If Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Bryant is going to sign a long-term contract with the Buccaneers it will have to wait until the 2010 offseason.
The Bucs placed the franchise tag on Bryant in February to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent this offseason. His salary increased from $605,000 (2008) to $9.884 million (2009) when he signed his one-year tender on Feb. 26, but Bryant was hoping to ink a long-term deal with Tampa Bay.
The deadline for the Bucs to sign Bryant to a long-term contract was 4:00 p.m. ET Wednesday. The deadline passed without a new deal for Bryant, which wasn't a complete surprise seeing as the Bucs appear to be comfortable letting him play under the franchise tag this year.
Nearly half of the league's teams, including the Bucs, exercised their right to place the franchise tag on players this offseason. It marked the first time the Bucs had used the franchise tag since 1999 (defensive end Chidi Ahanotu).
Bryant is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2010. The Bucs can sign Bryant to a long-term deal next year, but they also have the option of placing the franchise tag on him again.
The Bucs currently have more salary cap room than any other team in the NFL. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik has been putting some of that cap room to use in recent weeks by signing the team's 2009 draft picks. Only one pick, first-round quarterback Josh Freeman, remains unsigned, but the Bucs don't report to training camp until July 31.
Bryant, 28, was out of the league in 2007 due to off-the-field issues, but established career highs in 2008 with 83 catches for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns in his Tampa Bay debut.