Nothing doing between Bucs, Antonio Bryant
The Bucs have a few pressing matters they need to handle, namely hiring quarterbacks and receivers coaches.
But if there's any multi-tasking going on, it sure doesn't involve talks with WR Antonio Bryant. Though Bryant is a few short weeks from becoming a free agent, we've learned the sides aren't really engaging in talks of any kind. There's been not a murmur about the team's intentions or even a suggestion they'd like to talk.
That doesn't necessarily mean the Bucs have made up their minds about Bryant. But it does suggest they fully intend to let him hit the market in early March before committing to anything long term. Bryant is seeking a multi-year deal with significant guarantees, but it's unclear how much the Bucs are willing to devote to him.
Of course, they spent nearly $10 million on him last season when he was given the franchise tag and the automatic salary that comes with it. They knew they couldn't afford to lose him last spring and made the tough decision as a result. There was talk this week at the Senior Bowl that Bryant could be franchised again, but it is very, very unlikely. From a financial standpoint, it makes little sense. The Bucs could have made a significant down payment on a long-term deal for Bryant last season for the amount of money they would spend on two consecutive seasons of franchise-player deals.
So, the likeliest scenario is that Bryant tests the market, then the Bucs either step up and match the offers or decide to pass. They're likely betting that his value will be lower this offseason coming off a season during which he was slowed by a knee injury and had a dropoff in production. He finished with 600 yards on 39 catches after recording 83 catches for 1,248 yards in 2008.
The Bucs might feel like they have the upper hand here, but they have a desperate need at receiver and can't proceed as if losing Bryant won't hurt. And here's a little food for thought. Don't write off the Washington Redskins when it comes to potential suitors for Bryant. It was their new general manager, Bruce Allen, who signed Bryant in Tampa in 2008 and allowed him to revive his career after a season away from the game. And receiver is a position the Redskins might look to upgrade this offseason, given the average production last season. We've already heard this as a possibility, but of course it's very early.
We'll keep watching the Bryant situation and update you as the need arises.