High Five: GM should use his vets to lure FAs

In this edition of the "High Five," I write about why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must use their veterans to lure attractive free agents, why Brian Kelly buying out his contract isn't a bad thing and why a NFL team could be on the move in the near future. Plus, check out my photo with linebacker Derrick Brooks. It's all here in this premium feature.

1. Use the veterans, Bruce

It occurred to me as I was talking to linebacker Derrick Brooks at the Super Bowl (and if you need the proof, well, check out my photo with Brooks in the next paragraph) that the Bucs should take advantage of players like Brooks as they try to lure free agents to Tampa Bay this spring.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, right, speaks with Bucsblitz.com's Matthew Postins at the Super Bowl. (Courtesy photo)
I asked Brooks whether or not the team needed to go out and get some top-tiered free agents, given that they have anywhere from $23-30 million in cap room. Brooks gave me the company line, saying that it "wasn't his place to tell ownership" what the team needed.

But he did say this: "If they want me to talk to someone, I'm happy to do so."

The Bucs should enlist players like Brooks, cornerback Ronde Barber and defensive end Kevin Carter during the free agency process as ambassadors for the team.

Consider this. Among the players on the Bucs, there are probably no three players more respected than those three. They're former All-Pros. All three are potential Hall of Famers. All three thrive in the Bucs' defensive scheme.

Imagine Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth picks up his phone on the first day of free agency and is greeted by Brooks' voice, not GM Bruce Allen's, telling him the Bucs need him on their roster.

That could carry a lot more weight than Allen's or Jon Gruden's voices.

Never underestimate one player's power over another. These guys talk all the time. They listen to one another. It's not like the old days when Colts refused to mingle with Giants. Those days are over. The players have a union. They talk all the time.

And using players like Brooks, Barber and Carter allows the Bucs to put their best foot forward in free agency. If the Bucs aren't already using these guys they should be.

2. Kelly's contract

It's been widely reported that cornerback Brian Kelly is considering buying out the final year of his contract and testing free agency. When we asked Allen about this at the Super Bowl last week, he said he hadn't spoken to Kelly yet.

"I want to hear what he wants to do (before I comment)," Allen said.

Kelly probably has until the end of the month to exercise the buyout in his contract.

It's been widely reported that Kelly hasn't been happy with his contract for some time (though he has made statements saying that his contract isn't an issue). Usually when at athlete says the latter, it is an issue.

Perhaps Kelly sees a shot at one last big payday. He's in his 30s and he's missed time in three of the last five seasons due to injuries. There is probably someone out there willing to overpay for his experience and track record.

The Bucs need to get younger at that position. They have Phillip Buchanon to start opposite Ronde Barber, plus Tanard Jackson can slip in there in a pinch. They can also select a corner early in this draft (first or second round) and groom him to be eventually replace either Buchanon or Barber.

In other words, the Bucs have options, and they shouldn't overpay — or beg — to keep a player who's best years may be behind him. If Kelly wants to go, let him go.

3. This survey should be a good one

One of the hottest tickets for the media at each Super Bowl is the NFLPA press conference. This year the NFLPA will release a survey of more than 1,000 players in which they were asked to grade their franchises.

Yes, that's right. Bucs players were given the chance — anonymously — to comment on everything from ownership to team administration to coaching.

The results of the survey should be out sometime this spring and if we can get our hands on the results, we'll be sure to bring them to you. The NFLPA will go over the results with their membership at their meeting in March.

But most of the Bucs press corps is already licking its chops. This will be our best chance yet to find out what the players really think of Bruce Allen, Jon Gruden, et al.

It should make for some very interesting copy.

4. Labor woes on the horizon?

The saber-rattling has already begun between the NFL owners and the NFLPA regarding the current labor agreement.

In case you're wondering why, well the league's owners can opt out of the deal in November of this year. If they were to do so, then the league would have a salary cap in 2009, but not on 2010.

NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw feels the league's owners will likely pull out of the deal.

The chief issue appears to be the players' split of the league revenue, which is 60 percent. That's what teams use to pay their salaries.

The small-market owners — like Ralph Wilson in Buffalo — weren't thrilled with the deal to begin with. But most of the owners seem to agree that the players are getting too much of the revenue.

That could be a problem, because Upshaw said last week that the players have no intention of giving any of it back. Plus, if the league does get to the uncapped year — meaning March 1, 2010 — Upshaw said the players would never submit to another salary cap.

Of course, we went through all this a few years ago. And there's still plenty of time for this to be worked out.

But this — THIS — will likely be Roger Goodell's first real test as commissioner, and this is the area in which his predecessor, Paul Tagilabue, excelled.

Stay tuned.

5. Bills have eye on Canada

Last week the NFL announced that Buffalo would play several regular-season and preseason games in Toronto over the next six years.

It's a good deal for the Bills, who have a solid following across the border (Toronto is just a few hours drive from Buffalo).

But this could be the precursor to something bigger, if my sources are accurate.

I had a pretty reliable source tell me that he spoke to a Canadian football official who said that this could be the precursor to the Bills moving — lock, stock and barrel — to Toronto in the next five to ten years.

It seems odd at first, because one would have to take into account Canadian money to pay players' salaries, etc. NHL teams struggle in that regard.

In other ways, it makes sense. Buffalo is one of the smallest market cities in the NFL. Toronto is basically New York City north of the border. It already supports the CFL's Toronto Argonauts. The city could probably support a NFL team too.

The NFL wants to become more international. The league would probably welcome a franchise moving into a thriving international city like Toronto.

I, for one, hope it never happens. Yes, Buffalo is small. But it's a traditional AFL city. They support their team rabidly. There's a great deal of history there just south of Niagara Falls.

But like the labor negotiations, that's a long way off. Let's see what develops.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.

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