Copyright 2009

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Did Bucs Open Floodgates With Winslow Contract?
The Buccaneers traded for Browns tight end Kellen Winslow on the first day of free agency, and locked him up long term with a six-year contract on Monday.

Tampa Bay acquired Winslow by trading its 2009 second-round pick and 2010 fifth-round selection to Cleveland. It appears to be a good deal for the Buccaneers, especially since new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski plans to use the tight ends frequently in both the running and passing game.

Winslow, 25, possesses incredible, athleticism, speed and hands, evidenced by his two straight seasons of catching 80-plus passes in Cleveland from 2006-07.

If he can stay healthy, which is a big if given his track record for injuries, Winslow could be the biggest offensive playmaker the team has had in years.

However, inking Winslow to a six-year deal, which made him the highest-paid tight end in football, could create some potential problems for the Buccaneers, specifically general manager Mark Dominik.

Winslow had two years remaining on his contract. Under former Bucs G.M. Bruce Allen it was practically unheard of for the Bucs to rework a player's contract if it had more than one year remaining on it (see Keenan McCardell holdout and trade).

Although Winslow wanted a new contract in Cleveland, which might have been one of the reasons why he was traded, he wasn't exactly making chump change.

Winslow had two years remaining on his contract, which was scheduled to pay him base salaries of $4.5 million and $4.75 million in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Those base salaries made Winslow one of the highest-paid Buccaneers on Tampa Bay's roster before he ever played a down for the Bucs.

Catching wind of Winslow receiving a new two-year deal that reportedly includes over $20 million in guaranteed money might not sit well with a few Bucs players.

That includes guard Davin Joseph and safety Tanard Jackson, each of whom have two years remaining on their respective contracts with the Bucs.

Joseph, a 2006 first-round draft pick, made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2008, but is scheduled to earn average base salaries of $1.6 million over the final two years of his deal.

Jackson, who was a 2007 fourth-round draft pick, will earn an average of just $500,000 in base salaries over the next two years. He has started every game he's played in for the Buccaneers.

Two other players – middle linebacker Barrett Ruud and tackle Jeremy Trueblood – have one year remaining on their respective contracts, and one could argue that they are underpaid as well.

Ruud, who has been Tampa Bay's leading tackler over the past two seasons, is scheduled to earn $1.6 million in 2009. Trueblood will earn just $535,000 this year.

It makes sense that Dominik wanted to lock up Winslow since the Bucs traded second- and- fifth-round draft picks to acquire him. The injury history is a concern. However, the Bucs believe Winslow's knees are healthy.

But the Bucs, who have plenty of salary cap room at this point, have two second-round picks invested in Ruud and Trueblood, who probably paid close attention to the news of Winslow's new deal on Monday. has learned that the Bucs have reached out to several agents about contract extensions for several of their own players, including Ruud.

It's important to note that it takes two sides to negotiate and sign off on a deal, so what the Bucs may be offering Ruud or another player might not be what the player feels he's worth, or vice versa.

Even if Winslow's deal isn't sitting well with a few Bucs players, which may or may not be the case, Tampa Bay has a few things going for it.

First, there are no indications that any of the players mentioned above are considering holding out for a new deal. All were present for – and participated in – Tampa Bay's voluntary three-day mini-camp.

Ironically, Winslow practiced the first day of the voluntary mini-camp, but sat out of the next day and wasn't present for the final day of workouts at One Buc Place. That may or may not have had to do with Winslow's desire to land a new contract.

The other thing on the Bucs' side at this point is time is the players that could be candidates for contract extensions are under contract through at least the 2009 season. The Bucs technically have until the start of free agency next February before having to worry about Ruud and Trueblood hitting the open market. That's a long time.

Of course, Ruud and Trueblood will not hit free agency if the 2010 season goes uncapped, which could happen. Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a player would have to have six seasons under their belt before being deemed eligible for unrestricted free agency in any uncapped season. Under those terms, Ruud would remain a Buccaneer for another year while Trueblood would have two more years added to his tenure with Tampa Bay.

