In the days leading up to the on-field workouts that take place at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, which begin on Saturday, Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik met with the agents of the Buccaneers who are slated to become unrestricted free agents on Friday, February 27, which is the start of free agency.

With quarterback Luke McCown already re-signed to a two-year, $7.5 million contract, defensive tackle Ryan Sims inked to a four-year contract extension and wide receiver Antonio Bryant hit with the franchise tag, that will pay him $9.884 million during the 2009 season, Dominik’s attention has turned to re-signing starting left cornerback Phillip Buchanon.

Re-signing Buchanon is believed to be Tampa Bay’s top priority right now.

Buchanon, 28, is coming off a year in which he intercepted two passes – both of which were against New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees – returning one for a touchdown. Buchanon, who was acquired off waivers from Houston in 2006, has 18 career interceptions and has the skills to play bump and run man coverage in Jim Bates’ new defensive scheme.

“I had a very good conversation with [Buchanon’s agent] Drew [Rosenhaus] on Friday and we understand that we’re going to circle back and talk some more for the next few days and see if anything makes sense for both of us,” Dominik said.

Dominik met with several agents on Friday, including Bill Johnson, the agent for starting wide receiver Michael Clayton and starting strong safety Jermaine Phillips

“I’m constantly talking to the agents of our players to see if they match what we’re willing to do and what makes sense for us,” Dominik said. “I’m not ruling out anybody right now depending on what they want to do and what we can do.”

The only free agent whose return has been ruled out is quarterback Jeff Garcia, the team’s starter over the past two years.

Dominik continues to have dialogue with Bryant’s agent, Lamont Smith, about a possible long-term deal for Tampa Bay’s leading wide receiver, and understands any frustrations that come with a player receiving the franchise tag instead of a multi-year deal that would bring longer job security.

“I understand where they are coming from,” Dominik said. “I have a good working relationship with Lamont Smith and I have a lot of respect for Antonio Bryant as a player and hopefully we’ll find a way to make both sides happy. But I’m glad he’s part of our team.”

The Buccaneers have signed three wide receivers to futures contracts this offseason in Paris Warren, Anthony Mix and Kelly Campbell. While Bucs fans know who Warren is from his previous stint with the team, Mix and Campbell are newcomers.

The 6-foot-5, 243-pound Mix, who has two years of NFL experience, signed a two-year contract for the league minimum. Mix entered the NFL with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2006 and played in four games during the 2007 season, catching three passes for 39 yards before winding up on the team’s practice squad. He also had a brief stint with Washington that ended due to injuries.

“Anthony Mix is a big, physical receiver,” Dominik said. “He has struggled with some injuries, but we brought him in during last season and he had a real good workout for us. We were exciting about him and we’ll see how he contributes for us.”

The Buccaneers signed Campbell to a one-year deal worth $535,000 in base salary. The 28-year old Campbell, who played collegiately at Georgia Tech, spent the 2008 season with the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League, catching 58 passes for 1,223 yards and seven touchdowns while leading the CFL with a 22.6-yard avg.

Campbell, who is 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, has spent four years in the NFL with stops in Minnesota and Miami. There was a report of Campbell’s signing with Tampa Bay in January from the Canadian TSN website, but that report was premature. Campbell did not sign with the Bucs until this week.

Before signing him, the Buccaneers wanted to do some investigating into Campbell’s arrest in 2007 in which he was placed in custody over felony marijuana and felony ecstasy possession charges, as well as a misdemeanor charge of providing false information to a police officer. All of those charges against Campbell were dropped and he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

“Kelly brings big-play ability, obviously,” Dominik said. “He did a great job in the CFL, averaging 23 yards per reception. We do like guys with speed.

“We do like having a mix of bigger, physical receivers and guys with speed. I don’t think a wide receiver has to look like any particular player to be able to successful in what we’re trying to do in Jeff Jadodzinski’s offense.”

Dominik said that he and new head coach Raheem Morris wanted the Buccaneers to become an even tougher team in 2009. Both men were concerned with getting out-hit and out-blocked in Carolina on December 8, which was the first of four consecutive losses that prevented the once 9-3 Buccaneers from making the playoffs after finishing 9-7.

Dominik said that the Bucs would be wearing pads more often in practice during the season and that players would not have prescribed days off any more in an effort to maintain a more physical presence throughout the entire season.

“We want a team that when you are doing playing Tampa, you know you’ve played Tampa. That’s probably the right way to say it,” Dominik said. “We would like to develop a mentality that when you’ve played Tampa, you realize you have a tough football team on your hands. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking to beat teams up offensively and defensively. It’s not that we aren’t a tough team, or weren’t a tough team last year. We just want to get tougher and improve in that area.”

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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