Making a Case for or Against Other Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Line for Extensions
Last offseason you may recall the Bucs re-signed guard Davin Joseph and linebacker Quincy Black to multi-year deals. Earlier this offseason, they reached an agreement with guard-turned-center Jeremy Zuttah on a four-year deal.
The re-signing of Barth is yet another example of the Bucs front office attempting to not only sustain continuity at key positions, but also serve as an olive branch of sorts to their disenfranchised fanbase who, in recent years, have questioned the team's commitment to winning.
That said, what I've done here is taken a look at which current—and notable—Bucs have two years or less remaining under contract and have made a case either for or against a contract extension.
Some are obvious, while others may leave you screaming at your computer screen. That's fine, I can't hear you from my house.
So without further ado, let the debate begin.
Quarterback Josh Freeman
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Josh Freeman is under contract through the 2013 season, which means the upcoming 2012 season becomes increasingly important for all parties involved.
General manager Mark Dominik will be under increased pressure if the Bucs struggle again in 2012.
Remember, it was Dominik that traded up to draft Freeman in 2009, so their successes—and failures—are undeniably connected, for better or for worse.
However, the fact of the matter is Freeman is coming off a subpar 2011 season where he threw more interceptions (22) than touchdowns (16), meaning the onus falls squarely on the shoulders of No. 5 to right his wrongs, and preferably in a hurry.
After all, his 2012 salary cap figure is roughly $8.5 million. Next season, his salary escalates to nearly $10.5 million, which means if Freeman struggles again in 2012, the Bucs will have a difficult decision to make regarding his future with the organization.
That said, if Freeman bounces back and posts 2010-like numbers (25 TDs, six INTs), it would be incumbent upon the Bucs to negotiate a contract extension in an effort to not only secure his services for the long-term, but also lower his 2013 salary, as well.
For what it's worth, the Bucs have said they will not begin contract talks in 2012 with their franchise quarterback, but nevertheless, by this time next year we are likely to know a lot more about Freeman's future with the organization.
Verdict: Extension (next spring)
Unless Freeman replicates his 2011 performance, the Bucs will have every reason to open up negotiations with their signal-caller, most notably an escalated salary cap number in 2013 and the risk of losing him to free agency the following spring.
Cornerback Aqib Talib
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Aqib Talib has come to represent everything the NFL has striven to remove from its game.
He has had numerous run-ins with the law and more than his fair share of off-the-field incidents during his four seasons with Tampa Bay.
When Talib has been on the field, however, his impact on the defense has been without question.
Since arriving in Tampa Bay in 2008, Talib has tallied 17 interceptions, seven more than Ronde Barber, his closest competition.
Additionally, Talib has accounted for nearly 23 percent of the Bucs total interceptions (74) during that span.
Further complicating matters, Talib is entering the final year of his rookie contract, earning approximately $2.2 million this season. With a pending criminal trial set to begin next month, there won't be any contract talks in the immediate future.
Now depending on how the trial unfolds, the Bucs will likely have to decide whether No. 25. is worth all of the late-night headaches that appear to follow him.
Is he a talented defensive back? Yes.
Is he worthy of a contract extension? A jury may get to decide that for the Bucs.
Verdict (no pun intended): No extension
Talib has proven to be a valuable commodity in the defensive backfield since arriving in '08. However, he has also proven to be a loose cannon and a liability off the field. Coupled with coach Schiano's no-nonsense approach, Talib's days in a Bucs uniform may be numbered.
At this point, his trade value is non-existent, so the Bucs stand to lose him to free agency at season's end if they decide not to re-sign the oft-troubled cornerback.
Running Back LeGarrette Blount
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LeGarrette Blount entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2010, eventually being claimed by the Buccaneers.
Since then, Blount has rushed for more than 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns in 21 career starts.
Blount enters the 2012 season in a fight for his job with first-round pick Doug Martin.
Blount is scheduled to earn a modest $540,000 salary in 2012, but with no contract beyond this season, expect him to prove to the Bucs that he is at least worthy of discussing a long-term deal with.
Since the NFL has become a two-back league, it is not out of the realm of possibility for the Bucs to have two "featured" backs signed to long-term deals.
Mind you, when I say "long-term" in regards to LeGarrette, I'm talking more along the lines of the deal running back Earnest Graham signed a few years ago—three years for roughly $10.5 million.
Look, there is no doubt the Bucs got one heck of a bargain by stumbling onto Blount in the UFA recycling bin a few years ago.
But if Blount continues to produce as he has, you can rest assured he will likely have advisors telling him to force the Bucs hand in regards to contract talks by, for example, holding out until he receives "fair compensation."
For that to happen, however, Blount will have to correct the fumble issues that likely led to the Bucs drafting Martin in the first place.
Verdict: Extension (next spring)
Again, I don't expect Blount to get "featured back" money. Realistically, something along the lines of three or four years worth $10 to $14 million sounds about right. And judging where Blount was two years ago, that doesn't sound too bad at all.
Receiver Mike Williams
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Mike Williams was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft, but arguably possessed first-round talent.
Questions about his character and commitment led his draft stock to slide.
The Bucs took a chance on Williams, choosing to overlook the negative in hopes of capitalizing on the enormous potential that was bottled up inside of him.
In return, Williams has responded in kind, racking up 130 passes for 1,735 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first two professional seasons. However, Williams is looking to regain his 2010 form, which accounted for 11 of his 14 career touchdowns.
"Big Mike," like Freeman, is under contract through 2013. Although, unlike Freeman, his salary cap figure this year and next are much more cap-friendly: $635,750 and $720,750, respectively.
Conventional wisdom would suggest Williams stands to benefit greatly from the free-agent signing of Vincent Jackson, who should garner much of the defensive coverage this season and beyond. If that holds true, look for Williams to bounce back and post respectable numbers.
Verdict: Extension (next spring)
Williams has provided tremendous value thus far for the Bucs, especially considering they only spent a fourth-round pick to land him.
My fear is Williams (and/or his representatives) may try to overvalue his role on the team (i.e., ask for No. 1 receiver money, when he is truly a No. 2 receiver kind of player), which could lead to contract complications later on.
For now, however, Williams should focus on returning to form and letting the chips fall where they may down the road.