NFL teams have until July 15 to sign franchised players to long-term contracts.
Nearly half of the league's teams exercised their right to place the franchise tag on players this offseason, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It marked the first time since 1999 (defensive end Chidi Ahanotu) that the Bucs used the franchise tag on a player.
Although Tampa Bay has more salary cap room than any other team in the league, it appears unlikely the Bucs will sign Bryant to a long-term deal before Wednesday's deadline. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik is in the process of negotiating the rookie contracts for first-round pick Josh Freeman and third-round selection Roy Miller.
Bryant, 28, would like a long-term, lucrative contract from the Buccaneers, but the team appears to be comfortable having him play the upcoming season for the one-year tender, which he signed on Feb. 26. It made him the highest-paid player on the Bucs, increasing his base salary from $605,000 in 2008 to $9.884 million in 2009.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Bryant, who was out of the league in 2007 due to off-the-field issues, led the Bucs and established career highs in 2008 with 83 catches for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns in his Tampa Bay debut.
“I’m not unhappy about being a franchise player. That’s not it – just an overall picture, but I’m past that,” Bryant said in March. “If you ask me, I’ll tell you the truth. I’m not a sugar-coated person. I’m not going to lie to you. At the end of the day, of course I’m happy to be here. This is what I like to do. I could have been back home on the couch again. Do you know what I’m saying? I’m not complaining about that. But for my situation and my lane in life, and what is going on in my lane, there were better options and better situations I could have had myself in. But that’s over. That’s why I’m here [at organized team activities], so you all can’t go and report, ‘Antonio Bryant didn’t show up today.’ I did my part.”