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So far, Bucs choose not to spend compulsively

There's something about a pocketful of cash that influences us to do the inevitable: spend.

Doesn't matter the source, from a hefty tax refund to a sudden inheritance. Ever wondered why two-time lottery winners were playing the second time around? It's because they need the money.

The temptation to spend the fortune at your fingertips often proves irresistible — except, it seems, for the Bucs.

Given the way these guys know how to hold onto a buck, maybe we should entrust general manager Bruce Allen with eliminating our insurmountable national debt.

Of course, when you're paying $99 for a half-decent seat at Raymond James Stadium, you want your team to spend liberally to improve the product. And when your team has $44-million in salary cap space, as the Bucs did entering free agency, you pretty much expect it.

Perhaps this is where everyone went wrong.

This just in: These are the Bucs. In other words, they're not big spenders. That's not news. And it's not an indictment. Consider it a reminder for the legions who have demanded for the past nine days that Allen be forced to walk the plank.

Ask yourself: Before last week, when was the last time Tampa Bay went out and paid silly money for a free agent who was not already on the roster? The answer arguably is never.

For perspective, consider that new center Jeff Faine's contract, a $37-million package signed on the first day of free agency, was the most lucrative deal given to an outsider in franchise history.

Yes, there was the infamous free agent class of 2004. Tackle Todd Steussie got a $20-million deal, but that was the going rate for so-called elite players at that critical position. The Bucs paid running back Charlie Garner and tackle Derrick Deese large sums, but nothing in Steussie's neighborhood. (By the way, the fact each of those signings proved disastrous is irrelevant but certainly not forgotten.)

Beyond those deals and a handful of others, the blockbuster contracts have gone mostly to those in-house. Derrick Brooks got a $30-million extension in 2001, back when the salary cap wasn't nearly as high as it is today. And the Bucs once made Simeon Rice the highest-paid defensive player with a $41-million pact in 2003.

Last week, Allen told us he prefers to lock up the team's young core players rather than overspend on free agents who might not fit in. Granted, financial prudence in the NFL is a must. Teams that mismanage money generally follow those mistakes with poor on-field results. And financial missteps are extremely difficult to overcome in the long term because of the cap constraints that typically result.

That said, with the unprecedented amount of cash the Bucs have at their disposal, they certainly have the opportunity to address needs. They say they prefer to do so through the draft and possibly through trades that might give them access to a better pool of talent.

Their approach is an interesting one, but it sure turns up the pressure. There will be no margin for error the rest of this offseason. What if the prospect the Bucs want is gone by pick No. 20? What if that potential blockbuster trade falls apart at the last minute?

We won't be able to fairly evaluate the Bucs' offseason until we see how good they are on the field. Whatever they do there, we know one thing for sure: Nobody beats these guys when it comes to balancing a checkbook.

Kiffin LIKES JENKINS: USF cornerback Mike Jenkins got plenty of praise from Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin after the Bulls' pro day Friday. Jenkins is projected as a first-round pick in April and plays a position where the Bucs lack depth. "He's a special guy," Kiffin said. "He's got great feet and great ball skills. You can see it."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached


So far, Bucs choose not to spend compulsively 03/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:32am]
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