The agent representing Bucs receiver Mike Williams and general manager Mark Dominik had a "very productive" meeting at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, creating optimism the sides can agree on a contract extension.
But agent Hadley Engelhard said the time line has been pushed back, with the Bucs asking for time to get through the busy months ahead.
"I met with Mark, and it was a very productive meeting," Engelhard said. "We are progressing toward a new contract for Mike, but they've asked us to be patient to let them get through free agency and the draft. We've agreed to be a little less aggressive and give them some time. The target date right now would be sometime in May."
The financial aspects of the conversation don't appear to have advanced far, but Engelhard said there is significant willingness on both sides to reach a deal.
"Mike really likes Tampa, and they like Mike," Engelhard said. "He's definitely outplayed his fourth-round compensation (a four-year deal believed to be worth $3.1 million), and they want him to be a part of the future."
Williams, selected in the fourth round in 2010, has averaged 64 catches in his first three seasons and had a career-best 996 yards in 2012. He always has expressed gratitude that the Bucs selected him after many other teams had taken him off their draft board because of a belief that he walked away from his Syracuse team while in college.
Though news of the meeting suggests things are moving in the right direction, that doesn't mean this will be a slam dunk. The Bucs will have to offer a package that makes it worthwhile for Williams, 25, to forgo free agency, which he would be eligible for after the 2013 season. What will it take for Williams to make that decision? Engelhard said it's too early to talk hard numbers.
"We'll see," he said. "Worst-case scenario: There's only nine months left before he'd become a free agent."