Dallas Clark deal low risk for Buccaneers

TAMPA, Fla. -- You could suggest the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stepped out of character when they signed free-agent tight end Dallas Clark late Monday night.

Before adding Clark, the Bucs had only two players on the roster who were 30 or older. One was 37-year-old cornerback Ronde Barber, but he literally is grandfathered in because he has spent his entire career with the team and is a Tampa Bay icon. The other is defensive tackle Gary Gibson (30). He’s also an exception. Gibson, a career backup, played for coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers, is here for depth and there’s no guarantee of him making the regular-season roster.

Other than them, every other player on the roster has an age that starts with a 2. This is a team that's made it clear it will build primarily through the draft.

Clark spent nine seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, and as recently as the 2009 season was one of the league’s most productive tight ends -- when he had 100 receptions. But Clark suffered a season-ending wrist injury in the middle of the 2010 season. Last season, Clark had an assortment of injuries and was limited to 11 games, in which he produced 34 catches. That led to speculation that Clark’s career might be over.

“I’m not done playing,’’ Clark said Tuesday after his first workout with his new team. “You’re an NFL player. Every day you are proving yourself. The second you stop, you are out the door.’’

Clark said he’s over last season’s injuries and isn’t hampered by anything.

“I believe whole heartedly that he is going to return to his form and play the way he is capable,’’ Schiano said. "That’s what we need. I think he can do everything we are going to ask him to do. And it is really good to have strong veteran presence in that tight end room as well.”

But the thing is, Clark really isn’t all that much different than Barber or Gibson. The Bucs are hoping he’ll be their main pass-catcher at tight end, but they also plan to play Luke Stocker in a lot of situations. Their investment in Clark isn’t all that huge. They signed him to a very simple contract.

It’s a one-year deal. He’s scheduled to make $2.7 million in base salary and only $1 million of that is guaranteed. There was no signing bonus or any incentives. That comes after the Bucs freed up $4.8 million in cap room by trading tight end Kellen Winslow to Seattle.

If Clark bounces back and produces anything similar, the Bucs got a bargain and they’ll be thrilled. If the injuries linger or Clark isn’t the same player he was before, it’s not like the Bucs have made a huge long-term investment in him.

In short, the Bucs entered into a low-risk deal that at least has the potential to bring a lot of rewards. If it doesn’t, there’s really no harm.

In other financial news, the Bucs have given wide receiver Preston Parker a one-year contract extension. Parker still will make the same $540,000 in base salary this year that previously was scheduled. But he received a $50,000 signing bonus and his 2013 salary will rise to $1 million.