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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Was Marvin Lewis' beef with Bucs a result of regret?

At Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis’ golf tournament last week, Bucs coach Raheem Morris reportedly said he’s got no beef with Lewis for his critical comments about the Tampa Bay’s methods in signing receiver Dez Briscoe.

"That's business, this is about the community and the bigger picture," Morris told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "It's not about whether you have a disagreement on the field or whether I like him on game day.

"I wanted to come in for Marvin and be supportive of him because he's always been supportive of me."

Briscoe joined the Bucs’ practice squad after being offered a rookie minimum contract of around $325,000, substantially more than the typical practice squad salary of less than $100,000.

That left Lewis fuming.

“When you overpay a guy on the practice squad, you create a problem for teams,” Lewis said before the Bucs and Bengals met last season. “I don't know that teams want to set that precedent and they did with Dez.

"That's not a great precedent for teams to set as we try to keep the NFL and doing the things we're trying to do as a league. It's still a league of 32 teams and things are put together a certain way.”

Am I the only one who thought then -- and now -- that Lewis sounded bitter? Shouldn't coaches want their organizations to go all out to land the best talent?

The fact that Lewis works for the notoriously cheap Bengals might have a lot to do with his strong feelings on the matter. While the Bucs have been fielding the league’s lowest payroll for a while now, the Bengals have a much longer and richer history of being tight-fisted.

Anyway, the point is not who said what. Instead, I thought it was worth pointing out that, in retrospect, Lewis’ comments were very telling. After watching Briscoe star for the Bucs in the team’s season finale at New Orleans (he had four receptions, including a 54-yard touchdown), it became clear why Lewis was so bothered by losing Briscoe. And for those of us who have seen Briscoe on the practice field, the Saints game wasn’t much of a surprise.

Similarly, Lewis knew even before Briscoe took the field in a regular-season game that he was a potential gem. And his surprisingly strong comments offered a confirmation of this. Briscoe shined for the Bengals in training camp and during preseason games, and his upside was tantalizing.

The Bengals had used a sixth-round pick on Briscoe last year but were loaded at receiver with a unit headlined by Terrell Owens and Chad Ocho Cinco. They ended up releasing Briscoe at final cuts and hoped to quietly sneak him onto their practice squad. But Bucs general manager Mark Dominik was clearly determined to prevent that, swooping in with a lucrative offer that Briscoe jumped at.

The moral of this story is, if you don’t want to risk losing a player, don’t cut him. The NFL is about competition, the Bucs are trying to win games, and Dominik rightfully will not apologize for the bold move.

Lewis is probably even more bothered by the loss of Briscoe now that his team faces the likely departure of Owens and Ocho Cinco. The team did spend its fourth overall draft pick on A.J. Green, but he’ll need help on the opposite side of the field from someone. Briscoe certainly would have been an attractive option.

Of course, now that he’s lining up for the Bucs, Briscoe’s no longer available to the Bengals – like it or not.

[Last modified: Monday, May 30, 2011 7:35pm]

    

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