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Wide receiver Michael Clayton follows his heart in staying with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Michael Clayton signs a five-year deal worth $26 million.

Michael Clayton signs a five-year deal worth $26 million.

TAMPA — Michael Clayton says he had a conversation with Raheem Morris a couple of years ago that confirmed what he suspected: The Bucs needed tougher players who shared his mentality.

"He pulled me aside, and I asked him, 'Rah, how many guys on this team do you think would do whatever it takes to win?' " Clayton said of the Bucs' new coach. "He pointed out about five guys. We were going through a lot of things, and many of the coaches thought things were going one way and we should maybe go another way. Now I see what he's doing, surrounding himself with guys who will fight, who are warriors, who are physical and will change the mentality. When we come out of that locker room, I promise you, with the guys he's putting around him, the other team should be intimidated by how hard we play."

Clayton is now one of those players Morris is counting on after signing a five-year, $26 million contract Sunday that includes $10.5 million in guarantees. The free agent turned down more lucrative offers from the Lions, Vikings and Seahawks.

A first-round pick in 2004 who led all rookies with 80 catches for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns, Clayton struggled the past four seasons under coach Jon Gruden, catching just two touchdown passes during that stretch.

"It was a long five years, and a lot of things didn't go my way," Clayton said. "I made the best of the situation, and I played hard. Coach Gruden wanted a different role from me. I don't have to play on eggshells. … I love the game of football, and I play it with passion. Every coach I met, not one could say anything bad about me during the process. They totally understood what happened. It wasn't all about numbers."

Clayton, 26, said he has been renewed by the free agent process, commanding a salary of about $5 million per year.

He was scheduled to leave Minnesota about 5:30 p.m. Saturday for a flight to Seattle, where the Seahawks were prepared to make a big push to sign him. But Clayton said he had remained in close contact with Morris and general manager Mark Dominik and was willing to leave some money on the table for a chance to remain in Tampa.

As talks with the Bucs heated up Saturday, Clayton deliberately missed his flight to Seattle and rescheduled for a 9:30 p.m. departure. That was enough time for him to reach an agreement with the Bucs, and he returned to Tampa on Sunday morning.

"In my heart, I always knew where I wanted to be."

Broncos QB Cutler angry after trade talk

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Trade talks involving Jay Cutler have strained the relationship between the Broncos' franchise quarterback and new coach Josh McDaniels.

Before Matt Cassel was traded from the Patriots to Chiefs on Saturday, Cutler's name came up in a proposed three-way deal with the Bucs that would have brought Cassel to Denver and landed Cutler in Tampa.

McDaniels was the Patriots offensive coordinator last season when he helped guide Cassel to an 11-5 record after Tom Brady's season-ending left knee injury on opening weekend.

Cutler, 25, the 11th overall pick out of Vanderbilt in 2006, told the Denver Post that he was angry that his name even came up in trade talks and said he still feels he's on the trading block — something McDaniels denies.

"I'm upset. I mean, I'm really shocked at this point," Cutler told the Post. "I could see why they want Cassel. I don't know if they think I can't run the system or I don't have the skills for it. Or if they don't think they can sign me with my next contract. I just don't know what it is. I've heard I'm still on the trading block."

McDaniels said the Broncos didn't initiate the talks, only listened. Left unsaid was anything about whether the Broncos nixed the proposed deal.

Crabtree picks surgery: Texas Tech wideout Michael Crabtree won't perform at his school's pro day March 26, opting to have surgery on a stress fracture in his left foot Wednesday. He will rehab for at least 10 weeks.

Cardinals: With no new deal, quarterback Kurt Warner plans to visit other teams. The 11-year veteran, 37, is expected to meet with the 49ers this week.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Fast facts

The transactions

Broncos: Free agent CB Andre' Goodman (five years, $25M)

Giants: Free agent DE Chris Canty (six years, $42M)

Seahawks: Free agent DT Colin Cole (five years, $21M)

Texans: Free agent QB Dan Orlovsky (terms not disclosed)

Wide receiver Michael Clayton follows his heart in staying with Tampa Bay Buccaneers 03/01/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 2, 2009 7:22am]

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