The free agency battle for Albert Haynesworth's services reportedly came down to a two-team race: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins.
The Redskins came up winners after the Pro Bowl defensive tackle agreed to a seven-year, $100 million deal this morning, hours after the NFL's free agency period began.
Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' executive vice president for football operations, told ESPN that the deal was finalized about 5:30 this morning.
Agent Chad Speck told ESPN that the Bucs and Redskins were Haynesworth's final choices. Speck said the Bucs were involved in talks with Haynesworth until the end, the Tennessean reported.
ESPN said the deal includes $41 million in guaranteed money.
Haynesworth, who led Tennessee with a career-high 8 1/2 sacks, was perhaps the biggest prize in this year's free agency period, but with him off the board the Bucs will turn to other needs. The Bucs, who are reportedly $61 million below the NFL salary cap after the release Wednesday of Derrick Brooks and four other veterans, are jumping into the fray with both feet.
One curious report suggests the Bucs have made a run at Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who would fill a starter's spot opposite Antonio Bryant, who signed the one-year tender that came with the franchise tag the Bucs placed on him last week.
One of Houshmandzadeh's Bengals teammates told a Cincinnati reporter earlier in the evening that he heard the Bucs and Eagles were emerging as the two big players for Houshmandzadeh, but Houshmandzadeh's interest in the Bucs may not be as strong as the Bucs' interest in him.
In an interview on ESPN "NFL Live" early Friday Houshmandzadeh said there were four teams he wanted to play for but the Bucs weren't one of them. The teams making Houshmandzadeh's list were Philadelphia, Minnesota, the New York Giants and Seattle.
The Bucs, of course, are definitely in the market for a receiver after releasing Joey Galloway on Wednesday and failing to get a deal done for Michael Clayton before the free agent marketplace opened today.
They are believed to have very strong interest in Pittsburgh speedster Nate Washington and may revisit the idea of signing Devery Henderson, who was on their want list last year before signing with New Orleans.
As for the Bucs' own free agents, the team did not release news of any signings prior to the start of free agency. That's an indication that in addition to Clayton, the likes of safety Jermaine Phillips, cornerback Phillip Buchanon and tight end Jerramy Stevens have hit the market.
The Bucs were believed to be in negotiations with the agents for all those players right up to and possibly beyond the deadline, and so it's possible that deals can still be reached before the players actually begin testing the market.
The Bucs, meanwhile, are believed to be setting up potential visits with the likes of Washington, Falcons linebacker Michael Boley, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and tight end Chris Baker.
The Bucs are also in the market for a running back and are believed to be considering 49ers back DeShaun Foster, Browns back Jason Wright and Seattle back Maurice Morris.