It's looking more likely that defensive tackle Anthony McFarland will remain in Tampa Bay despite the team's ominous salary-cap situation.
McFarland's agent, Karl Bernard, said Thursday that the Bucs have not contacted him regarding the possible restructuring of the player's contract though he will count more than $8-million against the cap for 2006.
Furthermore, cutting McFarland appears an unlikely option; it would not result in significant savings because of money that would be applied to the cap even in his absence. If McFarland is waived, the Bucs would be on the hook for more than $6-million in "dead money" and would have to spend more to add another tackle.
Bernard has reason to feel good about his client's future.
"We're aware of the cap concerns, but we're on the record doing everything within reason to help the Bucs maintain the core (of their) defense," he said. "I fully expect him to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer next year."
It remains to be seen whether the same can be said for defensive lineman Ellis Wyms, a versatile backup who can play end and tackle. The Bucs have not requested that Wyms restructure his deal, according to his agent, Brian Levy. That means they are either content to work around his $3-million-plus cap figure or have decided he will be waived.
Also Thursday, agent Tom Condon confirmed running back Michael Pittman has a $200,000 buyout clause. Pittman, who saw his role reduced more as last season progressed, might wish to take his chances in free agency, hoping to find a team that believes he is a worthy investment. Pittman, 30, will see his opportunities for a significant payday decrease with age, making this a key offseason.
Condon did not indicate Pittman's level of interest in exercising the buyout clause. Pittman has a cap number of more than $2-million for 2006 - which presents a problem for the Bucs considering he is a backup behind rookie of the year Cadillac Williams.
BIG WEEKEND FOR HALL: While touted USC running back Reggie Bush reaffirmed his plans to skip the combine's workouts in favor of a later private workout, USF's Andre Hall welcomes whatever is thrown at him during the scouting combine.
"I'm doing whatever they want me to do: hop, skip - whatever," Hall said. "If they call me three weeks from now, I'll do it again. I'm ready. It's real life now. I'm at the combine. There's a million people who want to be here right now. I'm going to take advantage of my little time here."
For Hall, his performance this weekend in physical testing is critical considering the draft is rich in running back talent. He said many scouts and personnel men have asked about his speed.
"They all want to know what kind of speed I've got," Hall said. "I plan to show them."
Workouts for running backs will be held Sunday.
"SETBACK" FOR COLMER: Offensive tackle Chris Colmer, a third-round pick in 2005 from North Carolina State, had shoulder surgery after the season and is recovering. That news, revealed by offensive line coach Bill Muir, is a blow to the team's depth at tackle should his recovery run into the season.
It's conceivable Colmer could push for a starting job at right tackle should the Bucs have an opening there (Kenyatta Walker is an unrestricted free agent).
"It's definitely a setback," Muir said.
In other offensive line news, Detroit designated tackle Jeff Backus its franchise player, virtually ensuring it will not lose him on the free-agent market because his acquisition would require two first-round picks as compensation. Backus is considered one of the top-tier tackles on the market and the Bucs were likely to have some interest.
The deadline for naming franchise or transition players was Thursday, and the Bucs declined to use either designation.
- STEPHEN F. HOLDER, Times staff writer