Bryant camp still calling for long-term deal
WR Antonio Bryant's camp is setting the record straight.
Yes, Bryant is pleased to get the chance to stay with the Bucs, a sentiment he has shared with his position coach. But after being designated the team's franchise player, it's the terms under which he remains here that don't sit well with the team's star receiver.
The sticking point, agent Lamont Smith said today, is that the one-year, $9.884-million deal doesn't provide the long-term security Bryant expected after playing on a one-year contract in 2008. So, despite the Bucs currently showing no interest engaging in further talks, Bryant maintains his stance on wanting a long-term deal.
"Antonio's point is that he wants and deserves security," Smith said. "He proved himself in every aspect last season. He felt he is deserving of being treated like guys who play well and are good citizens as he was (in 2008).
"He's not happy or pleased with it. He's pleased that that he can remain a Tampa Bay Buc. But the circumstances he is not pleased with. And that was the case based on my conversations with him just a few hours ago."
But the odds appear to be against a deal being struck based on Smith's account of recent events. He said he submitted his latest contract proposal to the team two days ago but never received an acknowledgment or response. He said he also was not given the courtesy of being told in advance the team was proceeding with the decision to franchise Bryant. Smith said he learned of the move after it was official.
"I don't know if they're still interested in negotiating," Smith said.
Bryant would be amenable to a deal in the 4- to 6-year range, Smith said.
"We're open to talking about that," he said. "We haven't been inflexible and we don't intend to be inflexible."
Smith wouldn't characterize how far apart the sides are when it comes to the value of the deal, but it appears the biggest disagreement is in the amount of guaranteed money. A long-term deal that doesn't include substantial guarantees is worth little in the NFL, where contracts can be voided on a whim.
Last year, free agent receivers Javon Walker (Oakland) and Bernard Berrian (Minnesota) signed blockbuster deals that each included $16-million in guaranteed payouts. Bryant perhaps could have fielded very similar offers on the open market had he been allowed to become an unrestricted free agent. As it is, he'll be able to negotiate with other clubs, but the Bucs retain the right of first refusal and would receive two first-round picks as compensation from any club that signs him to a deal.
The next move appears to be the Bucs', as Smith said he is waiting to see whether they re-open negotiations. He'll also shop Bryant as a free agent even though the restrictions make it a tough sell. If he relents and chooses to sign the offer, Bryant must do so by July 15 if he wishes to continue negotiating. Otherwise, he'll be limited to signing the one-year contract.
"The game ain't over," he said.
-- STEPHEN F. HOLDER