Buccaneers fans disappointed with what the team has done in free agency so far this year probably won't like its plan regarding the open market going forward either.
Though he didn't close the door on the idea completely, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said Wednesday that there is little chance he'll delve any deeper into free agency.
"In terms of free agency, I'm excited to see what the 90 guys (that we have in camp now) can do," Dominik said. "That's how I feel. We're going to continue to evaluate these 90 guys and that is how I will approach free agency right now."
With the exception of punter Michael Koenen, the Bucs have concentrated solely on re-signing their own free agents, including starters such as right guard Davin Joseph, tackle Jeremy Trueblood and linebacker Quincy Black.
Dominik said that is in keeping with the plan the Bucs have laid out for building their team, and while some fans have criticized the approach and called the team cheap, the Bucs have not been as cheap as some may think.
The Bucs have already committed more than $100 million in cash to free agent contracts this year, and that figure currently makes them one of the 10 biggest spenders in free agency, according to the NFL.
"I think a lot of clubs sat on the sidelines more than we did," Dominik said. "But our goal has always been to reward and keep our players together, and that's what we've done.
"By re-signing Davin Joseph, I didn't have to go out and sign a guard that may have been more popular outside the team. The grass isn't greener. We want to keep our guys here.
"When you step back and look at the free-agency class, and we all talk about it after the fact, it's hard to buy a championship in the NFL. It really is. So our belief is to try to keep as many of our guys here as we can."
Two players the Bucs have not kept are linebacker Barrett Ruud and running back Cadillac Williams. Dominik said the decision to move on from both players was based in part on the team's blueprint.
He said the Bucs want newcomers who are slated to hold down starting jobs for years to come to play early on and to develop quickly. Signing free agents as temporary fill-ins, he said, would stunt any potential growth.
Another reason the Bucs have avoided diving deep into one of richest free-agent talent pools ever, Dominik said, is because they filled some of holes in their roster through acquisitions made last year.
The acquisition of running back LeGarrette Blount and left guard Ted Larsen, for example, erased the need to get a starting running back and starting left guard in free agency.
Those players were also part of a team, Dominik noted, that went 10-6 last year. He said that gives him confidence that the approach the Bucs have chosen is working.
"I'm proud of what our football team did last year, and so I'm more and more confident that our way of doing things is working, and that we can continue to play with young guys," he said.
"You know, the Packers were the youngest team in the league two or three years ago, and they're still one of the younger teams in the league. So it's not like there's this, "'You can't be young and win' mentality out there."
Dominik said a lot of the fans he talks to are coming around to the team's building plan. He said the success the team has had since it implemented that plan is the reason for that.
"I like to think of where we are from two years ago," Dominik said in reference to the moment when he took over as GM and Raheem Morris took over as head coach. "I'm excited about what we've changed already in two years, and what we can hopefully do in 2011 and beyond. There's no way to forecast that, but the bottom line is, I look at our team in our own eggshell, in our own box, and say 'How do we look," and I feel a lot better than I did two years ago. This was our plan from Day 1 and we haven't veered from it.
"And I know right off the bat that it wasn't popular. We all know that. And we're not there yet - we still have not made the playoffs. But we stayed the course, we're going to stay the course, and I feel out there from the fans that they're excited about these young guys. They can't wait to see a game and see what they do. And I'm the same way."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers