Bucs officially franchise Bryant
The Bucs have moved much closer to ensuring that WR Antonio Bryant lines up for Tampa Bay in 2009.
The team, as expected, has officially designated Bryant its franchise player, the team confirmed. Team officials haven't been available for comment, but the decision likely means the sides weren't close to striking a deal on a contract extension for Bryant, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in eight days.
Having used the franchise tag, the Bucs ensure that Bryant -- once he signs the contract -- will play for the Bucs unless another team decides to sign him and give up the required two first-round picks as compensation. That outcome is remote, at best.
At the very least, this move buys the Bucs some time. They can continue talks toward a long-term contract with Bryant, but can do so without the risk of losing him for nothing in free agency.
Bryant will get a hefty payday if he signs the tender, with the tag coming along with a $9.884-million salary that becomes fully guaranteed after the deal is signed.