Mark Dominik's dice roll on Albert Haynesworth was a risk. But the Buccaneers GM didn't make it blindly, and he certainly had his reasons. Or reason, singular.
Bucs claim Albert Haynesworth
"This is predicated on losing Gerald McCoy. If that doesn't happen, this doesn't happen, we don't claim Haynesworth," Dominik told me Wednesday night, referencing McCoy's season-ending biceps injury. "The reality, we lost Gerald for the season, we're 4-4 and still in the thick of it, we've lost our last two and we're one game off the wild card. We don't think we're out of it."
Dominik spent time Tuesday night going through all 134 of Haynesworth's snaps as a Patriot. He did it again Wednesday morning.
"I saw disruption," he continued. "I saw strength, a finisher, a guy with the ability to put a lot of pressure on an offense. He's still able to be a penetrating force. He can hit it and go. I didn't see as much dogging it, but I did see the last play, where he played a 1-gap technique, and I can see why it got them frustrated. He opened up the run lane, and (Brandon) Jacobs walked in the end zone. That said, I didn't see a guy that didn't care. He battled and competed. I think he's worthy of an opportunity."
So Dominik put in the claim, making the Bucs the only team to do so, and was awarded Haynesworth while assuming the $706,000 left in base salary. The incentive clauses, too, will apply going forward. Haynesworth played 25.2 percent of the Patriots' 531 defensive snaps. He has a $1 million incentive if he plays 20 percent of the snaps, and $590,000 markers at 45, 50, 55, 60 and 65 percent. The first one is very attainable. He'd have to play a lot to hit any of the other five.
But with McCoy out, and just Brian Price and Roy Miller left with experience, Dominik expects Haynesworth to be given every opportunity. The way the GM explained it to me, the Bucs had six defensive tackles come in Tuesday to work out, and he determined Haynesworth "the best defensive tackle to come in and help us win."
As for the questions of effort or any off-field antics, Dominik made it clear the leash is short.
"Sure it is," the GM said. "He does have history, of course. But at the end of the day, you talk to anyone in the NFL, week to week, and you know you can be the hero one week, and be the villain the next. It's tough for any player under that scrutiny. But that's the nature of our business. He's gonna have a shorter leash, but if he's prepared and ready to play, he'll play."
Haynesworth has grown quite a reputation for saying one thing but doing another, so his words should be taken with a grain of salt. But Dominik said: "The only thing he was adamant about was how happy he was coming to Tampa, and that this is a system he wants to play in. ... He said he wanted to make me proud I claimed him."
It's hard to count on anything with Haynesworth after the past few years. But Dominik feels good about handing him over to Raheem Morris, who has handled personalities/problems like Kellen Winslow and Aqib Talib in the past without incident, and without disrupting a locker-room culture in which both coach and GM take a lot of pride.
This, of course, will be one heck of a test.