Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' free agency options are limited

TAMPA — It has been a brutal winter for 212 NFL players who are part of the most severe free agent crop damage in history.

That's how many players will become restricted free agents — rather than unrestricted — because there will be no salary cap in 2010 as the result of no new collective bargaining agreement being reached.

Players such as Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall and Cowboys receiver Miles Austin might have received lots of interest from the Bucs and other clubs when the signing period begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

But Marshall received a first-round tender and Austin a first- and third-round tender. Tenders represent the 2010 draft picks a team must give up in order to sign the players.

So what's left to ponder is a weaker list of mostly 30-something unrestricted free agents — those with at least six seasons of experience — such as receivers Terrell Owens, Chris Chambers, Joey Galloway, Derrick Mason and, yes, Antonio Bryant.

No wonder most of the focus for the Bucs and other teams will be on the draft. But Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said his team still plans to participate in the NFL's version of March Madness.

"We'll still burn the midnight oil," Dominik said. "I don't do anything different because at the same point, you don't know if there's going to be more trade opportunities. That's the way I think we really helped our club last year in acquiring (tight end Kellen Winslow). And if you think there's something that can be had that way, sometimes those things can happen in the first day of free agency.

"There's a lot of speculation going on, but no one really knows how this is going to play out."

Because of the 53 juniors who declared for the draft (much larger than normal) teams such as the Bucs are reluctant to forfeit draft picks for restricted free agents.

But Dominik believes some trade opportunities might arise. A year ago, the Bucs' biggest offseason move was trading a second- and fifth-round pick to Cleveland for Winslow.

"I think you certainly have to look; as much as I appreciate what we have," Dominik said. "Last year, when we determined to trade for Kellen, our selection was in the 50s. To me, at 50-something, you would never get that kind of talent. We'll look at each player individually like that and say, 'If they're asking for this, could we find that in this year's draft class.'

"Now this year's draft class is a very strong draft class. Those second, third, and fourth rounds are very talented; certainly the first. It's a deeper draft class. So it's going to make it that much more difficult to part with a pick."

Dominik's colleagues agree.

"I will be interested to see how much interest there is going into free agency with the fewer numbers," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said last week at the scouting combine. "I think there are some really good players out there."

But Browns general manager Tom Heckert said teams believe there's better value in the draft.

"I don't think we're going to sign 12 guys," Heckert said. "But if there are players out there we think can help us, we'll go after them.

"No one wants to give up draft picks. That's just the way the NFL works. You're so excited about the draft guys coming out that you're saying instead of giving up a second-, third- or fourth-round pick, you think you can get a better guy in the draft."

A year ago, the Bucs were among the few clubs bidding for defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who signed with the Redskins. But don't expect Dominik to go after top-tier names such as Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers or Jets running back Thomas Jones.

"The situation we're walking into is unknown for everyone," Dominik said. "Since '92, we've not dealt with this kind of situation (of no salary cap). So no one can really look at the crystal ball and say, 'Here's what people are going to spend,' or 'Here's what people are not going to spend.' It's all pure speculation."

Rick Stroud can be reached at

fast facts

Bucs free agents


S Will Allen: Decent backup; started two games in '09.

WR Antonio Bryant: Team's best receiver but won't be re-signed.

LB Angelo Crowell: Spent last season on injured reserve.

S Jermaine Phillips: Oft-injured and has a pending domestic-abuse case.

DE Jimmy Wilkerson: Sustained torn ACL in Week 16; might be replaced.
key restricted

With what the Bucs will receive if they don't match an outside offer:

OT Donald Penn: First- and third-round pick

LB Barrett Ruud: First- and third-round pick

WR Maurice Stovall: Third-round pick

OT Jeremy Trueblood: Second-round pick

RB Cadillac Williams: First-round pick

. fast facts

Top restricted
free agents

With what a team must give up to sign them:

WR Miles Austin, Cowboys: First- and third-round pick

LB Elvis Dumervil, Broncos: First- and third-round pick

WR Vincent Jackson, Chargers: First- and third-round pick

WR Brandon Marshall, Broncos: First-round pick

LB Shawne Merriman, Chargers: First- and third-round pick

Top unrestricted free agents

WR Antonio Bryant, Bucs: Depending on the landscape, could cash in.

LB Karlos Dansby, Cardinals: Makes lots of big plays.

DE Aaron Kampman, Packers: Solid player but coming off a torn left ACL.

DE Julius Peppers, Panthers: Arguably the league's best pass rusher.

CB Dunta Robinson, Texans: On the verge of stardom.

* Does not include franchise players

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' free agency options are limited 03/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 5, 2010 7:29am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said his son Cal lived in the locker room.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.
  2. It's Rays' turn to pound Orioles pitching (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG - Ah, the fantastic four.

    The Rays smashed the reeling Orioles 15-5 on Friday, scoring a season-high in runs, to climb four games above .500 for the first time since July 1, 2015.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria scores on a triple by Logan Morrison during the first inning against the Orioles.
  3. Lightning journal: Plans set for 25th anniversary season

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — The Lightning revealed some of its plans for its 25th anniversary season Friday, including a ceremony to honor the 2004 Stanley Cup team.

    fit test: Top draft pick Cal Foote puts on his Lightning jersey.
  4. Rays designate catcher Derek Norris for assignment

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — C Derek Norris tied a career-high with three hits in Friday's 15-5 win against the Orioles then was designated for assignment after the game to make room on the 25-man roster for C Wilson Ramos.

    Matt Duffy is expected to resume his baseball activities once the stitches heal.
  5. Lightning picks defenseman Cal Foote


    Cal Foote is the son of former Avs defenseman Adam Foote.