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Bucs won’t be active in free agency, again

In a development that will surprise no one who has been paying attention to the football franchise headquartered in Tampa, the Bucs won’t be major players in 2009 free agency.

Per, G.M. Mark Dominik attributed the position to the reduced pool of unrestricted free agents, given the move in the minimum years of service from four to six in an uncapped year.

“I think the best way to look at it is kind of how I talked about in the past of how we are going to do it here,” Dominik said. “We are going to build through the draft. That is our number one focus. That is our number one drive. Because of that and where we are at, we have the ability to do a lot of different things in the draft. In that capacity there is going to be a lot of committed cash to the draft this year. If you decide to move up or decide to move back and accumulate extra picks those are also contracts. That is a lot of money in those contracts. That’s not a small deal. That is the direction we are going to head through.”

But every year teams commit cash to the draft, and they commit cash to free agency. So that explanation will do nothing to persuade folks who believe that the team simply isn’t spending money on players that the strategy arises from anything other than a desire to not spend money on players.

Dominik provided further confirmation for those who believe the Bucs simply have decided to not spend money on players by focusing on one of the only success stories the team has realized by signing a free agent on the cheap.

“Will there be a chance to go out and try and find the Jimmy Wilkerson of the 2010 free agency class? Absolutely,” Dominik said. “He was a guy that we signed for a smaller salary. He went under the radar. No one in Tampa really knew or cared that we signed Jimmy Wilkerson that day. I think at the end of last year people were like, ‘Hey, this Jimmy Wilkerson has become a good football player. Where did they get him?’ Those [signings] are just as important as stealing practice squad players or anything you can do to improve your football team. We are always going to be looking for that kind of a guy. That would be important.”

But everybody is looking for that kind of guy. To find him, however, a team has to kiss a bunch of frogs.

Dominik also addressed the team’s critics by once again claiming that ownership has had no role in the low-spending strategy.

“Ownership has never mandated anything on the contracts that we offer out or who we pursue and can go after,” Dominik said. “There is a discipline with this organization. Who has this team lost in free agency in recent years that has really crushed this organization? I don’t think there is a name that I can sit here and say. That is not a disrespect to any player that has been through this door, but there hasn’t been that guy with a ‘Why didn’t they keep this guy? What were they thinking?’ It just hasn’t happened here. I can’t think of one. I don’t see that going forward, either.”

(Antonio Bryant, you’ve just been served.)

Dominik also suggested that players eligible for restricted free agency won’t get long-term deals, justifying the decision to use the inexpensive one-year tenders for restricted free agents like left tackle Donald Penn by pointing to the “rules” of the labor deal.

We have a feeling that, at least for 2010, the Buccaneers won’t be in the minority when it comes to producing sound bites like this. After all, every dollar saved by the owners in 2010 is one more dollar that will be available to the teams in the event of a work stoppage in 2011 -- and one less dollar that the players would have been able to save.