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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Kelly opts out to become free agent

15

February

As we told you to expect several weeks ago, cornerback Brian Kelly has officially opted out of the final year of his contract and has declared himself an unrestricted free agent.

Kelly paid the Bucs $453,000 by Thursday's deadline to void the final year of his deal.

The Bucs will miss Kelly. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, he was one of the most physical corners in the NFL. While he has had some injury problems the past two seasons, the Bucs won about 40 percent of their games when he wasn't in the lineup since 2001, according to his agent.

Suddenly, the Bucs biggest need might be the cornerback position. Ronde Barber turns 33 in April. Phillip Buchanon has progressed nicely, but the Bucs need another corner to allow Barber to slide inside to the slot position on passing downs.

Kelly has 22 career interceptions and his best year came in 2002 when the Bucs won the Super Bowl. Barber has received a lot more attention and accolades, but Kelly also viewed himself as Robin to Barber's Batman.

Now the dynamic duo is no more. Granted, Kelly has been limited by injuries the past two seasons. He still managed to make a good contribution last season, including a game-ending interception against the Redskins.

More importantly, he was a quiet leader in the locker room. But you can trust defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to re-stock that position.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 2:57pm]

    

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