General manager Mark Dominik may be playing a bit of poker with free agent Michael Bennett, but on Friday sounded comfortable heading into the season with Da'Quan Bowers heading out of the tunnel as the Bucs starter at left defensive end in 2013.
Whether it is part of the posturing of free agent negotiations, or if it is actually the way the Buccaneers are feeling, general manager Mark Dominik sounded comfortable heading into 2013 without free agent defensive end Michael Bennett lined up at left end.
In a somewhat surprising statement at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Dominik was very complimentary of recently arrested Da’Quan Bowers during a short session with some of the local Tampa media, and didn’t sound as re-signing Bennett was a priority.
"Da'Quan is a guy I thought continued to accelerate his play throughout the end of the season,'' Dominik said. "The more we can get him on the football field, I think the better we are as a football team.
“Certainly, that's part of the thought process going forward with our entire football team, hopefully getting Adrian Clayborn back and 100 percent healthy and then be able to pair him with a guy like Da'Quan who we feel can be a premier left end in this league. That certainly has to be part of the entire picture we're looking at, not only with free agency, but how we're putting this thing together.''
Dominik also announced Bennett – or any free agent – would not be franchised.
"We've spoken internally as an organization with ownership, certainly with Greg (Schiano) and me, and we're not going to use the franchise or transition tag on any player on our roster,'' Dominik said.
"We're trying to meet with the agents of every single one of our free agents so they can understand the direction we're thinking, where we're heading. We're still having negotiations or conversations with them. It's hard to say whether they will be productive or not, but it's certainly something we try to do is have meetings with the agents of our free agents and have meaningful dialogue.''
Dominik also said that he had met with Bennett’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, but also noted that Tampa Bay may allow Bennett to test the free agent market.
Bennett has 15 sacks over the past two seasons, and was also part of the league’s No. 1 ranked defense against the run. Defensive tackle Roy Miller, another contributor of the Bucs stout run defense, is also slated to become an unrestricted free agent, but Dominik didn’t address the Miller negotiations.
In other Buccaneers news from the Combine, Dominik spoke about injured linebacker Quincy Black.
“This is a unique surgery and it’s going to take time to figure out if it was successful,’’ general manager Mark Dominik told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday. “So you generally like to walk out of any surgery and say that was a successful surgery. But the reality is, that because of the nerve damage and the nerve grafting and everything, you won’t know if it’s successful or not for several months. It’s a tough injury and a unique injury and at the same point it’s hard for us to have any timetable or feel for it.’’
Dominik went onto say the Buccaneers could reach on injury settlement with Black that is worth up to $1.5 million. Black is scheduled to earn $5.75 million ($5.5 million base, $250,000 work out bonus) in 2013.
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