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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs inactive despite late flurry of moves around NFL



When Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said during the NFL Combine last week that he had no plans to do any deals before the conclusion of the 2010 league calendar, he wasn't kidding.

You might have noticed a flurry of transactions around the league in the past couple of days, consisting mostly of teams re-signing their own players and a handful of signings of players who became free agents after their teams recently released them.

Among the bigger moves in the past 48 hours were the signings (or re-signings) of Pierre Thomas (Saints), A.J. Hawk (Packers), Owen Daniels (Texans), Leon Washington (Seahawks), O.J. Atogwe (Redskins) and Bob Sanders (Chargers). Meanwhile, the Bucs opted to stand by their word and presumably made no effort to strike last-minute deals with any of their own free agents, much less look at the handful of free agent veterans on the market. Now, the league is closed for business, even though the owners and players union have agreed to a 24-hour extension of the collective bargaining agreement to allow for more negotiations.

That's not to say the Bucs' move was the wrong move. It's much too early to know that. And the Bucs were hardly the only team to take this approach.

But you have to wonder whether this is a slightly risky approach to the offseason. The Bucs will go into the draft without knowing whether they will be able to retain players like Davin Joseph, Barrett Ruud and Quincy Black, each a starter who played a major role for the club. That complicates the draft to some extent for obvious reasons. Another consideration: If a protracted work stoppage ensues -- and we might not know this for a while -- the Bucs and the rest of the league could find themselves in a mad dash to sign free agents whenever a labor deal is struck. That potentially increases the likelihood Tampa Bay could lose notable players on the open market.

Dominik will tell you that one of the reasons for the approach is that he, like other executives, doesn't know what the details of the next labor agreement are going to be, making it difficult to structure contracts and project toward the future. But the truth is, other teams did some big-money deals this week, and the Bucs' status as the league's lowest-paying club last season means the return of a salary cap probably isn't going to be much of a burden.

Ironically, the one deal the Bucs did do -- early last week -- was the one with cornerback Ronde Barber, a deal that arguably could have waited because it's almost certain Barber was going to play here or nowhere.

It's worth noting that we don't know whether this approach is being mandated by the the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs. That's a distinct possibility, though this is admittedly pure speculation. And we should point out that the decision not to do deals could have been influenced by the contract demands of the Bucs' free agents, which aren't known (Side note: For the record, our information strongly suggests the sides haven't had any deep contract negotiations anyway, so maybe that wasn't the issue).

Again, the intent here is not to claim the Bucs are going about this the wrong way. Instead, the goal is to contrast how some other teams have used the final days of the league calendar in a much different fashion. There's probably no right or wrong way here. Just different ways.

As for the Bucs, they made no bones about the path they were going to take. Over the coming months, we'll see how that ultimately works out.

EDIT: I should have pointed out that although a number of Bucs free agents (Joseph, Black among them) were tendered offers as restricted free agents, there is a very little chance those tags will mean anything under a new collective bargaining agreement. A new deal is expected to make players with four or more years of experience unrestricted free agents.

[Last modified: Friday, March 4, 2011 8:22am]


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