Don't be surprised if the Bucs keep Haynesworth.

Buccaneers May Hang on To Haynesworth

Albert Haynesworth is under contract through 2012, and according to the St. Pete Times’ Stephen Holder (yeah, I’m not calling it the Tampa Bay Times, sorry), Hayneworth wants to return to Tampa next season. The big question is whether the Buccaneers want him back.

“I would love to come back,” Haynesworth said. “I like the team, I like the location, I like the facilities. It would be great. I think upper management is doing good and I really enjoy it here. I wish I’d have come here three years ago.”

For the Bucs this decision is far more complicated than it appears when you just pan it superficially. Haynesworth is an intriguing, if frustrating NFL player, capable of being an elite 4-3 defensive tackle or a locker room cancer, depending entirely on his mood. Tampa claimed Haynesworth off waivers after New England released him and Gerald McCoy went on IR. He went on to appear in seven games and notch 20 tackles, though admittedly he was never fully acclimated.

Now the Bucs must decide whether or not to keep Haynesworth through 2012 at a price of 7.6 million dollars or release him and continue to rely on two unproven, oft-injured tackles in McCoy and Brian Price.

Here’s the kicker, whereas with most teams the price tag would be a deterrent, don’t be surprised if that number is attractive to the Bucs.

Shocking though that may sound, I don’t believe for one second that the Bucs are actually going to start spending money until the league requires them to in 2013. A lot of people want to believe they will, but I have to see it to believe it. Just look at the past off-season when Tampa spent funny money on a punter and then overpaid to resign a couple of unremarkable linebackers. That was it. No big extensions or splashy moves to speak of, and that was when the Bucs felt they were just a few pieces from being a playoff contender. If they weren’t going to spend last season with that mindset, I don’t see the team’s MO changing this year.

You even heard it in yesterday’s press conference, the Glazers said they’d spend what they needed to (read: what is required, not what is wanted by fans) and then immediately began discussing the draft and re-signing players. Those are not the words of a team poised for a spending spree.

Last year the Bucs were so cheap they got blasted by pundits all over the league for not spending any money. We all circled the wagons in Tampa and defended the Bucs for “sticking to their guns” and staying with the youth movement, but looking back we were all drinking the Kool-Aid. The Bucs had an abysmal off-season and without the league mandating they go out and spend money this year I don’t think that trend changes.

But keeping Haynesworth allows them to look like they’re spending money when in fact they’re just holding on to a dead weight contract to fill cap space. Now be honest, doesn’t that sound like a Glazer move?

They don’t have to go out and sign anyone to a big deal or try to make a dynamic set of personnel moves, they can just hold on to Haynesworth’s money and fill their cap space that way. Then next year when he comes off the books they’ll have even more space to “re-sign their own players and work through the draft.”

When you think about it, that move falls closer to the Bucs stated philosophy than jettisoning him and trying to upgrade through free agency (you know, like the other 31 teams would).

And for all intensive purposes it may work out for the Bucs, maybe Haynesworth kicks it into gear and begins to really get back to his 2008 form. Or maybe he doesn’t and he just fills up cap space and deflects criticism from the Bucs ownership and front office.

I don’t know, but either way I have a sneaking suspicion that he may still be in Tampa come 2012.

 

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