Bucs GM Dominik won't change course: expect younger team, fewer free agents
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik is committed to continuing a youth movement that resulted in a 3-13 record last season.
What can Tampa Bay football fans expect in 2010? A younger team with 10 draft picks and almost no involvement in free agency.
But Dominik insists the centerpiece of the Bucs' turnaround already is in place -- quarterback Josh Freeman.
Dominik addressed the Bucs future following the morning workout of the North squad at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Tuesday.
"We're going to look in free agency. But as I studied, I'm a firm believer we're going to build this thing from the draft,'' Dominik said. "People can say, "Hey, could they spend a lot of money in free agency?' I don't think we're going to be big players in free agency because I really believe you build through the draft.
"I think fans saw that it started to pay off with Josh Freeman. It's good to know to know you have a quarterback now who is a big piece. You see at the Senior Bowl, there are maybe 16 teams here saying, "We've got to find our quarterback.' It's a hard thing to find.''
"You sit back and look at the Indianapolis Colts and how Bill Polian always built his franchises. Or you look at the Pittsburgh Steelers or the New England Patriots. Those teams go through and they either trade for players or maybe once in awhile, they buy a free agent. But the teams that have success in the National Football League -- Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New England and the Colts, it's the draft.''
Unless there is a new collective bargaining agreement, there will be no salary cap in 2010, rendering free agency pretty useless. The 212 players that would've become unrestricted free agents will be restricted, meaning teams will have a right to match any offer.
The Bucs own five of the top 99 picks in the NFL draft, including the No. 3 overall choice and two, second-rounders. But Dominik believes there's a solid core of experienced players to build upon.
"One thing with this football team, we still have guys on this football team that do have experience,'' Dominik said,
"Certainly, we may end up being a little bit younger next year, but that's not our prerogative anymore. Our prerogative was to make the team younger but not to always stay a young football team. That can never work.''
The Bucs dwindling attendance has not been lost of their second-year general manager. About 15,000 seats sat empty for most of the team's games at Raymond James Stadium last year.
"I think you have to win,'' Dominik said. "I think that obviously a key element to anybody showing up. I've been to other venues, other sporting events, not only in football, but where you see attendance is a deritive of wins and losses. So that's an important element and certainly I'm very aware of it.
"We've got to have team that people are excited about and players they fall in love with.
That's important to us and why we've spent a lot of time preparing for this 2010 draft.''
Much of the cause for Dominik's optimism centers on Freeman, who went 3-6 as a rookie starter with 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
Dominik said Bucs fans should be excited about their franchise quarterback.
"I'll give you a week. Why don't you guys poll the other GMs about Freeman and how he played and I'll bet you those people will say, "I was impressed,' Dominik said. "He was 3-6 as a starter, that's reality. He could've been 2-7 if someone makes a kick. But he could've been 6-3 or 7-2 with him as a starter with the same team that was 0-8. I think there's a lot to be excited about with Josh. There's a young guy who's going to be 22 years old that a lot of teams in the National Football League would love to have and we're excited he's a Tampa Bay Buc.
"As important as the position is critiqued, damn it's nice to have one.''