The best laid plans … aren't always the best plans after all.
In the spring of 2000, did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an offseason blueprint that called for the signing of linemen Jeff Christy and Randall McDaniel and a blockbuster trade for WR Keyshawn Johnson? Admittedly, no. But opportunities are opportunities and the Bucs chose not to pass.
Fast forward to 2001. Once again the Bucs are planning to basically lay low in free agency – Rich McKay referred to his team as 'secondary players' – yet within four days of the market opening the Bucs have snapped up two experienced quarterbacks. Did the Bucs head into March believing they would end up with Brad Johnson and Ryan Leaf, the latter claimed off waivers then secured for a longer period by a restructured contract?
Again, no. And again, they were opportunities McKay just couldn't pass up. He didn't have to, as the Bucs' outstanding salary cap management has allowed them to be one of the few relatively unencumbered players on the market.
Still, if Johnson and Leaf weren't expected parts of the grand scheme, then doesn't that tear apart the scheme itself?
First, despite the reported $10 million dollars wrapped up in Leaf's new deal (the Bucs themselves never release salary figures), Leaf's salary-cap impact is quite negotiable for an expert like McKay.
"In this case, at the end of the day – though I'm not one to give numbers – it's not like Ryan's cap number ended up being a big number to us this year," he said. "Brad's cap numbers are bigger than we planned, just because we didn't necessarily plan on that happening."
Clearly, the Bucs did plan on addressing their list of 10 unrestricted free agents in some manner (the list is now nine after Don Davis' signing with St. Louis). According to McKay, the Johnson and Leaf maneuvers simply enhance the plan rather than altering it drastically.
"I still think, because of the market place, we have a chance at the end of the day to accomplish exactly what we thought we could accomplish going into free agency and end up with Brad Johnson and Ryan Leaf," said McKay. "If that were to happen, then I would say things went pretty well for us."
And he would get little argument.