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McFarland deal could spell end for Sapp - ESPN - 6/26/03


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McFarland deal could spell end for Sapp

By Darrell Trimble

NFL Insider

Thursday, June 26

Updated: June 26

11:47 AM ET

Some people call him Booger and others call him Baby Sapp, but soon Anthony McFarland hopes to be referred to as one of the highest paid defensive tackles in the NFL. McFarland, who is in the final year of his original rookie contract, recently told the Tampa Tribune he is optimistic he will report to training camp July 18 with a new deal.

McFarland missed six games last season because of a broken forearm and a fractured foot, but he continued to show people that he's a force to be reckoned with. In fact, some people feel that he's already better than Warren Sapp, who is also in his walk year. What is troublesome for the Bucs is that in order to keep McFarland they'll have to pay him such a great sum of money that it prohibits them from keeping both interior linemen on the roster.

"Tampa appears very committed to Anthony and he has expressed his desire to remain with the Bucs in the foreseeable future," McFarland's agent Karl Bernard told the Tribune. But Bernard cautioned, "We have to determine if the contract offered by the Bucs is enough ... for Anthony to forego potential free agency."

The Bucs do have the option of letting Sapp play out the last year of his contract and then assigning him their franchise designation, but 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, which would be $7.9 million. That's a hefty chunk even for a player of Sapp's caliber.

And there is reason to believe that as good as Sapp is, he's begun to slip ever so slightly in recent seasons. Sapp will be 31 before this season ends, and his numbers have slipped. In 1999-2000, Sapp registered 29 sacks, and over the last two years he's notched only half that amount (14). It would be unfair to simply look at sacks to judge his effectiveness, as his team would suggest, but at this point in his career are the Bucs interested in paying him like the best defensive tackle in the game, which is what the extremely self-confident Sapp considers himself?

Sapp, who is very pragmatic, understands that his run in Tampa Bay might soon be over. Since the 2000 season, he's seen the Buccaneers take care of John Lynch, Derrick Brooks and Simeon Rice with lengthy extensions. His age won't necessarily prohibit the team from signing him, as linebacker Shelton Quarles (31) just received a five-year deal. But Quarles is making far less than what Sapp is sure to ask for, a fact that isn't lost on the Bucs' brass.

General manager Rich McKay tried to throw his support behind Sapp in May, saying Sapp is the type of player who should be a Buc for life. But it might be that he will be a Buc only for the life of his contract.

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