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Offseason Forecast: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With the offseason officially underway, Around the League will examine what's next for all 32 teams. The series continues with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

What's changing

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a three-game improvement in coach Greg Schiano's first season at the helm. Of course, the 7-9 finish was disappointing when you recall the Bucs started 6-4, but it was still enough progress to keep the coaching staff and front office intact for another season. Expect the biggest changes to come in personnel. The Bucs must find a way to fix a pass defense that ranked dead last in 2012.

Biggest free agents

» DE Michael Bennett: Bennett emerged as a full-on stud this season, serving as an anchor in the Buccaneers' top-ranked rushing defense while setting a career-high with nine sacks. At 27, Bennett is primed to get a big contract, whether it's from the Bucs or someone else.

» FS Ronde Barber: The Bucs' secondary was an absolute travesty, but Barber deserved none of the blame. The 37-year-old veteran thrived in his switch from cornerback to free safety, further establishing himself as one of the franchise's all-time great defenders. The Bucs would love to have him back, but Barber might retire.

» CB E.J. Biggers: Biggers moved into the starting lineup when Aqib Talib was traded to the Patriots, but he hardly staked his claim for the job. He could have a future with the team, but probably not as a starter.

What they need

The Bucs emerged as the NFL's best run-stuffing unit in 2013, but their dominance on that end was negated by their secondary woes. The Bucs will cut ties with cornerback Eric Wright, who suffered through a dreadful season and also saw the guaranteed money on his bloated contract wiped out by a performance-enhancing drug suspension. The Bucs will push hard to give their secondary a huge makeover, building fresh elements around second-year strong safety Mark Barron.

The team also must decide if quarterback Josh Freeman is in their long-term plans. Freeman was maddeningly inconsistent in 2012 and it's fair to wonder if this is who he is after four seasons.

Offseason crystal ball

If there were more intriguing quarterback options through the draft or free agency, Freeman might be playing for his job this summer. Timing keeps Freeman entrenched, but it's no accident Bucs general manager Mark Dominik will have Freeman play through his contract year.

Don't be surprised if the Bucs enter 2013 with new starting cornerbacks on the left and right side. In their latest mocks, three of our draft experts believe the Bucs will use their first pick (13th overall) to select Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes. It certainly wouldn't be a bad place to start.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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