Dominik goes his own way

Mark Dominik (left) has shaken up the league in his own right during his tenure as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Mark Dominik (left) has shaken up the league in his own right during his tenure as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. /

Mark Dominik does things differently.  He has been a general manager for just over 2 years, but he has already made waves among the ranks of GMs in the NFL.

Many Bucs fans know him for his drafting of franchise quarterback Josh Freeman, his snagging of Mike Williams in the 4th round of the 2010 draft, or for being the man who released the beloved Derrick Brooks.  Dominik may be best known, however, for his ability to work the waiver wire, bringing in explosive power back LeGarrette Blount and surprise contributor Ted Larsen (OL) among others.

It was this last ability that made Dominik the subject of some unexpected headlines.  When he swooped in and snatched wide out Dezmon Briscoe off the Bengals practice squad, Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis took his beef to the media.

““When you overpay a guy on the practice squad, you create a problem in the system for team,” Lewis said.  “I don’t know that teams want to set that precedent. They did with Dez. That’s not the great precedent for teams to set as we try to keep the NFL doing the things we’re trying to do as a league. It’s still a league of 32 teams and things are put together a certain way.”

Initially, it sounded like sour grapes from a frustrated man.  But after watching Briscoe make an outstanding touchdown catch in the Buccaneers big win against the Saints, the rest of the NFL can understand Lewis’s comments.  Briscoe is a talent and Mark Dominik made sure that he will be wearing pewter and red instead of orange and black, and that is his job.  Ironically, he landed Briscoe by doing something that many Bucs fans believe he is incapable of doing: overpaying.

In fact, Dominik is bucking that label this year as well.  While many other playoff contenders have gone out and made major signings, the Bucs front office has been using its cap space to retain key young players while making sure to plan for the future contracts of Freeman, Williams, and Blount.  Currently the trio has a combined 2011 base salary that is less ($1.85 million) than new punter Michael Koenen ($3.25 million).  That won’t be true five years from now and the Bucs know that keeping cap space available is prudent, if not downright boring.

Recently, Buccaneers were again the subject of scrutiny from their NFL GM counterparts when they guaranteed first round defensive end Adrian Clayborn a 4 year deal worth $8.2 million.  National Football Post writer Andrew Brandt noted “(t)here are a few front offices around the league cursing the Buccaneers under their breath for creating a precedent that will certainly be in place now for probably the ten-year length of the deal.”  Was this another instance of Dominik rocking the NFL front office boat?  Let’s examine.

By guaranteeing Clayborn’s contract, the Bucs must pay him the entire $8.2 million unless he is suspended or injures himself away from football.  In baseball or basketball, that’s called a standard contract, but in the NFL it’s apparently a cardinal sin.  Also, Clayborn is guaranteed a hair over $2 million dollars per year, less than what last year’s number 20 pick (Texans DB Kareem Jackson) is being paid by about a half million dollars.  It is no wonder that those who have criticized the Bucs have not done so publicly, because that is a losing public relations war.  And besides, Dominik’s job is not to worry about the rest of the league.  His job is to get his rookies into camp, which he did faster than any GM in the league.

As with everything in the NFL, time will tell if Mark Dominik’s methods will lead him to football glory or a seat atop a railroad slat on his way out of town.  In the coming years, offering Briscoe the rookie minimum to leave Cincinnati might look like when Dutch merchants bought the island of Manhattan for a handful of glass beads, or it may not.  Perhaps in time, his aversion to the free agent market may be what gave the Bucs enough capital to lock down their own stars and bring in some complimentary pieces in their prime a la the Miami Heat, or it may not.  Guaranteeing Clayborn’s contract may be the first step in fair and equitable (read: guaranteed) contracts for all NFL players, or it may not.  Whatever the results of Dominik’s moves, it surely is refreshing to have a general manager who makes headlines for something other than giving aged 30-somethings multiyear, multimillion dollar contracts.


For a national perspective, check out this link.  It has some great quotes by the GM on how this franchise is going to be run for the foreseeable future.