No tag for Berrian, Moss
The free-agent landscape is coming into more focus now that this afternoon's deadline to designate franchise and transition players has passed.
The Bears surprisingly decided against franchising receiver Bernard Berrian. That means, unless the sides can come to terms on a contract in the next seven days, Berrian will become a free agent on Feb. 29. As far as the Bucs pursuing Berrian, we're pretty much convinced they'll be in the conversation, but so will a host of teams. The problem here is Berrian is going to command a very high salary because he'll likely be the most coveted free agent receiver. The Bucs, as we know from the past few offseasons, are quite careful not to spend more than they deem a player is worth. Berrian might too expensive in their view.
The deadline came and went without the Patriots franchising receiver Randy Moss. There is, however, some speculation that Moss and New England have a verbal agreement on a deal. Because Moss restructured his deal once during the current league calendar, he can't sign another contract until the start of the new calendar. That means he'll technically become a free agent at least for a while next Friday, even if he has a handshake agreement with the Patriots. It seems pretty unlikely Moss is going anywhere, however.
So, where will the Bucs find receiver help? Don't count out the possibility of a trade. The free-agent class is pretty unimpressive at the position. But the Broncos would like nothing more than to trade Javon Walker. We know the Bucs and Broncos have done business in the past. It was almost one year ago that they executed the Jake Plummer trade, so there's certainly a precedent. There's even been some buzz about Arizona's freakish Larry Fitzgerald being available, though that might require some interesting math with his huge contract. But if you ask me, the Bucs are more likely to work hard at a trade than they are to get into a bidding war for a receiver they're not completely sold on.
The second-tier free agents include Jacksonville's massive Ernest Wilford, Seattle's D.J. Hackett and Oakland's Jerry Porter.
One last note on the franchise deadline. Wanted to give you a rundown of some of the players who were tagged. The list includes: Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby, Philadelphia tight end L.J. Smith, Baltimore defensive lineman/linebacker Terrell Suggs, Dallas safety Ken Hamlin, Green Bay defensive tackle Corey Williams, Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant, Carolina tackle Jordan Gross, Cincinnati offensive lineman Stacy Andrews and Kansas City defensive end Jared Allen.