Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik believes his team has spent its money wisely over the past five years.
The Bucs have spent the least amount of money on player costs between 2004 and 2008 than any other NFL team, according to a recent article on NFL.com. Despite the frugal spending, Dominik insists he has never been ordered by the Glazers, who spent over $1.5 billion to acquire Manchester United in 2005, not to spend money on free agents.
"It's never been stated like that, nor have I been under that impression my last six or seven months on the job, or the years prior as director of pro [personnel]," Dominik said. "It's been, 'Lets spend our money smart.'
"The philosophy I take, and the philosophy [former general manager] Bruce [Allen] had also, was, 'Spend it like it's your own.' You can't just go out there and throw it away. You got to think of it as your money and how would you spend it most wisely. I think that leads you to making more sound decisions."
The report stated said Tampa Bay spent $449 million, which includes gross totals spent on salaries and bonuses, over the past five seasons.
Conversely, Dallas led the NFL with $566.89 million spent during that time frame, while Seattle is second ($552.42 million), followed by Washington ($547.37 million).
However, between 2005 and 2007, Dallas and Tampa Bay have the same amount of playoff appearances and wins - two appearances and no wins. Washington has made two appearances and has only one playoff win - against Tampa Bay in 2005.
"I've always lived in the mind-set that every player has a certain amount of value," Dominik said. "You have to determine that and you have to stick to it or it means nothing."
The Bucs have been in contention for high-profile free agents, but have not landed many of them recently.
Former Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth recently said Tampa Bay offered him more money than Washington during a recent interview on Sirius NFL Radio, but he wanted to play in a bigger market. He settled for a seven-year contract with the Redskins worth $100 million.
Tampa Bay also unsuccessfully attempted to trade for former Denver quarterback Jay Cutler, former New England quarterback Matt Cassel, and was one of two choices for New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma this offseason.
Prior to last season, Tampa Bay nearly acquired former Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre before he was traded to the New York Jets.
Dominik categorizes those attempts to add players as a selective spending mindset Tampa Bay has approached free agency with.
"The hardest part about free agency, and one the biggest problems you have in free agency, is determining something of value, especially when the person from the other team is not on your roster," Dominik said. "Then understanding that you could be bidding against two, three, five or six teams. You don't know.
"It's the agent's responsibility to put the young man in the right home and also to maximize his opportunity of being a free agent."
Instead, Dominik points to the free agency success Tampa Bay has enjoyed.
Tampa Bay signed running back Derrick Ward, tight end Kellen Winslow and linebacker Angelo Crowell this offseason. Winslow received a six-year, $36.1 million deal that includes $20.1 million in guarantees, making him the highest paid tight end in league history. With incentives, the deal could grow to $42.1 million, while receiver Antonio Bryant received the franchise tag and has a one-year deal worth nearly $10 million in 2009.
Last season, Tampa Bay's Jeff Faine became the richest center in NFL history after signing a six-year deal worth $37.5 million. The Bucs also signed rookie free agent running back Clifton Smith, who later became a Pro Bowl kick returner.
"Just because you don't bring home the most popular names doesn't mean you're not adding pieces to the puzzle, like a Jimmy Wilkerson last year," Dominik said. "No one knew who Jimmy Wilkerson was coming out of Kansas City and he came on and played well for us. Even though he wasn't the big contract everyone wanted to see the Buccaneers spend, he was an important piece of the puzzle and now has a chance to be our starting left end.
"I don't think it's been noticed in the NFL, but even in this offseason, the Glazers have shown their willingness and desire to put a good product on the football field that will give us the best opportunity to win not only this year, but in the future."