Tampa Bay Bucccaneers general manager Mark Dominik met with the media on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Bucs after the first five days of free agency. After newly signed running back Derrick Ward spoke to the media, Dominik took a turn answering questions. The full transcript of Dominik's media session is below with the questions in parenthesis.
(What is the plan that you are pursuing right now?) Dominik: "Our hope is that we are continuing to provide talented productive football players. Obviously so far in free agency it has been on offense. We've added a 1,000-yard rusher, 1,000-yard receiving tight end. We've been able to sign back Luke McCown. We franchised Antonio Bryant who was a 1,000-yard receiver. We brought back Michael Clayton who did have 1,000-yard season. Our plan with Earnest Graham being here and tendering Donald Penn, was to help this offense, and surround at every position players that have been productive. Even though the experience and the age of this team might seem like it is going younger, and it is, but the experience and the production is there in the guys that we are bringing in do have that. That has been our attack prior to free agency and in free agency."
(Are you still in the market for more help on offense?) Dominik: "Yes we're still talking to clubs, and agents about players and if they do make sense and the fit is right then absolutely."
(You made a trade and pursued others, what is the appeal of that avenue?) Dominik: "Somewhat it is a feeling if we feel like we can add a player that we think can add for not only one or two years, but five or more, and if we feel like this person on offense or defense can change or effect the outcome of a game. Then it makes sense to us, but we also understand the value of draft choices and look forward to using them also."
(It is interesting that Ward and Earnest Graham have not had a lot of carries in their career.) Dominik: "I think they both have somewhat of a great past which has gotten them to where they are today is that they both have had to earn everything that they have ever gotten, and I personally am a big fan of that. I just think that shows a lot of passion towards the game, and so that is why we thought in discussions that they would work very well together and we are excited for them to be in the backfield and share the backfield together."
(Was the plan to go after offense first or has it just worked out that way?) Dominik: "No there was a plan to go offensive first. We felt like free agency did have a lot of strength in offense, and in the ability to add players that we thought could really help this team. We thought free agency was going to afford us that assuming that the contracts with the players made sense, but that didn't limit us from saying that there isn't a defensive player that made sense for us."
(What is it about Ward that excited you the most?) Dominik: "He is a very versatile back. He carried the ball on first and second down. He does have very good hands out of the backfield. He's a willing pass protector. He has good size. He still has some good speed to him to make the long plays that I'm sure you'll see over the last year and what we are looking forward to. He's a back in the same mold as Earnest Graham is in that Earnest can play on first, second, or third down, so can Derrick Ward. I think that is really important for what we want to do offensively."
(What is your plan at quarterback?) Dominik: "That plan at quarterback is we have Luke [McCown], Josh [Johnson], and Brian [Griese], and most teams take four quarterbacks to camp."
(Are you still looking for a quarterback?) "We'll always be, sure, we'll look at that draft."
(Or trading for Jay Cutler or Matt Cassel) Dominik: "We don't talk about players on other clubs. We like our draft picks in our pocketbook."
(What about the reports of the failed attempt to trade for Cutler?) Dominik: "You'd have to ask Denver about that. I don't know anything about it (laughing). No, we are not going to discuss players that are under contract with other clubs."
(What is your level of comfort with your quarterbacks in this scheme?) Dominik: "Well Brian has won a lot of games. He has played in a lot of games. Luke obviously has been limited in his ability to start and have opportunities to start, but he has practiced for years with us so there is a comfort there. Josh is a young quarterback that we felt did take a big stride last year from being a fifth-round draft choice to where he is today, and I think the OTAs and the offseason program are going be really big to see how big a jump Josh has taken as well. The comfort is good, but it doesn't mean we can't continue to look if we see there is an opportunity to improve."
(Are you comfortable with these three if the right guy is not available in free agency or the draft?) Dominik: "Yes when we signed Luke McCown we told him that he is going to compete for the starting job, and whoever wins that job is the starting quarterback."
(You spoke with McCown's agent after the Cutler story came out, was that to reassure them that the same opportunity exists as when he signed the contract?) "I appreciate that but I'll leave our discussions with Luke's agent solo. I'll just leave that alone. I think those discussions are personal between me, his agent, and Luke but I understand what you're saying."
(Is there something else you want to get in free agency?) Dominik: "I can't tell you that. That is part of the fun. You asked the questions on the offensive coordinator who is it and what's he want to do. Yes, we're still looking. To an extent yes we are still looking and there are pieces that we think can really fit this offense and that we feel can make this offense click."
(Do you put your focus on defense now?) Dominik: "I think the market everyday adjusts in one way or another. I the hard part of any organization from the front office to the coaching staff is assigning a value to what a player really is. At some point, there is x, and then x plus one is not worth it, and you have to be able to make those decisions so you have to be able to monitor the market."
(Philip Buchanon and Jermaine Phillips are on the market, are you still having talks with their representatives?) Dominik: "Yes I spoke with both representatives today."
(How would you characterize those discussions?) Dominik: "Again I think with the market the way it is, the only thing we can do from our standpoint is make sure that we are constant communication with their agents and then they have to make decisions as do we."
