Derrick Ward rolled into training camp in style in a Lamborghini, an apparently safe roster option in the unproven Buccaneer backfield. A month later, he rolled out of One Buc Place behind the wheel of shame.
So, what's the message here? Clearly Mark Dominik and the front office are not afraid to admit making a bad deal and part with a player despite being due a hefty salary.
Here's looking at you, Michael Clayton.
It's been bantered about on the Buccaneer blogosphere about whether or not the albatross of a deal that Michael Clayton received in the '09 offseason would keep the front office from admitting its mistake. It's evident now that it won't. They are obviously looking more at production and potential, ala Kareem Huggins, than tenure, money, and the name on the back of the jersey, ala Derrick Ward.
The real question is: Can Clayton provide more production than the 5 or 6 other guys he's competing with?
This is normally the time that Michael Clayton starts to pep up the spirits of Buccaneer fans with a preseason that gets fans thinking that this will be the year he finally turns it around. However, two catches in a preseason where Raheem Morris is being extremely cautious with his starters is a tremendous concern.
To counter, Clayton recently claimed that he was told that he didn't see time against Kansas City because the team wanted to evaluate some of the younger players. I'm not buying it. Preseason reps are extremely important, for rookies and veteran players alike. With the exception of rare talents who need time off for health reasons, like Kellen Winslow, preseason play is precious limited time to work on hitting timing routes and getting on the same page with your quarterback against live NFL defenses. It's even more important when you're working in a new offensive system. If Clayton is going to be a part of this offense, he needs regular work like everyone else, which he isn't getting, nor is he producing when he gets the chance.
The Buccaneers have shown they'll hold players accountable for their production and play regardless of tenure, as evident from the great veteran's exodus of February 2009, Ward's release, Ruud's non-existent contract extension, and the replacement of Zuttah and Sabby Piscitelli. No one is above the best interests of the team. Why anyone would argue that Michael Clayton, who put up dreadful statistics after the team made a commitment to him, would be insulated from responsibility for his poor play is beyond me.
So, Michael, your check might be in the bank, but your roster spot certainly isn't. Here's your last chance to give the Buccaneers a reason to consider keeping you. Better step your game up tomorrow.