Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bryant Signs Tender
TAMPA - Happy to return to the Bucs for another year, receiver Antonio Bryant pulled himself from the shelves of the NFL's free-agent marketplace before the market even opened Thursday. Just hours before the midnight start of the free-agency signing period, Bryant signed the one-year, $9.88 million tender that came with the franchise tag the Bucs placed on him last week. "There was no question that I wanted to be back next year and you never really know what's out there for you anyway," Bryant said. "I didn't feel like I needed all those ups and downs, so I signed." The move means the Bucs now have until this time next year to negotiate the long-term deal Bryant wants. It may be next year before they address the matter because the Bucs have plenty of other deals on their minds.Bryant was one of 11 potential Bucs free agents, and while the Bucs have spent weeks trying to secure deals for those players it seemed likely that most, if not all, would hit the open market. Cornerback Phillip Buchanon, safety Jermaine Phillips and receiver Michael Clayton were among the most notable of the group that also included under tackle Jovan Haye and tight end Jerramy Stevens. The Bucs, meanwhile, are poised to spend the next few days and weeks seeking replacements for some of the players they released Wednesday or could lose through free agency. Chief among the Bucs' needs are a quarterback to push Luke McCown for the starter's job, a starting linebacker to replace either Derrick Brooks or Cato June, and a starting receiver after the departure of Joey Galloway and the possible loss of Clayton. The Bucs are also on the lookout for players who will improve their pass rush, and while they traditionally avoid dipping too deeply into free agency the Bucs have a league-leading $61 million worth of cap space to work with. Pittsburgh wide receiver Nate Washington, Atlanta linebacker Michael Boley and Green Bay defensive tackle Colin Cole are believed to be among the Bucs' top targets.
Reporter Roy Cummings can be reached at (813) 259-7979.