(How important was Michael Clayton's blocking to re-signing him?) Dominik: "Yeah I appreciate that, a lot of things that Clayton does do on Sunday you don't see unless you watch the tape, and that is his tenacity and competitiveness. I think every corner, and I feeling a lot of linebackers and a lot of safeties know who Michael Clayton is, but we are also bringing him back to catch passes. We want him to be involved in the offense as well, but that did have a lot to do with it in terms of the toughness and the physicality we want on offense."
(What is the plan at outside linebacker?) Dominik: "We are still very excited about Quincy Black. Geno Hayes flashed a lot last year his ability to play. Adam Hayward, we got Rod Wilson, Matt McCoy, Jamall Johnson we signed from the [Canadian Football League]. We have got a good group of players that we think can compete at the positions. We like the athleticism. The speed to cover grass, to cover ground, we want to give them every opportunity. A lot will be said in March, April, to get a feel for who they are doing and how they are learning the system."
(What is the plan at wide receiver, and are you still looking to get one in the draft or free agency?) Dominik: "Michael is back. We have eight receivers under contract. I'm excited to have Maurice Stovall back in the mix again. We may add another receiver, but if it makes sense to us then we will consider adding them in free agency or the draft."
(At under tackle is there a guy like Greg Peterson that is going to step up and fill that position?) Dominik: "That is the excitement. You know we have Bradwell, Dre Moore, Greg Peterson, all young players in this new Jim Bates system in terms of defensive tackle and what we are asking them to do. That was a big part of why we wanted to get Ryan Sims signed prior to free agency. He is a bigger bodied guy that can push the pocket. With Peterson and Dre Moore they are 300 plus pound guys that are bigger bodied guys that I think are able to step into those roles. They'll get an opportunity to step into those roles."
(What is the plan to improve the pass rush after some subpar seasons pressuring the quarterback?) Dominik: "Well part of it is the system that coach Bates puts them in. Again it is just like we were talking about with Ryan Sims, Chris Hovan, and the other young players that are under contract. You create pressure in the pocket. You push the pocket back, and you pin your ears and come off the edge. You move Gaines Adams out into the straight line and you say good luck quarterback because we are coming, so a lot of it comes from there. We are expecting big things out of Gaines Adams, and we think he can deliver."
(Is it fair to say that quarterback is the one position that we don't know how good it is?) Dominik: "I think Luke is a mystery for the fans, in that he hasn't had the opportunity to play, same with Josh. Brian Griese obviously has played. It is going to be nice to see Luke in this offseason program, see how quickly he adapts to [offensive coordinator] Jagodzinski's system. We think it is going to be a small learning curve for all three of them, and I'm excited to see them play."
(Are there more weapons on offense then there has been for five or six years?) Dominik: "I hope so. I mean again I am excited about what Kellen Winslow can do in this offense, and what the tight ends have done in this offense. You can go back and research offense in Green Bay in terms of the tight end and what they are used for in this system. I'm excited about weapons we have and I'm looking forward to Sundays."
(What was the compensation for the Winslow trade?) Dominik: "We traded away our second-round pick this year and our fifth in 2010."
(How much of the two-back system your going to based off the success it had against the Bucs in final month of 2008?) Dominik: "I think that is something we thought about during the season. Especially every time we lined up against our division opponents. You got your dose of Turner and Norwood, it was fun (laughing). We realize we would like to have that does and let them deal with that also. It was a big part in our thought with Derrick Ward is a productive downhill runner that can make a quick cut, make a quick decision and gain the positive yardage. He did that consistently for the Giants the last two seasons."
(What does the Ward signing mean for Carnell Williams situation?) Dominik: "I'm proud of Derrick said about Carnell in his press conference. I never spoke to Derrick about Carnell specifically, and obviously he shows that he will be a great teammate by talking about Carnell. When Carnell gets back from his injury, and we were waiting for him, and letting him to do it the way he is supposed to we'll find a role for Carnell if it makes sense."
(Is he doing running yet?) Dominik: "No he is not running, we don't get into injuries too much, but I'm proud of how hard he is working. I can certainly say that."
(Do you need bodies on defense or are you content?) Dominik: "I think we are still looking. It is March 3rd, obviously there is a month and half until the draft, so obviously there will be more new people on the roster by May 1st. We just want to make sure that they fit into our one, two, three, or five-year plan, and that they are someone who wants to play for the Bucs. That will be a good fit."
(Are you still interested in Buffalo Bills cornerback Jabari Greer?) Dominik: "We are still talking with his agent and he's making visits."
(Did you have anybody visiting today?) "No, just welcoming Derrick Ward."
(It must be hard for you with Marquis Cooper, Corey Smith, and William Bleakley missing at sea considering you know them all well?) Dominik: "My hope and thoughts and prayers are that we find them. I'm going to hold on hope for that until you can't anymore. It is emotional guys. That is a tough one for me because they are good guys. It is hard. I can't imagine the grief and agony their families are going through right now, so I don't really like to talk about it because those guys are close to me."