Though it became a given that the Bucs would move in a different direction, the same day's signing of free agent tight end Dallas Clark obviously mandated rapid action. The veteran had worked out for Tampa Bay as recently as last week and new coach Greg Schiano obviously was anxious to benefit from the ongoing dispersal of the Peyton Manning-led Colts' players.
Clark possesses a similar skill set to Winslow and it certainly makes sense not to keep both players. Each is a pass-first tight end with dynamic play-making abilities, but only capable of limited contributions to a team's blocking schemes.
However, there are some significant differences that helped mandate the course chosen by the Buccaneers. Though Winslow remained healthy and posted 3 solid seasons in Tampa Bay, the boisterous attitude of the 28 year-old frequently drew the ire of coaches and fans alike. The California native recently elected not to participate in the club's voluntary workouts and this decision apparently did not sit well with the new regime at One Buc Place.
In contrast, the 32 year-old Clark has long been considered a consummate teammate. Playing alongside Manning for 8 years, the University of Iowa product kept quiet and let his results do most of the talking. Like Winslow, Clark was typically employed by the Colts as an additional wideout, where he certainly benefited from playing with a Hall of Fame quarterback.
In addition to the obvious age difference, Clark has missed 15 games over the past 2 seasons with wrist and leg injuries. Though the Bucs believe he is healthy, his body certainly has a good deal of mileage. Furthermorey, Clark's production greatly declined without the benefit of Manning. In 2011, the tight end only averaged 3 catches per game for a miserable Colts' team.
The shuffling door at Tampa Bay's tight end position occurred so swiftly that it is difficult to analyze the merits of these moves. A quick survey of Bucs' fans reveals that many supporters are glad Schiano chose to remove a "bad apple" from the retooled locker room. Additionally, Clark likely will serve as the superior mentor for young backups Luke Stoker and Drake Dunsmore.
However, the loss of Winslow's production may be felt during the upcoming season. For a modest price, the Seahawks obtained one of the top pass catching tight ends in the NFL, who started all 48 games in his 3 year career as a Buccaneer. The club must now cross its collective fingers in hoping that Clark can stay healthy to fill the void.
Though Tampa Bay does save over $4 million in annual salary, the team has already paid the guaranteed portion of Winslow's mega 6 year contract. If the tight end ultimately proved a bad fit for Schiano's system, he could have been released later in the year at little cost.
When considering a preference for a pure catching tight end, I would give the edge to Winslow over Clark due to recent performance, comparative age, and injury risk. Though the Bucs did not assume a great financial risk, I am dubious that Clark will perform for Josh Freeman as he did for Peyton Manning.
That being said, I am not in Schiano's position to analyze intangible advantages. If the team believes Stocker is the future, then having the better teacher is an invaluable asset.
The Bucs' new coach clearly intends to create an improved atmosphere -- on and off the field. Not only is Winslow linked with an underachieving past, but his attitude obviously did not mesh with Schiano's future plans.
Time will reveal if the Bucs pursued the right course of action. But, for now, Seattle is grateful that Tampa Bay made the change.
More by Jeff Briscoe from Yahoo! Contributor Network:
Jeff Briscoe is a writer who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. A loyal Tampa Bay Bucs fan, he co-hosts the Florida-based radio show, The Sports Train.
- Sports & Recreation
- Dallas Clark
- Tampa Bay
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Greg Schiano
- Seattle Seahawks