Will Antonio Bryant be tagged? Clock's ticking
The Bucs are definitely engaged in talks with WR Antonio Bryant, though it's been difficult to get a characterization of where things stand.
But there's something of a deadline looming for the Bucs. The deadline to designate a player as one's franchise player is 10 days away, on Feb. 19.
If the Bucs can't come to terms on a long-term deal with Bryant before then but aren't willing to lose him, then it's hard to see them not using the tag on Bryant. If the Bucs tag Bryant and he subsequently signs the offer, the Bucs would be obligated to pay Bryant $9.884-million for 2009. That's the average of the league's 10 highest-paid receivers. What they get in return is the ability to ensure his place on the roster for 2009 unless a suitor is willing to give up two first-round picks as compensation for acquiring him.
If the Bucs allow Feb. 19 to come and go without using the franchise tag on Bryant, then they open themselves to the very realistic chance of losing Bryant on the open market. The free-agent signing period begins Feb. 27.
UPDATE, Feb. 10, 9:26 a.m.: There's one other tidbit I should have mentioned last night. I recall walking out of Raymond James Stadium with Antonio after the season-ending loss to the Raiders, and the one thing he expressed indignation about was the number of times he was wide open down the field without the ball being delivered. Whether it was a swipe at Jeff Garcia is not the point, though it's impossible to ignore that Garcia's primary weakness has been hitting downfield targets.
Anyway, here's the point: Monday's re-signing of Luke McCown just might -- might -- get Bryant's attention. He knows if McCown can do one thing, it's get the ball down the field. He has the strongest arm on the roster even if he does have some areas where he needs to show a lot of progress. So, while I'm not promising you anything here, I can say that signing McCown at least addresses one of Bryant's chief concerns. Money usually is ultimately the deciding factor in these matters, but it certainly helps when there are other reasons a player is attracted to the idea of being on a particular team.