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We're almost one week into the free agent signing period, but it certainly feels longer than that as PewterReport.com has been quite busy tracking down Bucs news and reporting it.
Pewter Report makes a point to listen to sports talk radio and read message board topics and threads quite often in an effort to get a pulse from Buccaneers fans.
One sentiment some Bucs fans seem to share is that the Buccaneers only pretended to be interested in signing the biggest name on the open market – defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, implying Tampa Bay was never really serious about signing him and addressing a perceived need along its defensive line.
Why would Bucs fans believe that? Well, the Bucs entered the free agent signing period with a league-high $62 million, but there has been speculation for some time now that the Glazers are short on cash due to the investment Tampa Bay's ownership made in the Manchester United soccer club a few years ago. Complicating matters is the current state of the economy, which is having a direct impact on season ticket renewals and sales.
In the days that have passed since Tampa Bay lost out on the bidding war with Washington to land Haynesworth, PewterReport.com has talked to several league sources about the Bucs' level of interest in acquiring the Pro Bowl defensive tackle.
PewterReport.com has learned that there was in fact a bidding war for Haynesworth between the Bucs and Redskins. Washington ultimately won, signing Haynesworth to a seven-year, $100 million contract, but the Bucs were genuinely interested in signing him and made an effort to do so.
Not only were the Bucs attempting to lure Haynesworth to Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers also offered him a seven-year, $100 million contract.
Neither Bucs general manager Mark Dominik nor Haynesworth's agent wished to comment on this article, but league sources told PewterReport.com that there were a couple of things that influenced Haynesworth's decision to sign his seven-year, $100 million deal with Washington as opposed to Tampa Bay.
First, of course, was the guaranteed part of the contract. Haynesworth received $41 million in guaranteed money from the Redskins whereas the Bucs were offering a little over $30 million in guaranteed money.
Dominik was attempting to get Haynesworth signed by offering him significantly large base salaries throughout the duration of the contract. But very little was offered in the way of a signing bonus, which adds validity to the speculation that the Glazers might be tight on cash.
However, the Bucs, like every other team, must spend at least 87.6 percent of the league-mandated salary cap each year, and that's exactly what the Bucs might have been trying to do by offering Haynesworth large base salaries.
The Bucs, who entered free agency with just over $62 million in cap room and still have $40-50 million at their disposal, have more spending to do, but not much (our estimation is the Bucs must spend about $10 million in order to fulfill their minimum salary cap requirement).
Tampa Bay was trying to help fulfill that obligation by offering large, annual base salaries to Haynesworth in the seven-year contract it was proposing. Even though Haynesworth didn't accept this type of contract, he did consider it, and several other players, including wide receiver Michael Clayton and running back Derrick Ward, accepted deals from the Bucs that included guaranteed money and large base salaries, but little to no signing bonus. Clayton received a $3 million signing bonus with his new deal.
It appears Dominik was also attempting to safeguard the Buccaneers in case Haynesworth, who has yet to complete a full season in his seven years in the NFL, felt complacent after signing a record-breaking contract. The large base salaries would have dangled a carrot in front of Haynesworth and helped to keep him motivated to live up to the contract each year. Or, the Bucs would have had the option to get out of the contract and cut Haynesworth after two years.
As it turns out, the Bucs weren't the only team worried about offering Haynesworth a large signing bonus. According to Peter King of SI.com, the ‘Skins gave Haynesworth a $5 million signing bonus and an option bonus in the second year of the deal worth $21 million. Although Tampa Bay offered very little in the form of a signing bonus, the option bonus the Redskins included might have made the biggest difference to Haynesworth.
But guaranteed money wasn't the only thing that steered Haynesworth away from Tampa Bay and to Washington. Haynesworth did his homework on the franchises that were interested in him, including Washington, Tampa Bay and the New York Giants.
Apparently the Bucs' actions – and words – in the days leading up to free agency did not sit well with Haynesworth, who in his quote in the paragraph below is referencing Tampa Bay's decision to release five veteran players and Dominik's comment, "It's a direction. I'm not a big fan of the rebuilding word, but in a way we did that today, and in a direction we want to head" at the ensuing press conference.
"One of the teams that was in it was Tampa," Haynesworth said in his introductory press conference in Washington. "I went to the Super Bowl and saw the city, and, really, I studied a whole lot as far as the teams and what they were doing. One that was shocking was when they released a lot of players, and then I'm hearing that the GM wanted to kind of rebuild. Well, I'm somewhat young. I'm 27, but I'm not that young. So I didn't want to be really like that. I wanted to be somewhere where we could take the next step and be the organization that's dominating the NFC East."
Rebuilding or not, Haynesworth could have been a Buccaneer had Tampa Bay been willing to make a bigger commitment to him from a financial standpoint. While it wasn't big enough, the Bucs did in fact make a big attempt to sign Haynesworth.