The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will not use the franchise tag or the transition tag this season, which means that defensive end Michael Bennett will likely hit free agency unless the Bucs sign him to a long-term deal before March 12. Whether that happens depends on the willingness of the Buccaneers to fork over major dollars for a defensive end who may not be starting in 2013.
It's interesting that after noting that the Bucs won't use the franchise tag, Dominik then praised Da'Quan Bowers according to Rick Stroud. Dominik rightly thinks that Bowers can be a premier left(!) defensive end (per Tom Krasniqi), but the quote that stands out to me is the following:
"The more we can get him on the football field, I think the better we are as a football team,'' -- Dominik siad of Bowers. .— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) February 22, 2013
That is very, very true. Bowers is explosive and incredibly physically gifted -- perhaps the most purely physically talented player on the entire roster. There's a reason why he was regularly mentioned as a contender for the first overall draft pick in 2011, before an injury destroyed his draft stock and limited in his rookie season. Then another injury limited him in his second season, and now an arrest is threatening his third season. Getting Bowers on the field a lot may be a great goal -- but that's easier said than done.
It also doesn't need to conflict with getting Bennett on the field. Bowers and Bennett can play both left and right defensive end, and with Adrian Clayborn coming off an injury he may not be ready to start. More importantly, Bennett is more than adequate as a three-technique defensive tackle, specifically on passing downs, and finding ways to get him on the field shouldn't be hard. Even if Bowers and Clayborn are both fully healthy.
Dominik may be right about Bowers being a potential premier defensive end, but that doesn't mean the team doesn't need Michael Bennett. This is more likely to be two things: first, a way to pressure Bennett and agent Drew Rosenhaus to accept a cheaper deal. Second, it's a way to preemptively spin the potential loss of Michael Bennett -- which is entirely possible. After all, the Bucs will sensibly have a limit on the amount they're willing to spend on Bennett, and that means they may not be able to keep him.
There's also a third option: maybe Dominik is just lying about the franchise tag.