Yardbarker Horiz

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bryant, Ward out; Williams, Huggins in

The Cincinnati Bengals poured a $7.8 million signing bonus over former Buccaneer Antonio Bryant, then cut him without an appearance in a single game.  In his place is the 2010 preseason phenom and 4th round draft choice Mike Williams.

Derrick Ward signed a two year contract last year as an insurance policy for Cadillac Williams knees.  Enter 2009 Undrafted Free Agent Kareem Huggins.  Exit Derrick Ward.

Five of the six 2009 draft choices are either starting or second in line (Freeman, Miller, Moore, Biggers, Stroughter).  The same goes for four members of the 2010 draft class (McCoy, Price, Williams, Lewis).

Does anyone question the ability of General Manager Mark Dominik's front office to judge talent anymore?

Chris Hovan, longtime mainstay in the middle of the Buccaneers defense, was not offered a new contract by Dominik during the past offseason.  The St. Louis Rams did pick up Hovan, but he has been on IR since early July (back) and has not taken a snap during the preseason.  It is unlikely he makes the Rams opening day roster.

A quick prowl around the web shows Jermaine Phillips and Torrie Cox are not be in any NFL camps this fall.  Derrick Brooks has retired, as has Warrick Dunn.  Ike Hilliard never played another snap.

What would you think about your General Manager if your team drafts a player in April, then trades him away before the end of training camp in August?  Isn't it more impressive to find a Sammie Stroughter in the 7th round?  Obviously!

It seems the eight years Dominik put in as the Pro Personnel Director are paying off for the rebuilding Buccaneers.  No talent is "leaking" away from the team in the form of veterans with viable playing time remaining.  Dominik seems to understand when a veteran has given all they have to the franchise.  Knowing when a player has reached the end of their career is as important a talent for a GM as organizing the draft efforts -- mistakes in either case can cost the team cap space and roster opportunities for developing additional talent onto the depth chart.

Now Dominik must dig into his bag of tricks for another tool:  correctly choosing between two talented players at the same position.  Granted, this type of decision falls heavily on the shoulders of the coaching staff, who must be able to identify players which can perform the tasks presented to them at the highest level.  But, also, Dominik must manage his cap, the roster, and the practice squad while keeping an eye on the waiver wire, so the final decision rests in his office.  This is not a task for the squeamish; you know not all decisions will be winners.  In the modern NFL you don't have to hit with every decision, but you do have to nail the majority of them.  The core of the roster is the 44-man two-deep (that is, the starter and his backup for all positions) plus the punter, kicker, and perhaps a specialist long-snapper.  On a 53-man regular season roster, that leaves room for around six "others" -- versatile special teams performers, young talent to groom, or . . . mistakes, which will need to be corrected.  And a GM does not have time to deal with mistakes.

The final preseason game is tomorrow, after which rosters will be pared down from 75 players to 53-man rosters.  Those last few decisions may not be as critical as a first round pick in April, but they will impact the season and the future of the franchise.  Dominik has shown the ability a GM needs for the task.  As the talent on the roster continues to improve, the decisions will get tougher.  With the right choices, the rewards will escalate as well.

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