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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Agent: Bucs DT Roy Miller headed toward free agency



Bucs nose tackle Roy Miller will head elsewhere as a free agent if the current state of his negotiations with Tampa Bay holds.

Talks between the team and its 2009 third-round draft choice, scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 12, have broken off with the sides seemingly far apart.

It’s unclear what the team is offering Miller and his contract demands aren’t known. But Miller’s agent did nothing to dismiss the notion that Miller is destined to play in another uniform in 2013.

“Roy is excited to see what’s out there for him in free agency,” said his agent, Mike McCartney. “He has a lot to offer after an excellent season, helping a team that was last against the run (in 2011) go to No. 1 against the run last season.”

While Miller’s numbers were underwhelming – he registered just 24 tackles – he had, arguably, his best season in 2012. He performed his primary role well, clogging the middle on first and second downs, allowing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and the team’s defensive ends to attack ball carriers. McCoy made his first Pro Bowl, in part, he has said, because of the play of Miller. The Bucs held opponents to a league-low 3.5 yards per carry in spite of their NFL-worst pass defense.

The Bucs lacked the sort of pass rush they were seeking, but Miller typically is not on the field on passing downs, giving way to more athletic defensive linemen in pass-rush situations.

Playing the “tilted nose” used in coach Greg Schiano’s defense, Miller, 25, excelled. It’s a role for which Schiano has described Miller as being “custom built.”

The Bucs would need to address the defensive tackle position in a concerted fashion if Miller leaves. Veteran Gary Gibson is on the roster and under contract, but he’ll be 31 when the season begins and has been a backup for most of his six seasons. There are no other experienced nose tackles on the roster.

Miller’s status as a two-down player hurts his leverage with the Bucs and other teams. But the Bucs have committed to such a player in the past, granting a 5-year, $29 million contract (with $11 million in guarantees) to strong-side linebacker Quincy Black in 2011. Black suffered a career-threatening injury last season and could be released soon.

It remains to be seen what kind of market there will be for Miller in free agency. He’s seen as an option primarily for 4-3 defenses, which more than half of NFL teams employ. He’ll have his first chance to negotiate with other clubs on March 9 when the NFL opens a three-day negotiating window during which free agents can agree to contracts in principle.

With Miller eyeing the open market, the issues along the defensive line could be compounded if the Bucs also lose defensive end Michael Bennett, their leader in sacks in 2012. It’s too early to say whether he and the club can come to an accord, but those talks also appear to be far apart.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 12:11pm]


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