The following is my take on the season that was and a few of the major headlines heading into the 2010 season.
With only four NFL teams still standing, the remaining 28 teams have started planning for the 2010 season. The Senior Bowl, free agency and NFL Draft all occur within the next three months, so it will be very busy in front office’s around the league.
Some say that the Bucs were planning for the 2010 season even before the 2009 season began, and judging by the product that took the field and the results that followed, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
WR Antonio Bryant is an unrestricted free agent
The Bucs were reluctant to sign Bryant to a long-term deal after his very productive 2008 campaign, so I don’t foresee them suddenly opening the vault to him following an injury-plagued 2009. Especially the kind of money that Bryant and his representatives are seeking. The Bucs’ dilemma is that they don’t have a reliable #2 receiver (not counting TE Kellen Winslow), so they’re backed into a bit of a corner in regards to Bryant and his demands. Essentially, it’s either sign him long-term or lose him to the highest bidder on the open market.
With the lack of big name wideouts on the free agent market, the Bucs may not have many options in terms of potential replacements for Bryant if they elect not to re-sign him.
WR Sammie Stroughter was definately a find in the 7th round and with a little growth and development may one day replace Bryant’s impact, but the Bucs will have to decide if that’s something they’re willing to gamble on heading into next season.
Ticket prices will be mostly unchanged for the 2010 season
The Bucs announced that season tickets for the 2010 season will stay at 2009 prices and in some instances, actually be cheaper.
The latter of which does not suprise me.
The Bucs were bad last year. Historically bad. There were blowouts and blown leads. Turnovers on the field and turnover off the field (coaches, players,etc). Couple that with 2010’s home schedule being anything but enticing and realistically, the Bucs weren’t left with much of a choice but to leave prices alone.
With a defense that showed signs of possibly turning a corner with their improved play over the final month of the ’09 season–barring any unforeseen developments in the offseason–next season should be better for the Bucs in terms of wins and losses, which in turn should help in terms of home attendence also improving.
Former Bucs McCardell and Hilliard reportedly interested in returning…as coaches
According to the Bucs Report blog on TBO.com, former Bucs WR’s Keenan McCardell and Ike Hilliard have expressed an interest in possibly returning to the organization in a coaching capacity.
With former wide receiver’s coach Richard Mann exploring other coaching opportunities, the Bucs have a coaching position to fill. Although the idea of McCardell or Hilliard possibly filling that vacancy is, at the very least, suprising.
McCardell and Hilliard both made a name for themselves as the prototypical ‘crafty’ wideout during their respective careers.
McCardell’s NFL career began in 1992 with the Browns and ended in 2007 with the Redskins. Over the course of his 16-year career, McCardell hauled in 883 receptions for 11,373 yards and 63 TD’s. He was also a member of the Bucs’ 2002 Super Bowl championship team.
Hilliard began his career in 1997 with the Giants and ended it in 2008 with the Bucs. During his 12-year NFL career, Hilliard caught 546 passes for 6,397 yards and 35 TD’s.
Provided that the report is not erroneous, either McCardell or Hilliard would be a welcomed addition to the coaching staff. With a crop of wide receivers that have a lot of developing to do, especially considering the aforementioned contract situation with Antonio Bryant, a capable wide receiver’s coach would go a long way in bridging the gap.
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