Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE
If we're talking about the worst signings in Buccaneers history, who do you think of? Perhaps it's Alvin Harper's premium contract in 1995, followed by an instant collapse of his career. Maybe it's running back Derrick Ward, who came to Tampa on a four-year, $17 million contract -- and was then instantly benched in favor of a largely broken down Cadillac Williams. What about Michael Clayton, who signed a five-year, $26 million deal in 2009 and continued to be awful. Or maybe you're thinking of one of the many, many, many aging and useless veterans the Bucs brought in during the Gruden/Bruce Allen regime.
One player you're probably not thinking of is receiver Antonio Bryant, though. After all, how can someone signed on a near veteran minimum contract producing a 1,248 yard season be the worst signing in Buccaneer history? Apparently, Mark Dominik and Dennis Hickey thought that's exactly what Bryant would be when he signed with the Bucs in 2008. That's what Doug Williams noted in this interview with JoeBucsFan, and Williams thought that his disagreement with Hickey and Dominik was one of the reasons why Williams wasn't long for the Bucs when Dominik was promoted to general manager. Dominik and Hickey at the time were the Director of Pro Personnel and college scout respectively.
We still don't really know why Williams wasn't retained, but he thinks it's because he simply didn't see eye-to-eye with Dennis Hickey and Mark Dominik on a number of subjects. That certainly makes some sense, but you don't want to create a collection of yes-men in your organization, either. But firing one disagreeable person doesn't mean you're doing that, of course.
In any case, what really struck me about this was the idea that Antonio Bryant could somehow, in 2008, have been the worst signing in Tampa Bay history. No one really could have predicted the production he put up, but there was virtually no risk involved with the signing. Had he flopped, they could have cut him while having paid him just some offseason compensation for being there in training camp. The absolute worst case scenario would have been him poisoning the locker room somehow. But how would someone on a cheap contract, coming off a wealth of injuries, entering a locker room led by Derrick Brooks and under constant threat of being cut be that poisonous?
With no risk involved, signing Bryant in 2008 was exactly the kind of thing any general manager should look to do: find low-risk, high-reward opportunities. Find the kind of players with potentially large rewards, and little downside. How you could look at Antonio Bryant in 2008 and think that he'd represent a huge risk is beyond me.