Could Bucs be players in free agency?

Shortly before the lockout began and soon after Tampa Bay re-signed cornerback Ronde Barber to a one-year, $4 million contract, the Buccaneers were sitting at a league-low $63.8 million in salary-cap space committed toward the 2011 season.

You also need to remember the Bucs have placed tenders on guard Davin Joseph and some others, so this number’s going to climb a bit if the tenders hold up in a new labor agreement.

But it’s pretty likely the Bucs will be doing some subtracting as soon as the labor agreement is reached. As I said in this post, the Bucs are almost certain to cut ties with troubled cornerback Aqib Talib as soon as they can, and that move will clear up roughly $1.35 million in salary-cap space.

We don’t know what the new salary cap will be. In 2009, the last capped year, it was right around $130 million. In some of the reports about the labor negotiations, there were indications owners were pushing for a cap as low as $101 million. So let’s just go hypothetical, split the difference and say the cap will be somewhere around $115 million.

Throw in the tenders, assume the Bucs might re-sign a few of their new players and factor in whatever they have to pay their rookies. No matter how you slice all that, it’s pretty safe to assume the Bucs still will be well beneath the cap.

The Bucs haven’t been big players in free agency lately and they’ve been preaching about how they’re building with youth, which is nice. But there also will be a salary-cap floor, if there is a salary cap and the Bucs will have to meet that.

Sometimes, coach Raheem Morris talks a little more than he should. But, after a quick crunch of the numbers, I’m wondering if Morris was sending out a signal when he was asked about what his team might do in free agency when he met with the media at the NFL owners meeting in New Orleans last week.

“You get your plan, you lay it out and you execute it,’’ Morris said. “We talk about when to dabble in free agency, adding some pieces to push you to the next level. Those things happened in Tampa . And maybe those things will happen again. Are we at that point yet? We’ll have to find out. You’ve got a good idea who you want to target. You can’t close the door. Sean Jones worked out great. Derrick Ward was not a great fit for us. You get a certain value. You’ll never hit 100 percent in the draft or life, you just want to be more right than wrong.’’

I’m not expecting the Bucs to go on a crazy spending spree in free agency, but I’m thinking Morris sounds like a man who is planning on doing a little shopping once the store opens. Hey, with that kind of cap room, the Bucs just might be able to replace Talib with some like ...oh, let's just say Nnamdi Asomugha. That would be an upgrade on many levels.