Is Lehr's future in Tampa Bay?

Matt Lehr didn't get much playing time with Tampa Bay in 2007. But does that mean he won't be a Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008? explores the availability of this unrestricted free agent in this premium article, including comment from Lehr's agent.

In many respects, Matt Lehr served his purpose in 2007. He made the Tampa Bay Buccaneers active roster, served as a backup at guard and center and even saw significant playing time in three games.

But, with John Wade and Dan Buenning still under contract with the Buccaneers, one might think there's little room for the 6-foot-2, 304-pound Lehr to return in 2008.

That might not be accurate. Lehr's agent, Robert Lattinville, told earlier this week that he and Bucs director of pro personnel Mark Dominik have already had preliminary discussions about a new contract for the unrestricted free agent.

"They're (Tampa Bay) interested in him returning," Lattinville said.

Lehr played a few snaps at center against New Orleans when Wade suffered leg cramps and had to leave the field. Lehr also played most of the season finale against Carolina when starting left guard Arron Sears went down with an injury.

Why would the Bucs be interested in retaining Lehr? Well there are a couple of reasons.

First, Wade can void his contract, which would make him a free agent. There is no word on whether Wade and his agent, James A. Cook, have chosen to do so. Should Wade do so, he would undoubtedly become the top free-agent center on the market. That could make him difficult to retain.

Second, if Wade left, Buenning, a former starting left guard, would surely get first crack at Wade's starting job. Buenning (6-foot-4, 320 pounds) is the player the Bucs envision as their center of the future. They love his size, which is unusual for a center. But Buenning has never played center before and didn't play a single down in 2007. If he were to fail to make the transition, who would be his backup?

Lehr would give them valuable insurance in both cases, since before he arrived in Tampa Bay Lehr made 48 career starts at center and guard for Dallas, St. Louis and Atlanta.

Lehr also likely wouldn't cost that much to retain. He made $595,500 a year ago and would probably only cost the team the veteran minimum.

From Lehr's perspective, the Bucs are a perfect fit for him, according to Lattinville.

"Without a doubt," Lattinville said. "He likes the coaching staff. He felt like he was getting great instruction last year. And he likes being a part of a winner."

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for 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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