The Buccaneers want to try to keep defensive end Michael Bennett, and met with his agent yesterday at the NFL Scouting Combine about a new deal.
But they’re not going to use the franchise tag on him, and are prepared to move forward with Da’Quan Bowers if need be, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
“We’ve spoken internally as an organization with ownership, certainly with Greg [Schiano] and me, and we’re not going to use the franchise or transition tag on any player on our roster,’’ general manager Mark Dominik said. “We’re trying to meet with the agents of every single one of our free agents so they can understand the direction we’re thinking, where we’re heading. We’re still having negotiations or conversations with them. It’s hard to say whether they will be productive or not, but it’s certainly something we try to do is have meetings with the agents of our free agents and have meaningful dialogue.’’
Bennett led the team with nine sacks last year, and will certainly find interest if he reaches the market.
But despite the fact Bowers faces gun charges after a recent arrest at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, the Bucs are confident the former second-round pick can become their top pass-rusher if Bennett leaves.
“Da’Quan is a guy I thought continued to accelerate his play throughout the end of the season,’’ Dominik said. “The more we can get him on the football field, I think the better we are as a football team. Certainly, that’s part of the thought process going forward with our entire football team, hopefully getting Adrian Clayborn back and 100 percent healthy and then be able to pair him with a guy like Da’Quan who we feel can be a premier left end in this league. That certainly has to be part of the entire picture we’re looking at, not only with free agency, but how we’re putting this thing together.’’
Of course, suggesting that’s a subtle reminder that Bennett’s not irreplaceable, especially for a team with $30 million in cap space and possibly more on the way.