Say this about Lovie Smith: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach knows how to silence a crowd.
Despite signing three attractive free agents and courting others on Tuesday, all the talk surrounding the team was about allowing Darrelle Revis to walk.
To Smith, the cornerback, set to earn $16 million next season, was John Dillinger. The coach saw a bank heist when he put his eyes on Revis.
Many long-suffering Bucs fans saw a guy who made the Pro Bowl last year and helped turn the league's worst pass defense in 2012 to respectability.
A season removed from knee surgery, Revis now seemed to have no ceiling on his skill set.
Releasing him was just as bad as giving Revis the six individual $16 million dollar contracts that cost the Bucs a first-round draft pick last year under former GM Mark Dominik.
The Bucs' new regime looked as if it was in a panic mode, and Lovie was getting peppered with criticism.
Then the coach pulled a rabbit out Tuesday night when it was announced the Bucs signed former Tennessee Titans defensive back Alterraun Verner.
Lovie went from Public Enemy No. 1 to hero in a lot of eyes.
The 25-year-old Pro Bowler signed a four-year deal worth $26.5 million with $14 million guaranteed. He had five interceptions and 23 passes defended last season and is said to be a nice fit in Smith's Tampa 2 defense.
The former fourth-round pick is not a Darrelle Revis, and his man coverage skills have been subject to criticism.
Smith could sell out Raymond James Stadium if he announces he is going to keep Revis and play him opposite Verner.
It won't happen, but the coach picked up some cache with fans over this signing. Now he can argue
$16 million, even for one year, is too much unless you are a quarterback.
Verner is icing on the cake for the Bucs' first day of free agency.
Tampa Bay signed three free agents, and a coveted group is in waiting.
The Bucs spent the most money on Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson for five years ($42.7 million with $24 million guarantee). They also signed defensive tackle Clinton McDonald of the world champion Seattle Seahawks and tight end Brandon Myers of the New York Giants.
They are hot on the heels of Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Collins and are talking an annual contract of between $6.5 and 7 million, which means Donald Penn will need to restructure his deal or find another team.
Collins has not allowed a sack in 713 consecutive pass blocks (since 2009), according to Josh Kirkendall of Cincy Jungle.
Smith loves Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman and can get him relatively cheap; he is 33, coming off surgery for torn triceps and missed half of last season. Tillman has forced 42 career fumbles, the most by a defensive back in league history.
Smith is talking to defensive lineman Henry Melton, who also is said to be a perfect fit for his Tampa 2 defense.
Getting back to Revis.
The Bucs could sign, trade him later and get value in return or release him.
He appears all but gone now.
Let's be honest, the deal the Bucs made with safety Dashon Goldson was the bigger waste of money last season.
Revis follows the money, which could lead him to Cleveland, where the Browns' new head coach, Mike Pettine, was his defensive coordinator when both were with the New York Jets. The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles are said to be interested. The Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars have enough cap space to make a deposit at Fort Knox.
A new player could be the Denver Broncos, who are $25 million under the cap and looking to win it all before Peyton Manning starts selling pizzas full time.
Bears quarterback Josh McCown was en route to Tampa Tuesday and eager to sign. His absence Tuesday at least kept the Mike Glennon crowd quiet for a day.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.