Dominik on the salary cap, Josh Freeman and linebackers
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik, taking a break from the NFL’s owners meetings here in Palm Beach, took some time to address a number of issues, including the club’s plans for its remaining cap space.
Though the Bucs entered the free agent signing period earlier this month with more than $40 million in cap space and have something in the neighborhood of $16 million remaining, that money can’t and won’t be used to sign more top-dollar free agents, Dominik said.
After doing more than $140 million in contracts since March 13, his plan for the cap space includes the following: save a portion for the incoming rookie class, per usual; Possibly spend some on a second wave of moderately-priced free agents after the draft; and account for next year and beyond, when the Bucs expect to face the prospect of some big contract extensions, including that of quarterback Josh Freeman.
“In terms of our team, the rookie pool is going to take up quite a bit of that (space),” Dominik said. “And I still have players that I have to look forward with in terms of wanting to get a long-term deal done whether it’s this year or next year. . . And we could always carry over (unused cap dollars). That’s a focus, to make sure we save that money.”
Many this week here in Palm Beach have offered not-so-rosy projections for increases in the salary cap, meaning the dramatic jumps many were expecting might not come to fruition. That’s something many teams are being mindful of and might be influencing Dominik’s approach here.
Some other highlights from our chat with Dominik:
* He remains hopeful about the odds of Freeman bouncing back in 2012.
“I’m obviously optimistic. I think we all are,” Dominik said. “I’m excited for him to learn the system, to go out there and work with Vincent (Jackson), go out there and work with our receiving corps, just get the confidence back. The goal is to get him more weapons.”
* Tim Tebow was never a consideration while the Broncos had him on the trading block.
“We have our franchise quarterback,” Dominik said. “If I didn’t have the confidence in Josh Freeman, then maybe. But (Tebow) still chose the Jets. But we weren’t in on it. No disrespect to him.”
* As for the linebacker position – which has been under much scrutiny because the team has elected not to make any linebacker signings – Dominik said the priority is to allow the new coaching staff to work with the current players before drawing firm conclusions. The Bucs will have a new defensive system, which they’ll start learning when coaches and players are permitted to begin working together on April 2.
The Bucs will have a minicamp in mid-April, before the NFL Draft.
“I think they have to get to know the guys a little bit better,” Dominik said of the coaches. “They haven’t even had a chance to be in the classroom to actually learn anything. Until our guys get to line up and actually occupy the three (linebacker) spots, and then we get that minicamp before the draft, that’s going to be an education for everybody. The classroom is going to be the key.”