Carolina receiver Muhsin Muhammad and Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Bryant each made a lot of noise Wednesday about wanting to stay with their teams next year, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen for either player.
In fact, the odds are probably against it for both.
Let’s start with Muhammad. He’s 36 and he’s not under contract for next year. He’s spent most of his career with the Panthers and has deep ties to Charlotte. He’s been reasonably productive this year, but the Panthers are painfully aware they need to upgrade at wide receiver. Muhammad and Dwayne Jarrett haven’t been able to steer much coverage away from Steve Smith, and defenses have been able to load up on him.
The current regime knows it needs to get Smith some help. If a new regime comes in, that should be obvious to whoever is breaking down film of this year. The Panthers are going to add one or two quality receivers through the draft or free agency.
On the plus side, the Panthers may be interested in keeping Muhammad around as a third or fourth receiver. Despite his age, his skills haven’t evaporated dramatically, and teammates have always viewed him as a good guy to have in the locker room. If Muhammad’s willing to play at a low salary and accept a backup role, he still could have a job in Charlotte.
The same probably is not true for Bryant in Tampa Bay. He pretty much has played -- and talked -- his way out of a future with the Bucs.
The team put the franchise tag (nearly $10 million) on Bryant this year because there was uncertainty if he could maintain the level of play he achieved last season. That’s turned out to be the right call because Bryant hasn’t come anywhere close to what he did last season.
Injuries have been a factor. But, even when healthy, Bryant hasn’t done all that much. To make matters worse, he keeps talking and putting the blame on everyone else -- mainly the coaching staff and rookie quarterback Josh Freeman.
That’s not a good idea. Freeman is the franchise and taking repeated shots at him isn’t going to get Bryant a new contract with the Bucs. Fact is, if the current regime stays, Bryant already has sealed his own fate.
The Bucs are committed to getting Freeman all the help they can, and they’ll probably bring in at least two receivers capable of starting. Bryant has made sure he won’t be one of them.