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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Will Winslow deal create rush to GM office?

7

April

If you're Antonio Bryant, are you camped out at the door of Mark Dominik's office? Are you joined there shortly by linebacker Barrett Ruud?

Both men will become unrestricted free agents after the 2009 season and both have been productive players for the Bucs.

On the other hand, tight end Kellen Winslow attended two minicamp practices and earned a six-year, $36-million contract with $21.1-million guaranteed.

Winslow had two years remaining on the deal he signed with the Cleveland Browns, so there didn't appear to be much urgency to ink K2 to an extension.

But there are several factors that Dominik had to consider. The Bucs invested two draft picks -- a second-rounder in 2009 and a fifth-rounder in 2010 -- for Winslow. He's 25, and since Dominik and others believe he is one of the best tight ends in football, it makes no sense to risk having him become a free agent in two years.

Remember, Winslow was unhappy in Cleveland because the Browns wouldn't extend his contract. This  removes that bone of contention in Tampa Bay.

Dominik also stressed yesterday that the Bucs have no concerns about Winslow's knee injury that he sustained in a motorcyle accident in 2005 when he tore his ACL. He says Winslow missed six games last season because of a high ankle sprain, not because of anything related to his knee, although he has had some staph infections.

When healthy, Winslow is an 80-catch, 1,200-yard receiver who can create mismatches for any defense. The Bucs believe he can be one of their team leaders and one of their core players for years to come. One day of minicamp convinced the Bucs that he already is among the best players on the team. They weren't concerned that he left minicamp because it was voluntary and they were close to a deal.

Bryant was given a chance to re-start his career in Tampa Bay and led the club in receiving with 83 catches for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns -- all career highs. By making him their franchise player, Bryant received about a $9-million raise. He would've preferred the $20.1-million in guaranteed money that Winslow received.

Ruud has done everything to warrant a long-term extension. But if the NFL owners fail to sign a new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Player's Union, 2010 will be an uncapped year and players will have to be in the league six years to become a free agent.

Dominik's strategy is to use the Bucs' considerable room under the salary cap to retain young players and continue building through the draft. Two picks were used on Winslow, so this move is just an extension of that philosophy.

Tight ends like Tony Gonzalez have been productive into their 30's. If Winslow belongs in that category, it's money well-spent.

Still, you have to wonder if the Winslow signing will create an eventual stampede to Dominik's office door. 

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 3:30pm]

    

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