Just in case, Bucs talk to Garcia
By Len Pasquarelli, ESPN.com
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers moved significantly closer to a deal with starting quarterback Brian Griese on Saturday evening.
While several sticking points remain in the negotiations, all signs point to an agreement being finalized that will permit the seven-year veteran to remain with the team.
Agent Ralph Cindrich denied reports that an accord has been completed.
"There are still some very technical things, issues that are open to interpretation, and that we have to nail down," said Cindrich, who has been locked in negotiations with Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen for the past two days. "We're still working at it. But there are major items that aren't done yet."
In addition to those items, Griese, who was honoring a speaking engagement, had not yet been apprised of the progress as of late Saturday.
Cindrich did not deny, though, that he and Bucs management have all but agreed on key financial parameters. It appears that a restructured contract will be completed before Tuesday and possibly as early as Sunday.
Griese, 29, is due a $6 million roster bonus on Tuesday, one day before the start of the free agency signing period, and the day by which all franchises must be in compliance with the league salary cap of about $85 million. With the bonus, a base salary of $2 million and some proration costs, Griese was scheduled to carry a salary cap charge of $8.1 million for 2005.
The Bucs are currently about $17 million over the cap and part of the strategy for squeezing under the spending limit is gaining some relief from Griese, who resurrected his career under coach Jon Gruden last year. Reworking Griese's contract, eliminating or redistributing the signing bonus and possibly extending the contract, would help the club address its problem.
Without a restructured contract, the Bucs will release Griese, who has played with three different teams the past three seasons.
In a bounce-back 2004 campaign, Griese started 10 games and completed 233 of 336 passes for 2,632 yards, with 20 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. His passer rating of 97.5 was the second highest of his career and his best since 2000. For his career, he has appeared in 69 games and started 66 of them, completing 1,351 of 2,144 passes for 15,208 yards, with 96 touchdown passes and 71 interceptions in stints with Denver (1998-2002), Miami (2003) and Tampa Bay (2004).
A former University of Michigan standout, Griese has played in two Pro Bowl games.
Even as they negotiated with Griese's agent, Bucs officials were making contingency plans. The team arranged a Saturday physical for free agent quarterback Jeff Garcia, who was here to undergo an examination by Detroit Lions doctors. Garcia, released by Cleveland after only one season, was tentatively set to meet with Gruden on Saturday night.
In a related matter, it appears the cap-strapped Bucs will not gain relief from perennial Pro Bowl weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks, whose 2005 cap charge is a ponderous $9.6 million. Roosevelt Barnes, the agent for Brooks, said Saturday that the two sides are stalemated and that it appeared there is no middle ground.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.