TAMPA — At first, the unexpected sight of unsigned franchise player Connor Barth at the Bucs' offseason practice Tuesday suggested he and the team had reached a deal.
It turns out Barth, the league-leading kicker, attended the first offseason workout to show solidarity with his teammates, according to GM Mark Dominik.
Barth's presence indicates his relationship with the team remains amicable, suggesting the sides could come to an accord on a multiyear extension.
"I think that's what we both want," Dominik said. "We're talking about one of the youngest kickers to hit free agency (he's 26). … He's been a consistent guy. I understand where his agent's coming from. We just had a good talk. That's what makes Connor great. He's a good teammate."
Barth was tagged as the franchise player in February, preventing him from testing the market as an unrestricted free agent. He is scheduled to make $2.645 million in 2012 if he signs his tender. After converting a league-best 93 percent of his attempts in 2011, Barth seeks a multiyear contract and salary increase.
The sides can negotiate until July 15, after which Barth cannot sign a multiyear deal. For the moment, things seem promising.
"He came here today just to be around the guys," Dominik said. "I don't think there are many franchise guys who have ever done that."
ON HOLD: Even though starting left DE Da'Quan Bowers has suffered a possible season-ending Achilles tendon tear, the Bucs won't make any immediate moves, Dominik said.
Acquiring help has not been ruled out, but Dominik stressed, "Right now we're just trying to evaluate these men that we have here for a little bit before we feel like we need to do something. But if it gets to the point where we feel like we have to do something, it's an important position."
The Bucs lack proven depth at the position. After Michael Bennett, now the presumptive starter, the Bucs have George Johnson, who has played just four career games, with Daniel Teo-Nesheim (seven career appearances) and E.J. Wilson (two) among the options.
Dominik said Bowers might return late in the season.
"His surgery was successful," Dominik said. "It all comes down to his rehab."
SAME OL' RONDE: Veteran Ronde Barber spent all of Tuesday's practice at free safety, alongside SS Mark Barron, the first-round draft choice. He'll remain there for the foreseeable future, coach Greg Schiano said, unless his performance in preseason forces the staff to rethink their plans.
Despite the change in positions, in obvious passing situations, Barber is expected to continue lining up in the slot, from which he can attack in a number of ways.
"Ronde's had years of playing underneath in nickel and dime (packages), and that would be foolish to totally abandon that," Schiano said. "But again, you have to get the best 11 (on the field). If you don't have anybody who can play (safety) as well as he can play under(neath), then we have to do the tradeoff game."
BUCS BITS: TE Kellen Winslow, WR Dez Briscoe and DT Brian Price did not participate Tuesday. It was unclear whether they attended. These workouts are technically voluntary, though many personnel decisions are being made and elements of the offense and defense are being installed. … The Bucs have practices Thursday and Friday, closed to the media and the public.