The Tampa Bay Bucs are finally getting defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth two years later but at a giant bargain.
And maybe just in a nick of time.
General manager Mark Dominik claimed the 6-foot-6, 350-pound former Pro Bowler Wednesday after his release by the New England Patriots on Tuesday a brief stint that followed Haynesworth's tumultuous 2010 season with the Washington Redskins under head coach Mike Shanahan.
The Bucs had tried their best to lure Haynesworth to town in 2009 when he was an unrestricted free agent with the Tennessee Titans, but lost out when Redskins owner Dan Snyder opened his bank account and signed him to a 100-million, seven-year deal. Haynesworth later revealed that he received a 120-million offer from Tampa Bay that could increase over time by 20 percent, but says he chose the Redskins due to their large fan base.
Now the Bucs have gained his services for a reported 705,882 for the final eight games of the season a mere pittance of what they would have had to pay him. The question is whether Haynesworth, with his checkered past, can add the instant stability they need after losing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for the rest of the season with a torn right biceps muscle on Sunday in New Orleans.
They'll find out soon enough. Haynesworth, 30, will no doubt get a chance to prove his worth at 1 p.m. Sunday in a crucial home contest for the Bucs against the offensive powerhouse Houston Texans, featuring the top running back tandem of Arian Foster (656 yards, five touchdowns and a 4.3 yards-per-carry average) and Ben Tate (623 yards, two touchdowns and a 5.7 yards-per-carry average).
To make room for Haynesworth, Tampa Bay released former Buffalo Bills tackle and 2006 first-rounder John McCargo, whom they had signed on Tuesday.
Dominik said Wednesday afternoon that he had studied New England game tapes closely before putting in the claim for Haynesworth, watching all 134 snaps he was involved in twice. Dominik then had a positive conversation by phone with Haynesworth that prompted him to make the claim.
"I have had a chance to talk to him already and he was as you would hope excited and fired up," Dominik said. "He asked how soon we could get him a flight because he wants to be in tonight and go to practice tomorrow. That was very encouraging."
"I saw that he can be strong, powerful, dominating," he continued. "He's disruptive still. He can overpower his opponent. When I see him hit a gap or shoot a gap, he can still play football. He's not one of these older players that really can't play anymore. I just want him to play our way. Coach Morris is excited about it and we're looking forward to moving forward with Albert Haynesworth."
How much Haynesworth will play on Sunday remains to be seen, but his arrival gives head coach Raheem Morris more options on the defensive front. Burly 6-5, 350-pound tackle Frank Okam, who has been a pleasant surprise in his first Buc season, missed the 27-16 loss Sunday with a calf injury. He's expected back to face his former team, but Haynesworth could pick up the slack dividing time with healthy tackles Brian Price and Roy Miller.
Haynesworth played for the Titans from 2002-2008, notching 24 sacks including six in 2007 and a career high of 8.5 in 2008. He played in 12 games with Washington in 2009, getting four sacks and getting voted the most dominant defender in the NFL in a Sports Illustrated poll conducted in October of that year.
His troubles began with the arrival of former Broncos head coach Shanahan, with whom he feuded from the outset. He skipped off-season workouts, unhappy about being used as a nose tackle in a new 3-4 defensive scheme. That was followed by his much-publicized troubles passing a conditioning test, and ultimately his suspension by Shanahan for conduct deemed detrimental to the Redskins. He finished his rocky Redskin tenure in 2010 with a career-worst 13 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
He was signed in July by New England for a fifth-round 2013 draft pick, but never gelled with the Patriots. He missed two games with a back injury and finished with three tackles and no sacks. His contact would have paid him 1.5 million had he stayed in New England and is due to earn 6.7 million next year. But for now, the Bucs have him at a considerable discount. And sitting a 4-4 in the NFC South, behind New Orleans (6-3) and Atlanta (5-3), they're hoping their investment pays some immediate dividends now that McCoy, their No. 1 pick from 2010, is gone.
"I would say candidly that if Gerald wasn't hurt right now I probably wouldn't do this move," Dominik remarked. "But because of the situation we're in, I felt like Albert Haynesworth had the best ability of any defensive tackle out there, and for us, for me, it made sense as an organization to bring him on board."