The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to make a splash signing before the free agent signing period was even scheduled to begin at midnight on Friday.

Bucs wide receiver Antonio Bryant opted to sign his one-year franchise tender from the Bucs Thursday, guaranteeing him an increase in base salary from $605,000 in 2008 to $9.884 million in 2009.

Bryant was franchised by Tampa Bay on Feb. 18. He was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but the Bucs prevented that from happening by using the franchise tag on Bryant, something that the team had not done since 1999 when it franchised defensive end Chidi Ahanotu.

Bryant, 27, led Tampa Bay and established some career highs in 2008 with 83 catches for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns in his Bucs debut.

Even after franchising Bryant and re-signing quarterback Luke McCown and defensive tackle Ryan Sims, the Bucs head into free agency tomorrow morning with a league-high $65 million in salary cap room.

In other news, former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks, who was released with four other players on Wednesday, will hold a press conference at One Buc Place on Friday morning.

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