Is Tampa Bay A Possible Destination For Vick?
Respected writer Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote in his Monday Morning Quarterback column that he believed the two teams most likely to wind up trading for imprisoned quarterback Michael Vick were Oakland and Tampa Bay.

The media likely will continue to speculate that Vick could wind up in Tampa Bay because of its curious quarterback situation. Brian Griese is a veteran, but not considered a long-term answer, and Luke McCown and Josh Johnson have combined for less than 10 starts in the NFL.

Vick pled guilty to federal and state felony dog fighting charges in 2007 and still is serving a 23-month federal prison sentence. He was also suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

Atlanta has been attempting to trade Vick's rights, but to no avail. Any team that trades for him likely will face some heavy criticism and the wrath of protestors from organizations such as PETA due to the actions Vick pleaded guilty to, which included torturing and executing dogs.

As difficult as it might be for some to do, let's put Vick's barbaric actions aside for a moment and consider Vick the football player.

He has been incarcerated since November of 2007, which means he hasn't been playing football. Vick's entire game was built on speed and mobility (he has completed just 53.8 percent of his career passes), which should make the fact that he will turn 29 in June a concern for any team possibly interested in acquiring Vick.

But let's not kid ourselves. Any club that wishes to acquire Vick likely would discuss his character issues more than it would his skills.

The Buccaneers no longer have a sold out stadium, and bringing in a player with Vick's baggage wouldn't exactly create a surge in season ticket sales, but could lead to some long lines in terms of picketing and protestors.

Before he can even resume his playing career once he's out of prison, Vick must be reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Doing that will mean Vick must convince Goodell that he's a changed man.

That could be difficult to do seeing as Vick lied to him about his involvement in the dog fighting in 2007. The Commissioner isn't likely to forget that, or the fact that just one month after Vick pled guilty to dog fighting charges, he issued a public apology and claimed he had "found Jesus." He did indeed find a "J," testing positive for marijuana during a random, court-ordered urine sample.

These are all things teams, including the Bucs, must weigh if Vick is ever afforded the opportunity to play in the NFL again.

As for the Bucs, don't expect Vick to land in Tampa Bay. Perhaps some consideration would have been given to Vick by the former regime of Jon Gruden and Allen, but Dominik cares much more about fan perception than the previous regime. Without naming names, there were a few players Dominik gave careful consideration to signing in free agency but eventually passed on due to character and off-the-field issues.

The issues those players have pale in comparison to the storm Vick could potentially bring to any NFL city, including Tampa Bay. Don't think Dominik doesn't know that.

Cutler Health Issue Was a Concern To Bucs
Tampa Bay was legitimately interested in trading for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler before he was eventually dealt to Chicago in exchange for QB Kyle Orton, two first-round picks and a third-round selection.

The compensation was stiff for the Bucs, who have more needs than just quarterback, but as Scott Reynolds wrote in his most recent SR's Fab 5 column, the Bucs did not have a quarterback the Broncos wanted, which hung up the deal from Tampa Bay's end.

But even if the Bucs had a quarterback the Broncos thought highly of, there is no guarantee the deal would have went down.

Tampa Bay had some serious concerns about Cutler's health issue. He is a diabetic and admitted during the Pro Bowl that he struggled with his insulin levels in the heat. As a result, he struggled in that game.

The Pro Bowl, which was played in Honolulu, was one of the hottest games Cutler played in during his career. The concern is that game was played in 80-degree temperatures.

Tampa Bay's home games are known to be played in temperatures as high as 120 degrees down on the football field at Raymond James Stadium in September and October, and the temperature down on the field in November and December can sometimes be in the 90s.

Heck, Tampa Bay's playoff game vs. the New York Giants in January of 2008 was played in 80-degree temperatures.

So, from the Bucs' perspective, giving up two first-round picks and a third-round selection, and then signing Cutler to a long-term, lucrative deal that could include over $30 million in guaranteed money, was a proposition the Bucs had some reservations about.

That would have been an awful lot to hand over to Denver in exchange for a quarterback that could have trouble making it through home games due to the heat and his diabetic condition. Cutler certainly won't have that problem in Chicago.

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