WR Deficient Tampa Bay Buccaneers Say They Don't Need Antonio Bryant

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIIFebruary 26, 2010

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Wide receiver Antonio Bryant #89 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings at Raymond James Stadium on November 16, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  The score was called back after a penalty. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

So there was Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris talking about the Bucs being "light years ahead" of where they were last season.

Meanwhile, a team that has virtually no quality receivers decided to allow the best of the bunch walk out the door without so much as a wave good bye.

Wide receiver Antonio Bryant, who caught 122 balls for 1,848 yards and 11 touchdowns while playing with five—count 'em—five different quarterbacks in two years, was deemed expendable.

Who's left as the number one receiver? Captain Whoops himself, the immortal Michael Clayton.

Morris blathered on about Bryant's injuries and the youth movement but the truth behind it all is general manager Mark Dominik wasn't a believer in Bryant. Bryant's monster 2008 season forced the franchise to slap the franchise tag on him, just so they looked like they were trying to keep their best players.

Bryant suffered through the first injuries of his NFL career and missed several games. When he came back, he complained internally and to the press about play calling and young Josh Freeman not finding him.

It resulted in Freeman forcing balls into Bryant, who didn't exactly go up like a warrior to protect his young QB.

It basically confirmed two things to Dominik. One, Bryant surely isn't worth the money he and agent Lamont Smith are asking for and two, he is what Dominik believed him to be: A malcontent.

However, if you hear it from inside the Buccaneers organization, it couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, Bryant lobbied for the football, just as any top flight player would. He believed that in his hands, great things happened for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and usually, they would.

Bryant was ultra competitive, hated losing, and got after the backside of anyone who deemed was not giving their full effort to achieve victory.

After a particularly ugly performance against the New York Jets, it was Bryant who called a players only meeting to discuss how the team would play down the stretch. They ended up winning twice, including a victory over eventual Super Bowl Champion New Orleans at the Superdome.

Some say that Bryant not only has been a model citizen since coming to the Bucs but a leader on the team, and that the character aspersions cast his way couldn't be further from the truth.

Still, don't tell that to Mark Dominik, who opposed the team signing Bryant in the summer of 2008.

Don't bother the Glazers either, as they're busy counting the pennies they've saved now that they don't have to pay Bryant's $9 million dollar contract.

Morris spoke of rookie Sammie Stroughter as a guy that could grow with Josh Freeman, adding some guys in the draft to strengthen the corps, and building another excuse for Michael Clayton by claiming he's excited to see what the new wide receivers coach can get out of him.

Hey Rah, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's going to be the same thing the old one got: Absolutely nothing.

As the official start to the NFL meat market gets closer and closer, you can't help but wonder if this move is a sign of what's to come.

While the immortal Clayton somehow will survive the next great Buccaneer purge, guys like Ronde Barber, Chris Hovan, Derrick Ward, and Ryan Sims may not be so lucky.

Shedding the bad contracts in a cap free system will plunge the Bucs lower in the NFL's salary swamps and frustrate the fanbase even more, so much so, even Ndamukong Suh couldn't invigorate them.

"A long time ago—we were just talking about those guys—but people grew together," Morris told reporters. "Marques Colston. Devery Henderson. Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman, Alvin Harper, Reggie Wayne, Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison … guys grew together.

"Josh Freeman, Sammie Stroughter. Here we go. Let's go grow."

They may grow...into the worst drafting, worst free agent deciding, worst coached team in the league.


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