Jan 8, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) puts pressure on New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) during the first half of the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at MetLife Stadium. New York Giants defeat the Atlanta Falcons 24-2. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

Curtis Lofton still an option

Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t just going to ignore the linebacker situation and “build through the draft” at that position. I mean, it’s pretty much a sure thing that they are going to take Morris Clairborne (or maybe even Trent Richardson) at the number five spot in the first round. They could take somebody in the second round of the draft, but it seems better if the Bucs use some of the $20 million in cap space they have on a linebacker like Curtis Lofton.

Here’s the thing, the Bucs are still interested in bringing in the top run-stopping linebacker from Atlanta. The problem is that he has made his price tag so high that only the Washington Redskins would be foolish enough to sign him. The Bucs aren’t going to overpay for him, no matter how talented he is. By the way, Lofton is coming off of his worst year and was beaten badly in pass coverage in some plays. Still, there is no denying his talent, and he is a beast against the run. Curtis Lofton would be an immediate upgrade to a terrible run defense and team that just can’t tackle and has huge problems with the overpaid and overrated Quincy Black. Mason Foster looks mediocre at best and is a better fit at OLB anyway.

Although the Buccaneers stupidly gave Eric Wright over $7 million a year, they won’t give Lofton too much money now that the Bucs have less money overall. It just wouldn’t make sense, no matter the upgrade. Wright is worse than Curtis Lofton and, contrary to what some Bucs beat writers are saying, is coming off of a terrible contract year and is poor in coverage. He has the talent, but he gives up some huge plays and will continue to do so as he ages. Unless of course, he dramatically puts it all together and ends up being more than a glorified run-stopping CB.

In any case, the decision for the Bucs is to decide whether or not they can sign Curtis Lofton, and whether or not he will be willing to take a cheaper deal. If he doesn’t, the Bucs could trade some money and pass coverage for run-stuffer Joe Mays at inside linebacker. He is visiting the Saints and Colts right now and will probably sign in New Orleans, but he is an interesting Plan B. He can’t cover to save his life, but he is a monster against the run. I would obviously take Lofton over him, but it’s just a suggestion.

The coaching staff hasn’t had the opportunity to evaluate Foster yet and might just move on and draft somebody and see what they have in Training Camp. That isn’t the best thing to do, and I would like to see the Bucs try to sign a linebacker. Erin Henderson and David Hawthorne are two high priced options available, but the Bucs probably want to go the cheap route. Channing Crowder? That would be interesting. I want the Bucs to pick somebody up and inject life into this group of LBs, but they will either sign Lofton or a cheap, solid guy like Mario Haggan if they even add anybody.

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons Channing Crowder Curtis Lofton David Hawthorne Eric Wright Erin Henderson Free Agency Indianapolis Colts Joe Mays Mario Haggan Mason Foster Morris Clairborne New Orleans Saints QUincy Black Tampa Bay Buccaneers Trent Richardson Washington Redskins

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