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Free agency will test Bucs commitment to building plan

Posted Jun 22, 2011 by Roy Cummings

Updated Jun 22, 2011 at 03:21 PM

The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA – For as long as Mark Dominik has been their GM, the Buccaneers have said that their game plan for building a contender is to draft players, develop them and re-sign those that are considered part of their core.

That approach was going to be put to the test no matter what this offseason, but thanks to a possible change in the rules regarding free agency, the test of the Bucs commitment to that plan may be even harder to pass.

According to several reports, the CBA offer the owners will pitch to the players this week calls for unrestricted free agency to be granted to any player with an expiring contract and at least four years of service in the NFL.

What that means for the Bucs is that starters such as RG Davin Joseph, LB Quincy Black and RT Jeremy Trueblood could hit the unrestricted free-agent market right along with MLB Barrett Ruud and RB Cadillac Williams.

The Bucs have already expressed their desire to retain the likes of Joseph, Trueblood and Black by offering them tenders that allow the team to retain its right of first refusal should the players remain restricted free agents.

As unrestricted free agents, however, those players will have significantly more bargaining power and freedom of movement, which means the Bucs will truly have to put their money where their mouth is this offseason.

Of course, the Bucs will probably have to do that no matter what, because another detail of the CBA offer revealed this week says teams will be committed to spending “close’’ to the mandated league salary cap.

Close has yet to be strictly defined, but the belief is that it means teams will have to devote at least 90-percent of the cap figure to player salaries each year.

If the cap is $120 million – and that’s one of the figures being thrown around as a 2011 cap figure - then the Bucs would have to devote approximately $108 million to player salaries in 2011.

That’s good news for the likes of Joseph, Black and Trueblood, all of whom have expressed a desire to return to the Bucs.

By the way, the new rules regarding free agency will turn several players into unrestricted free agents, not just Joseph, Black and Trueblood. The others who could suddenly find themselves totally free to look for work elsewhere are DE Tim Crowder, LB Adam Hayward, WR Micheal Spurlock, DE Stylez G. White and WR Maurice Stovall. TE John Gilmore and LB Niko Koutouvides have at least six years of service and will be unrestricted free agents whether the rule changes or not.

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