Folks, I've got goods news and bad news.
Being the glass-half-full, cockeyed optimist that I am, I'll give you the good news first. I'm pleased to announce that Sprint is partnering up with SBNation's NFL blogs to sponsor a series of 6 articles on this offseason's game changing moves. Sprint does alot to promote the NFL, and I invite you to check out their site to learn about the new services and toys they've got now. I, for one, enjoy watching the Thursday night games on my Blackberry....seeing how Brighthouse doesn't carry the NFL Network. Anyhow, on to.....
....the bad news: The actual game-changing moves the Buccaneers have made to date. Unfortunately, the biggest move this offseason thus far that's changed the game, so to speak, for the Buccaneers has been the departure of #1 WR Antonio Bryant, who signed a 4-year $28 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals last month.
The Buccaneers' inaction regarding a long-term deal with Bryant and the announcement in late February that Bryant wouldn't return began churning the wheel of panic for some Buccaneer fans. That fear was exacerbated by failing to land the coveted Anquan Boldin, a 2009 Pro Bowl starter looking for a long-term deal, who was traded to Baltimore 5 days before Bryant's signing for a seemingly-affordable exchange of draft picks with the Cardinals.
Bryant lit up the opposition in 2008, totaling 83 grabs for 1243 yards and 7 TDs. His outrageous performance against the Panthers on Monday Night Football was a statement game for him and put him on the map nationally as a player who's fought back from being out of football altogether to establish himself as a top-notch receiver.
However, the Buccaneers slapped the franchise tag on Bryant in February 2009 rather than working out a long-term deal, which angered the outspoken Bryant, who was likely to become the most sought-after receiver on the 09 free agent market. Subsequently, Bryant had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in the preseason and wound up missing substantial time during the season, which led to a production of 39 catches for 600 yards and 4 scores.
Whether Bryant should have been re-signed in the '09 offseason is debatable. Some folks argued he'd earned a long term deal following the '08 season and some wanted to see more, since he'd only been back for one year. Obviously the Bucs sided with the latter. It appears the Buccaneers were still evaluating a long-term decision in year two, because after publicly criticizing Josh Freeman and Raheem Morris and missing a lion's share of time due to injury, the team decided to let AB walk.
Question is, should they have? The debate has raged on among Buccaneer fans and very well might continue until a receiver steps up and puts together a season comparable to AB's 2008 output.
Whatever your opinion, the exodus of Bryant certainly left the Bucs with a need to fill and has no doubt "changed the game" for the Buccaneer offense, at least for the time being. The Bucs' arguably most productive receivers are an upcoming 2nd year and former 7th round player, Sammie Stroughter and recently-acquired Reggie Brown, who lost time to Kevin Curtis and other middling receivers in Philadelphia. As we've been told repeatedly this offseason, hopefully the next game-changing move for the Buccaneers will be finding a game-changing wideout later this week in the draft.