Starting to look like Clayton will hit free agency
The purpose of the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis is to evaluate prospective players for the draft. But general managers are more concerned right now with the free agent signing period, which begins at 12:01 Friday morning.
It's starting to look as though receiver Michael Clayton will make it to free agency. If he does, I think he signs with the Seattle Seahawks the first week.
Receivers coach Richard Mann really wants Clayton to remain in Tampa Bay. "He does all the little dirty things,'' Mann said.
And Mann also knows that Clayton's dip in production following his rookie season can be attributed to landing in Jon Gruden's doghouse.
That said, Clayton's agents really believe there will be a decent market for his services and it's hard to argue. He has pedigree as a former first-round pick and is an elite player in a free agent receiver class that includes T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Having re-signed quarterback Luke McCown and placed the franchise player tag on receiver Antonio Bryant, the biggest priority for GM Mark Dominik is to re-sign Phillip Buchanon.
Clayton is one of those guys whose value is hard to agree on and it only takes one team to fall in love with him. The Seahawks would be a good fit. They have a major need at the receiver position and president/GM Tim Ruskell was in the Bucs' front office when Tampa Bay drafted Clayton (as was Seahawks VP of player personnel Ruston Webster and VP of football operations John Idzik. They understand the reason for his dip in his numbers.
In some cases, like Clayton's, it might be necessary for players to determine their market in free agency. But as Dominik says, it won't preclude them from re-signing with the Bucs.
"I think once the bell rings and you see what comes out of the gate, it gives you an idea of where the market is going to settle on a lot of players,'' Dominik said. "You either start that or you adjust to it.''