Sapp not optimistic about new Bucs deal
TAMPA, Fla. -- Warren Sapp, as he tends to do, spoke bluntly.
The All-Pro defensive tackle has one season remaining on his contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is not optimistic about the prospect of remaining with the Super Bowl champions beyond 2003.
Sapp said it wouldn't surprise him if the Bucs placed a "franchise'' tag on him after next season, instead of giving him a new contract to keep him in Tampa for the rest of his career.
"If they want to do it, they want to do it. If not, this is their team. I can't have any hard feelings,'' Sapp said.
"The only thing they've allowed me to do in the last five years is collect almost $30 million. I ain't hurtin'. I'd be a fool to sit up here and rant and rave: `They won't pay me.' They've already paid me. And if they say I'm no longer the commodity, we'll deal with it then.''
Sapp will earn $6.6 million next season in the final year of a six-year, $36 million contract he signed in 1998.
He has been one of the league's most dominant defensive players, and believes he should be rewarded for his contributions as one of the cornerstones of a franchise that's gone from being a laughingstock to Super Bowl champions.
"I've had two losing seasons as a Buc in eight years. There's no other person you can find with that on his resume except (Derrick) Brooks because we've been together the whole time,'' Sapp said, noting that Tampa Bay endured 12 consecutive seasons with 10 or more losses before he and Brooks joined the team as first-round draft picks in 1995.
With Sapp, Brooks and John Lynch forming the foundation for the NFL's top defense, the Bucs have made the playoffs five of the past six seasons and won their first Super Bowl under coach Jon Gruden in January.
"If what I've done for this organization the last eight years isn't good enough for them, then so be it,'' said Sapp, who has 72 career sacks -- 6 1/2 shy of Tampa Bay's career record held by Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon.
General Rich McKay, who also wants to extend the contract of nose tackle Anthony McFarland, declined to discuss Sapp's situation during the team's weekend minicamp. In the past, he's said the outspoken defensive tackle is the kind of player he'd like to think would be a Buccaneer for life.
Gruden also shied away from the topic.
"All I can say is we're going to work as hard as we can to resolve it, and we will when it's appropriate,'' the coach said. "He's under contract. He's a big part of our team. He's our team captain and I'm not going to say much more publicly about it than that.''
If the Bucs don't give Sapp a long-term contract, the 30-year-old defensive tackle could play out the season and become a free agent or the team could place a "franchise'' designation on him and offer a one-year deal for 2004.
Under the exclusive rights terms of the franchise tag, the Bucs would be required to give him a contract equal to 120 percent of his last year's salary.
Sapp, who had 7 1/2 sacks last season, thinks he can still perform at a Pro Bowl level for at least four more years. His sack totals were down the past two seasons, after having 12 1/2 in 1999 and 16 1/2 in 2000, however teammates and coaches say his contributions can't be measured by statistics alone.
"The only thing I'm being measured to is me,'' said Sapp, who tied for first among NFC defensive tackles in sacks in 2002.
"That's the only thing that kind of throws me off. Who can you compare him to? Nobody but himself. He's in a class by himself. So, therefore you pay him in a class by himself,'' Sapp said.
"I'll take the same exact deal I had this time and go back at it again. No problem. That was a wonderful deal. And the standard was set by the best in the game -- and that's me.''
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