Mark Dominik and Bucs are Perfect Fit

With all apologies to my wife, if there has ever been a more fitting marriage between two parties than GM Mark Dominik and the Buccaneers, I’d like to see it. The two came to an agreement on a four-year contract extension on Monday, and it couldn’t be a better fit for both sides.

It’s well-known that the Bucs are looking to develop a young core and build for long-term success. It just also happens that coincides with continually passing on higher-priced free agents and sporting a basement-level payroll in recent years. It also happens the Glazer family owns one of the most expensive and high-profile soccer teams in the world in Manchester United.

So…..basically go out there and stock the roster with young, inexpensive, hungry and talented players with a limited number of draft picks to build a foundation and turn the tides around quickly for this franchise, while conveniently keeping the payroll low.

While that might draw jeers and/or laughs from other executives, this Rubik’s cube is Mark Dominik’s game of choice.

Dominik and Dennis Hickey have been outstanding at evaluating talent through the draft in the past two seasons. QB Josh Freeman was a make-or-break gamble that is beginning to return dividends earlier than many expected. Gerald McCoy, Arrelious Benn, and Brian Price are also top draftees brimming with potential that was cut short in 2010 due to injury. Mike Williams in the 4th round was arguably the coup of the entire 2010 draft. E.J. Biggers, Sammie Stroughter, Dekoda Watson, Cody Grimm, and Erik Lorig were all 7th-round picks. All have had significant roles on this team.

Just as importantly, few, if any, executives have been better in recent years at searching for and identifying hidden talent on opposing teams. Ted Larsen (NE), Corey Lynch (CIN), LeGarrette Blount (TEN), and Dezmon Briscoe (CIN) were all, in essence, plucked from practice squads. Michael Bennett, who was an integral part of the defense following McCoy’s injury, was claimed off waivers from Seattle in 2009. Al Woods. Larry Asante. Frank Okam. You get the picture. And while no executive will bat one-thousand at evaluating players that didn’t get drafted, Mark’s recent track record proves he might be one of the better ones in the league at doing it.

Now, do you want to build your team on the Asantes, Okams, and Woods of the football world? Certainly not. However, when the injury bug comes in and bites as many players as it did in 2010, you want a guy who can find and insert reserve players like Corey Lynch and Larry Asante, who tallied key interceptions in divisional games in the final month of the season. Guys like Dezmon Briscoe, who made arguably the most electric catch of the season in the Superdome as the Bucs continued to fight for a playoff spot. Guys like Ted Larsen, who eventually secured the LG spot over Jeremy Zuttah and Keydrick Vincent.

And it might be just as well that Dominik hasn’t pulled the trigger much on signing big-time free agents. Two of the big free-agent contracts he gave out, to Michael Clayton and Derrick Ward, turned out to be big mistakes. However, Dominik and the Bucs made the right move in rewarding Donald Penn with a hefty contract extension during last year’s training camp, who rewarded them in turn with a Pro Bowl 2010 season. It’s evidence that the Bucs, while far from being confused from a team who will regularly break the bank, will spend money on those from within the organization who earn it. That has to be a motivator to current Buccaneers (Barrett Ruud notwithstanding).

So, in summary, the Bucs sit now with a young and deep roster chock full of budding talent led by one of the most productive and physically-gifted second-year quarterbacks you could ask for……all with less than $60 million currently committed in salary towards 2011. The Glazers should be doing backflips. They have a competitive team, a low payroll, and Mark Dominik to thank for that.

For Dominik, the benefit is security and continuity with the organization he’s been with since 1995, when he joined the team as a pro personnel assistant. He’s worked his way through the ranks in Tampa and, when his contract extension expires, will have been with the Bucs for 20 years. That kind of stability in professional sports is a rare thing, and an even rarer one in the dog-eat-dog world of the NFL.

Quick Hits

  • NFL insider Adam Schefter tweeted on Wednesday that the Chicago-Tampa Bay game is slated to be moved to London once the NFL releases its schedule. This would be the second time in three years that the Buccaneers would forfeit a home game.
  • Alabama RB Mark Ingram visited One Buc Place on Wednesday. Not surprising for the Bucs to at least take a look at him, given Cadillac Williams’ status as an unrestricted free agent and Kareem Huggins coming off an ACL injury.
  • The NFL released the 2011 preseason schedule earlier this week. The Bucs will kick off the preseason with a nationally-televised matchup with the Chiefs on Friday, August 12 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bucs then host New England and Miami before wrapping up the preseason at Washington.
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