tampabay.com

Seattle outbids Bucs for coveted lineman

By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published March 24, 2006


TAMPA - The Bucs on Thursday lost a bid for one of their most sought-after free agents when offensive tackle Tom Ashworth, formerly of the Patriots, agreed to terms on a five-year deal with Seattle.

But they haven't given up on making a splash in free agency, with Oakland defensive back Charles Woodson reportedly arriving in Tampa on Thursday.

Ashworth's contract, believed to be worth $13-million, trumped the offer of the Bucs, who are close to the salary cap, for the lineman who can play both tackle spots. Seattle, having declined to match Minnesota's offer to All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson, was in better position to give Ashworth the deal he sought. What's more, Tom Mills, Ashworth's agent, stressed how Ashworth "hit it off" with Seattle officials, particularly offensive line coach Bill Laveroni. Ashworth also believed he fit into their system better because "he felt like their offense suits his talents very well," Mills said.

The Bucs continue to talk with tackles Mike Pearson of Jacksonville and Brad Hopkins of Tennessee. They also consider re-signing Kenyatta Walker an option. The Bucs have only one tackle (Anthony Davis) with starting experience under contract.

San Francisco free-agent fullback Fred Beasley, who visited Tampa this week, signed with the Dolphins on Thursday.

While in Oakland, coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen drafted Woodson in 1998. But with so much money tied up in its defense, ranked No.1 in the league last season, it's unlikely Tampa Bay would be willing to invest a significant amount in an oft-injured, though talented, 29-year-old.

The Bucs have three-time Pro Bowl selection Ronde Barber at one cornerback and Brian Kelly, one of the league's better cover men, at the other. It is plausible, though, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Woodson could play safety, which he has done sporadically. The Bucs recently lost starting free safety Dexter Jackson to the Bengals.

According to the NFL Network, Woodson is expected to visit Green Bay and is drawing interest from Seattle.

There was no word on if the Bucs, seeking a backup quarterback, plan to make an offer to Seattle's Seneca Wallace. Wallace visited this week, and rarely is a restricted free agent invited and not extended an offer.

Wallace received a one-year tender from Seattle of $712,000, requiring a fourth-round pick as compensation.