Antonio Bryant won't be given Franchise Tag

The first big development to come out of One Buc Place involves the team failing to place the franchise tag on Antonio Bryant which is not a good sign for those hoping the receiver would return to Tampaa. Read on to find out more about the Bucs including their biggest needs, which players are eligible for free agency and what Derrick Brooks believed the Bucs biggest problem in 2009 was.

Teams can begin applying the franchise tag to players, but receiver Antonio Bryant will be losing that designation from the Bucs.

Bryant, 28, earned $9.88 million last season as the Bucs' franchise player. But he struggled to recover from knee surgery and had only 39 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns last season.

That performance fell considerably short of 2008, when Bryant caught 83 passes for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns.

Not all the blame belongs to Bryant. While he was slow to recover from surgery to repair a torn meniscus during training camp and missed the preseason, the Bucs fired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski 10 days before the start of the regular season. Tampa Bay also used three quarterbacks in eight games, including two making their first NFL starts -- Josh Johnson and Josh Freeman.

The Bucs' passing game also ran through tight end Kellen Winslow. That was particularly true after quarterbacks coach Greg Olson took over as offensive coordinator.

Bryant is set to become an unrestricted free agent. In fact, the Bucs are not expected to use their franchise or transition player tag on any player in 2010.

It won't help the Bucs' chances of re-signing Bryant after the team did not renew the contract of receivers coach Richard Mann.

The Bucs could still re-sign Bryant as a free agent or consider trading for a veteran receiver like the Broncos' Brandon Marshall, who likely could be acquired for a second-round pick.

The key will be whether Bryant is able to establish a market that exceeds the value the Bucs place on their veteran receiver. The thinking is he could get between $5 million and $6 million per year.

A year ago, the Bucs traded their second- and fifth-round pick to Cleveland for Winslow. The Bucs don't have much to surround rookie QB Josh Freeman with. Maurice Stovall is a free agent. Michael Clayton, who had 16 catches last season, is unproductive. Seventh-round pick Sammie Stroughter was a steal in the draft, but he is a third-down slot receiver.

NOTES, QUOTES

--There's been speculation arising out of the Glazers' mounting debt on their loan used to purchase Manchester United. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked if he felt it was causing the family any financial duress (and by extension, affecting the Bucs).

"I talk to the Glazers on a regular basis," Goodell said. "I will tell you that they are sound owners. They are terrific for the NFL and we have not seen that there is any stress that would affect the way they operate any of their professional teams, much less the Tampa Bay Buccaneers."

--Former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said the problem with the 2009 team that went 3-13 is that the franchise lacks a certain level of commitment to its coaches and players.

"I was asked what's the difference now where the Bucs are (compared to) when you go back 12 years when I was young," Brooks said. "I said this: The difference is the commitment, in terms of, where is the franchise going?

"All the coaches are obviously on one-year deals and the economics of the game of the game (a potential 2011 lockout) forced that hand. But as a franchise, they don't have a core group of guys who are beyond three or four years. When I was young, they had that. This year, I don't see that. The guy that was told to be the leader of the defense (linebacker Barrett Ruud), no one showed him any long-term commitment (Ruud's contract expires this month). How can he really embrace that role? It was hard for Barrett to do that. I fielded a lot of phone calls from guys on the team this year because they missed that presence. You can't force that. ... Leaders kind of evolve from situations that are not manufactured. I did the best I could just being me, being positive to help the guys through."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's just a big part of my development." -- Saints coach Sean Payton on former Bucs coach Jon Gruden.

OFFSEASON STRATEGY

Bucs GM Mark Dominik already has lowered expectations regarding free agency. That's particularly true without an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Many of the Bucs' players will be restricted free agents -- including LT Donald Penn, RT Jeremy Trueblood and LB Barrett Ruud -- unless there is an agreement.

Look for the Bucs to lock up those players with the highest possible tender. But free agent movement will be minimal.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Defensive line: The Bucs allowed nearly 160 yards per game rushing last season, primarily because they were beaten at the point of attack. Jimmy Wilkerson is recovering from a torn ACL. Chris Hovan is past his prime. Stylez G. White is a third-down rusher. With the third overall selection, they should be in position to draft an elite player.

2. Receiver: The Bucs will not franchise WR Antonio Bryant. They could re-sign him, but it depends on the market value. Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said they want to build around Josh Freeman. But players like Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall will not help him very much.

3. Cornerback: Ronde Barber is 34. The Bucs want to continue to press receivers when possible. They have a shutdown corner in Aqib Talib. They need another one.

MEDICAL WATCH: DE Jimmy Wilkerson is recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL. P Josh Bidwell is recovering from surgery on his hip. T Xavier Fulton is recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL. CB E.J. Biggers is recovering from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss his rookie season.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--WR Antonio Bryant struggled with a knee injury and had 600 yards receiving. The team will not apply its franchise tag to him again.

--S Jermaine Phillips broke his hand and finished the year on injured reserve.

--S Will Allen is a valuable special-teams player who finished the season on injured reserve.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)

--*OT Donald Penn is a very capable left tackle and did his best the first weeks of 2009. But then he seemed to shut it down and gained weight.

--*LB Barrett Ruud is a solid, if not flashy middle linebacker who thrives in the current system. The Bucs would like to see more nasty in his game.

--*WR Maurice Stovall came on late in 2009 with injuries to Michael Clayton. He's a tall, rangy receiver.

--*OT Jeremy Trueblood, the starting right tackle, led the Bucs in penalties against last season.

--*RB Cadillac Williams was the Bucs' most inspirational player who played in all 16 games despite tearing the patellar tendon in both knees.

--FB Byron Storer spent the year rehabbing his knee. He could be done.

--LB Rod Wilson is a special-teams player and backup middle linebacker.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.


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