 yards and six TDs in just seven games.
"I don't think anybody spent more time than the Buccaneers did and I think we're going to reap the rewards for it," Dominik said.
BEST PICK: Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy -- The Bucs were last against the run and the three-technique position is critical to the Bucs success. In addition to being extremely charismatic, McCoy has an unrelenting motor and the ability to penetrate and be disruptive. He will make every player on defense better.
COULD SURPRISE: WR Mike Williams -- The Syracuse receiver had a history of off-field problems that forced him to miss all or parts of two seasons. But Williams, at 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, is tremendous after the catch. Nearly all his problems were school-related and he gives QB Josh Freeman another big target.
A closer look at the Bucs picks
Round 1/3 -- Gerald McCoy, DT, 6-3, 300, Oklahoma: Should have an immediate impact as the prototypical Tampa two three-technique defensive tackle.
Round 2/35 -- Brian Price, DT, 6-1, 303, UCLA: Another player to improve the NFL's worst run defense. Price will move to nose tackle.
Round 2/39 -- Arrelious Benn, WR, 6-2, 220, Illinois: Recruited to Kansas St. by Raheem Morris. Excellent after the catch.
Round 3/67 -- Myron Lewis, CB, 6-2, 205, Vanderbilt: Tampa 2 corner and heir apparent to Ronde Barber.
Round 4/101 -- Mike Williams, WR, 6-2, 221, Syracuse: Off-field problems forced Williams to drop but he is a first-round talent.
Round 6/172 -- Brent Bowden, P, 6-2, 202, Virginia Tech: Bowden is said to have a strong leg with 33.6 percent of his kicks downed inside the 20-yard line. He had 40 punts of longer than 50 yards during his career and had a 42.2 gross average.
Round 7/210 -- Cody Grimm, S, 6-1, 203, Virginia Tech: The son of former Redskins great Russ Grimm played linebacker for the Hokies but will be a safety in the NFL. Forced three fumbles in four plays vs. N.C. State.
Round 7/217 -- Dekoda Watson, LB, 6-1, 225, Florida St.: Watson led the Seminoles in tackles for loss (13) and sacks (6.5) last season, and will be reunited with former teammate Geno Hayes in Tampa Bay.
Round 7/253 Erik Lorig, DE, 6-3, 281, Stanford: Switched from TE to DE after 2006.
--Coach Raheem Morris attempted to recruit Arrelious Benn to Kansas State when he was on the Wildcats coaching staff in 2006. "When you turn on the tape and watch Benn you see a guy who catches the football, and then after he catches the football, he's tough to get on the ground," Morris said. "You see a guy run after the catch. Fortunately, I had a lot of experience, a lot of development with Benn. My year at Kansas St., I had the ability to go out there and try to recruit the young man and he was highly recruited. You're talking about if not the No. 1, one of the top five wideouts coming out of high school that year.'
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Some people collect quarterbacks. I guess I collect defensive tackles." -- Bucs GM Mark Dominik.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--S Jermaine Phillips broke his hand and finished the year on injured reserve.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--FB Byron Storer (not tendered as RFA) spent the year rehabbing his knee. He could be done.
--LB Rod Wilson (not tendered as RFA) is a special-teams player and backup middle linebacker.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)
--*OT Donald Penn (tendered at $3.168M with first- and third-round picks as compensation) is a very capable left tackle and did his best the first weeks of 2009. But then he seemed to shut it down and gained weight.
--*OT Jeremy Trueblood (tendered at $1.759M with second-round pick as compensation), as the starting right tackle, led the Bucs in penalties against last season.
--*RB Cadillac Williams (tendered at $2.299M with first-round picks as compensation) was the Bucs' most inspirational player who played in all 16 games despite tearing previously the patellar tendon in both knees.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--WR Mark Bradley: RFA; (tendered at $1.809M with second-round pick as compensation); $1.809M/1 yr.
--LB Angelo Crowell: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Elbert Mack; terms unknown.
--*LB Barrett Ruud: RFA; (tendered at $3.268M with first- and third-round picks as compensation)$3.268M/1 yr.
--*WR Maurice Stovall: RFA; (tendered at $1.176M with third-round pick as compensation); $1.176M/1 yr.
-*LB Jon Alston: Not tendered as RFA by Raiders; terms unknown.
--WR Reggie Brown (trade Eagles).
--S Sean Jones: UFA Eagles; terms unknown.
--S Will Allen: UFA Steelers; $4.4M/3 yrs, $950,000 SB.
--P Josh Bidwell (released).
--WR Antonio Bryant: UFA Bengals; $28M/4 yrs.
--WR Brian Clark: Not tendered as RFA/Lions; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Torrie Cox (released).
--P Dirk Johnson (released).
--QB Byron Leftwich (traded Steelers).
--LB Matt McCoy: Not tendered as RFA/Seahawks; terms unknown.
--DE Jimmy Wilkerson: UFA Saints; terms unknown.