Was John Wade really that bad? Sure, he was undersized, but he was considered a great tactician up front, recognized defenses well and was pretty durable throughout his career.
But the Buccaneers had no problem jettisoning Wade as a free agent and making Saints center Jeff Faine one of the league's highest-paid centers early Friday morning.
According to the NFL Network the deal is done, with Faine signing a six-year, $37 million deal, with $15 million guaranteed. Bucsblitz.com was working to confirm the signing on Friday.
It should be noted the deal is still not official. Nothing's official until the Buccaneers confirm it, and they haven't yet. But the move looks like it will happen. Faine was considered the market's No. 1 free-agent center.
Scout.com NFL Senior Reporter Adam Caplan liked the move when Bucsblitz.com asked him to comment on Friday morning.
"Faine is a fairly athletic interior lineman who is just a tad undersized," Caplan said. "But he's a tough guy who will compete to the whistle. He's known as a good but not great run and pass blocker. He was highly touted coming out of college and while he never lived up to the hype, he's still a solid player and an upgrade over John Wade."
So what are the Bucs getting? Here's the lowdown on Faine's career:
The 26-year old was a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2003 and the Browns dealt Faine to New Orleans in 2006 after they signed LeCharles Bentley to a six-year, $36 million deal. Faine became an instant starter for the Saints. He started all 16 games in 2006, helping to pave the way for the league's No. 1 offense and the Saints' trek to the NFC Championship game.
Faine made 14 starts in 2007.
At 6-foot-3, 291 pounds, he's actually not much bigger than Wade. In fact, there was speculation that the Bucs would simply slide Dan Buenning into the starting role because they liked Buenning's size (305 pounds). By signing Faine, the Bucs have committed what could be upwards of $20 million in guaranteed money to a player no bigger than Wade.
So where's the upside? First, there's Faine's age. He's reaching the prime of his NFL career. Wade, a 10-year veteran, while capable, will only get older. If Faine has agreed to, say, a five-year deal, he would be 31 when it expires.
Second, he's been durable, starting at least 13 games each of the last four seasons.
Third, Faine is considered by some to be an above-average pass protector, something the Bucs are trying to improve this offseason. Jeff Garcia, at times, was under serious duress last season and the Bucs need a player capable of fending off large tackles from creating an up-front pass rush.
This could be bad news for Buenning, who was poised to at least compete for the starting job. Entering the final year of his contract, there may be no place for him on this roster in 2008, unless the Bucs fail to re-sign backup Matt Lehr.
Regardless of what they paid, the Buccaneers have started free agency with a splash, agreeing to terms with a top free-agent player in the first two hours and addressing a key need in doing so. With the amount of salary cap space the Bucs had entering free agency, that's all their fans could really ask for.
He's not Asante Samuel, but he fits the Bucs' past philosophy. They pay for players they need and are good fits for their system. They don't pursue players just to spend money.
But it looks like they'll spend some pretty good dough on Faine. And it appears to be a smart move.
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.