By Bucs Beat
There are several upcoming dates that will be key to determining what happens during free agency and in the offseason in general.
One of them is next Thursday's deadline for teams to designate franchise and/or transition players.
This doesn't really apply to the Bucs because they have no intention of using either tag on any of their free agents. But many teams around the league are contemplating doing so for their big unrestricted free agents. Those decisions will greatly impact what the free-agency field looks like when the signing period begins on March 5.
Some of the players that could be tagged -- thereby making them extremely difficult to acquire -- are Saints S Darren Sharper, Raiders DT Richard Seymour and Texans CB Dunta Robinson, among many others.
But for right now, it's all speculation. Once the deadline passes, then we'll know who on this list will truly be an unrestricted free agent (provided they aren't signed to a long-term contract first). The fewer franchise and transition designations the better the free-agent pool will be.
For the record, franchise and transition designations give teams the right of first refusal against a competing offer and comes with steep draft-pick compensation if the team loses the player. Franchise players receive a one-year salary equal to the average of the top five players at his position. For transition players, the salary is the average of the top 10 players at the position.
Of course, where the Bucs are concerned, they won't be very active in pursuing big-ticket free agents. General manager Mark Dominik has said as much. But the team does have many positions that need to be upgraded or where depth is badly needed. So, Tampa Bay is hoping there is good depth in the free agent pool, which is why this topic is important to you Bucs fans out there.