Gruden's long memory helped Griese get job

Updated: March 19, 2004, 9:41 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Demonstrating again that coach Jon Gruden loves to load up his roster with veteran quarterbacks, the Tampa Bay Bucs finalized a deal with free agent Brian Griese on Friday.

Brian Griese
Griese

Tampa Bay for the second time this week has bolstered its quarterback corps. Longtime New York Giants backup Jason Garrett recently was added to a mix that includes starter Brad Johnson and second-year veteran Chris Simms.

Griese visited with Bucs executives and coaches Monday. The team begins an offseason "quarterback" school next week.

"We believe Brian will be able to quickly adapt to our system and we know he'll compete," Gruden said. "We feel very strong about our group of quarterbacks."

While precise financial details were not yet available, Griese will sign a three-year contract that, in essence, figures to be just a one-year deal. The structure of the contract likely will be similar to the pact Griese signed with Miami last season, in which exorbitant roster bonuses after the first year dictate the team either release him or dramatically rework his deal.

Still hoping to resurrect his career as a starter, and at a position where players oftentimes revive their stock late in their NFL tenure, Griese preferred a one-year arrangement. With such a deal, he will either play well enough this season for the Bucs to consider keeping him, or will be released into free agency again with an opportunity to play elsewhere. The key, of course, is for Griese to earn playing time and perform well when he is presented with an opportunity to display his wares.

A six-year veteran, Griese is expected to earn a little less than $1 million in 2004.

Griese, 28, was due a $5 million roster bonus this spring and was cut by the Dolphins early in the offseason to avoid paying it and to help create cap room. The former Denver Broncos starter appeared in and started five games for the Dolphins last season, completing 74 of 130 passes for 813 yards, with five touchdown passes and six interceptions.

In the past, Griese has enjoyed some terrific outings against Gruden-led teams and the Bucs coach has a long memory for such things.

The former University of Michigan star and son of Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese has started 56 games in six seasons, completing 1,118 of 1,808 passes for 12,576 yards. He has 76 touchdown passes, 59 interceptions and a career passer rating of 83.0.

His best years, of course, were in Denver, where he started 51 games between 1999-2002. Before the '01 season, he signed a $40 million-plus contract that included a team-record $12.6 million signing bonus. But after two seasons in which his performance slumped in part because of a significant shoulder injury, and in which he was involved in a series of embarrassing off-field incidents, the Broncos released Griese last spring.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.