TAMPA — In the sleep-deprived world of Mark Dominik, it can be difficult to enjoy the job of your dreams.
Consider a caffeine-consuming stretch from Wednesday to Friday in which the new Bucs general manager released five veterans, including longtime linebacker Derrick Brooks; engaged in an up-all-night bidding war for Titans free agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who wound up signing a stimulus-sized package with the Redskins; failed to extract free agent linebacker Jonathan Vilma from the Saints; and presided over marathon talks to re-sign cornerback Phillip Buchanon in which the sides remained apart.
By late afternoon, an exhausted Dominik told an agent he needed to rush home for a couple of hours to steal a few winks.
The first day of free agency did produce a trade that rated a couple of Red Bulls. The Bucs acquired tight end Kellen Winslow from the Browns in exchange for two draft picks, reportedly a second-rounder this year and a fifth-rounder in 2010.
Winslow, 25, mistook Bucs coach Raheem Morris for a new teammate upon his first introduction. "Have you met this guy? Oh, yeah. I'm excited," Winslow said of the 32-year-old coach. "I thought he was a player."
Winslow, a Pro Bowl player in 2007 who ranks third among tight ends in receptions and fourth in yards since 2006, had a tumultuous start to his five-year career. The Browns' first-round pick in 2004 missed 14 games as a rookie and suffered a torn ACL and internal injuries from a motorcycle crash before the 2005 season. Winslow said he has matured since his college days at Miami, where he once compared football to war and called himself a ''soldier."
He has had two staph infections as a result of surgeries on his knee since 2005. The Browns attempted to suspend him last season for disparaging the club about the matter, but he won his appeal and was fined $25,000.
"I would say 'misunderstood' would be a better word to use," he said of his troubled image. "People don't really know me yet."
Nobody ever doubted Winslow's talent. In 44 career games, he has 219 receptions for 2,459 yards with 11 touchdowns. He will complement two former Cleveland teammates — quarterback Luke McCown and receiver Antonio Bryant.
"Is he a better athlete than me?" Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Sr. told the St. Petersburg Times. "Absolutely. I've known that since he was 10 years old. Anyone who knows anything knows that."
As for his son's mishaps? "Anybody, if they're smart, is not the same person you were five years ago," he said. "You grow and you go through a natural process. I don't care if you're a CEO or in Congress. He wants to win, and this is a new step for him."
Winslow has two years remaining on a contract that will pay him $4.5 million in the fall and $4.75 million in 2010. But the Bucs entered free agency a whopping $61 million under the salary cap.
Dominik entered Friday with every intention of spending it. The Bucs targeted 6-6, 320-pound Haynesworth at 12:01 a.m. and stayed in the game until sunrise before he reached an agreement on a seven-year, $100 million deal that includes a record $41 million in guarantees.
In the afternoon, they learned that Vilma, a coveted replacement for Brooks at outside linebacker, would remain in New Orleans after agreeing to a five-year, $34 million deal, including $17 million in guarantees.
Discussions continued aimed at possibly bringing back receiver Michael Clayton, who is scheduled to travel to Detroit and Seattle while offering the Bucs a chance to re-sign him at a slight hometown discount.
It's early in the process, but Dominik knows he can't rest until the job is finished.
Rick Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.