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Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Antonio Bryant 'not happy or pleased' with franchise player tag, agent says

INDIANAPOLIS — Receiver Antonio Bryant isn't happy with what he considers an end-around the Bucs pulled from their playbook to keep him in Tampa Bay.

One day after being designated the team's franchise player, Bryant was displeased, his agent said, that the Bucs had not made more of an effort to sign him to a long-term deal.

The sticking point, Lamont Smith said Thursday, is that the one-year, $9.884 million offer that comes with the franchise tag doesn't provide the long-term commitment Bryant expected after playing for the veteran minimum, about $760,000, in 2008. Bryant maintains his stance of not wanting to revisit the long-term issue after 2009.

"Antonio's point is that he wants and deserves security," Smith said. "He proved himself in every aspect last season. He felt he is deserving of being treated like guys who play well and are good citizens, as he was (in 2008).

"He's not happy or pleased with it. He's pleased that he can remain a Tampa Bay Buc. But the circumstances he is not pleased with. And that was the case based on my conversations with him just a few hours ago."

Smith said he submitted his latest contract proposal two days ago but never received a response and was not informed the team was proceeding to franchise Bryant. He said he learned of the move after it was official.

"I don't know if they're still interested in negotiating," Smith said.

Bryant, who turns 28 on March 9, would be amenable to a four- to six-year deal. "We're open to talking about that," Smith said. "We haven't been inflexible, and we don't intend to be inflexible."

Last year, free agent receivers Javon Walker (Oakland) and Bernard Berrian (Minnesota) signed blockbuster deals that each included $16 million in guaranteed payouts. Bryant perhaps could have fielded similar offers on the open market had he been allowed to become an unrestricted free agent. As a franchise player, he can negotiate with other clubs, but the Bucs retain the right of first refusal and would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation from any club that signs him.

General manager Mark Dominik said the team will continue talks about a long-term deal: "We're able to discuss (that) until July 15 … but I'd like to keep that between the agent and the club."

After missing 2007, Bryant set career marks for receptions (83), receiving yards (1,248) and touchdowns (seven) to lead the Bucs last season.

That performance, combined with his relationship with receivers coach Richard Mann, prompted the Bucs to make Bryant one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL.

"We feel like Antonio is a very talented football player," Dominik said. "To be honest, I'm proud that he went from a guy that was basically making league minimum to earning the salary he is. (He's) a dynamic playmaker for us on offense. We haven't had that guy who could come in here and do that for a little while, and that's not disrespecting some of the other players on this football team. But Antonio Bryant is one of those players that you almost feel like can take over a game.

"Antonio was going to be one of the hottest names in free agency, in our opinion. And our thought with him is, let's make sure we have him here, so we thought it was in the best interest of us (to make him the franchise player). I think Antonio is probably very happy that he's earned what he's earned, because he has."

Mann has coached a lot of prolific NFL receivers during his 30 years at the pro and collegiate levels, including Keyshawn Johnson, Mark Clayton and Andre Rison.

"I'm starting to put (Bryant) right up at the top of the list with the ones I really thought were great,'' Mann said. "I haven't been around him as long as some other guys, but this will solidify it for me as soon as we get going again. But going into the season, there's no doubt in my mind he'll be there. He'll probably be better than last year."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Antonio Bryant 'not happy or pleased' with franchise player tag, agent says 02/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 19, 2009 11:28pm]
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