Mark Dominik continues to come up with amusing statements fairly regularly, and now that he's on Sirius XM NFL Radio with some regularity, he gets to deliver them. Often. Dominik talked about the biggest mistake he made as the Bucs' general manager: giving Mike Williams an early extension. JoeBucsFan grabbed the relevant quote:
"‘Pump the brakes. We don't need to do an extension too quickly.' That was one of the things I learned on the go and I messed up on: You don't want to really reward guys that have been in trouble before until you have to," Dominik said. "Until they're at the final stage of their contract situation. Because I did that with Mike Williams. Now I protected the [Bucs] on how we structured the contract, but Mike Williams, the wide receiver out of Syracuse who we drafted, I did a long term extension for him. You see he's out of the league now because he just couldn't get his act together.
Here's the problem with the "wait another year" approach: you're always going to be overpaying players, or more than you would if you just extend them early. If you wait until they nearly hit free agency, it's easy for a player to use that as leverage and get you to pay up -- after all, once you hit free agency you can get paid ridiculous sums if you're a valued player.
The contracts of Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy perfectly sum up this conundrum: the Bucs extended McCoy during his final contract year, while Suh hit the market. McCoy got a seven-year, $98 million extension while Suh signed a ludicrous six-year, $114 million contract. That's a massive gap caused almost solely by the fact that one player hit free agency and the other didn't. Meanwhile, the amount of money that Dominik's big mistake cost the Bucs? $6 million.
This reluctance to sign players to early extensions was actually a problem for Dominik, not a strength. It led to Michael Bennett leaving, when the Bucs could have had him under a long-term contract relatively cheaply early on in his career. But it was evident from the start of Dominik's career as a general manager, when he gave Michael Clayton a massive(ly undeserved) extension, just because he was hitting free agency.
Davin Joseph was allowed to hit free agency, and was then massively overpaid. The same thing happened with Jeremy Zuttah, though the extent of his overpayment was less serious. Donald Penn had to hold out to get a long-term extension, even though he was a quality left tackle who the Bucs should have re-signed years before.
Dominik apparently never understood that by waiting so long to re-sign players he was actually exposing the Buccaneers to greater risk in the form of larger contracts and larger commitments to players. It showed not only in his approach to his own players, but also in free agency, where he consistently paid top dollar for a very few players. Dominik had a thing for eggs and singular baskets.
Under Lovie Smith and Jason Licht, that's no longer the case. They signed a slew of free agents last year, some of whom turned out to be busts. But they haven't been hampered financially by those busts because they managed to spread the risk. Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins are gone, and the Bucs still have plenty of cap space. Meanwhile, Alterraun Verner, Clinton McDonald and Logan Mankins did turn out to be valuable contributors.
That's how you mitigate risk, Mark Dominik: you spread it, because trying to avoid it altogether is impossible.