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Tampa Bay Buccaneers must draft better after first round

TAMPA — Bucs GM Mark Dominik knows championship teams are built through the draft.

But after evaluating the job college scouting director Dennis Hickey and his staff have done — particularly in the second through seventh rounds — Dominik decided it wasn't good enough.

The last Bucs player not drafted in the first round to reach the Pro Bowl was K Martin Gramatica, a third-rounder in 1999.

"Candidly, we haven't done a great job of finding (Pro Bowl players) in the second, third, fourth and fifth rounds," Dominik said. "Whether that's a different way to look at it … we're certainly going to be more demanding of the coaching staff and the way we ask them to evaluate tape, just as I'm being more difficult with Dennis Hickey and his staff with the way they evaluate and look at the tape."

There's no overestimating the importance of the draft to the future of the Bucs. They own 10 picks, including the No. 3 overall and five of the top 99.

Given how Dominik has been up front about the Bucs' expected lack of activity in free agency, the team needs to hit on more than a few budding superstars in April.

That's why he has enlisted the help of Chris Wells, the team's director of information technology.

"He's done a great job of building a couple new systems for us that find ways to break down players in different ways," Dominik said. "With everything being digital now, you're able to do so much more and look at players in so many different capacities. Everybody can put together tackle reels or missed tackles or catches. But you can look at impact plays, or now I want to see all the tackles-for-a-loss reel. We have a computer that can generate a lot of different ways to look at players."

To facilitate involvement from coaches, the Bucs moved their 14 Organized Team Activities to after the draft.

What also will help, according to Dominik, is having some continuity on offense and defense. Coach Raheem Morris will continue to double as defensive coordinator as he did for the final six games last season. Greg Olson remains as offensive coordinator, which is an opportunity to utilize the offseason to install his playbook.

"I'm suggesting there's been a stronger emphasis put on this draft because we don't have OTAs prior to the draft," Dominik said. "The good thing we have going is Coach Morris has agreed to stay on as the head coach and defensive coordinator, and he's got coaches who are very familiar with that system. Coach Olson … (has) coaches that are familiar with his system."

New Rules: Unless there is a new collective bargaining agreement, 2010 will be an uncapped year. That also means there will be no minimum payroll teams have to spend on players.

The salary cap last season was $123 million, and the minimum was $107.7 million. The Bucs likely will have one of the youngest teams in the league next season, which translates into one of the lower payrolls.

There also is a "Final Eight" plan, which drastically limits the ability for the final eight teams remaining in the playoffs to sign free agents.

The four participants in the conference championships — Colts, Saints, Jets and Vikings — can't sign a free agent unless they lose one and can't pay a new player more than the one they lost received from his new team.

The next four playoff teams — Cardinals, Cowboys, Chargers and Ravens — also must lose a free agent to sign one. They also can pay only one free agent more than $5.5 million in the first season of the contract.

There are five tenders a club can place on a restricted free agent. They are based on how long the player has been in the league, what salary a team offers for a one-year contract (ranging from $1.101 million to $3.218 million) and how much compensation it receives if the player leaves:

• Right of first refusal (no compensation).

• Right of first refusal, original tender (draft pick equal to the one used on the player).

• Right of first refusal, second round.

• Right of first refusal, first round.

• Right of first refusal, first and third round.

Any offers made to a tendered player can be matched in order to retain him.

The Bucs' restricted free agents include LB Barrett Ruud, LT Donald Penn, RT Jeremy Trueblood and RB Cadillac Williams.

"Certainly, you have to look at each player individually," Dominic said. "Or you just don't tender them at all."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers must draft better after first round 02/13/10 [Last modified: Sunday, February 14, 2010 12:54pm]
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