Contract will be signed before Tuesday
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers early Sunday morning reached agreement with starting quarterback Brian Griese on a complex, restructured contract that will allow him to remain with the team for the 2005 season and possibly beyond.
The five-year accord was reached after two long days of negotiations, and when the two sides finally hammered out language on what agent Ralph Cindrich had referred to on Saturday evening as "very technical things, issues that are open to interpretation, and that we have to nail down." Griese, who was honoring a speaking engagement Saturday night, was then apprised of the outline of the contract, and agreed to its terms.
Both sides will sign the contract before Tuesday, when Griese was due a $6 million roster bonus the Bucs did not intend to pay. Without the restructured deal, Tampa Bay, which is struggling to whittle down a $17 million salary cap overage, would have been forced to release Griese, who has played for three different teams over the past three seasons.
The new deal should save the club about $4 million against the 2005 spending limit. All along, restructuring Griese's contract was part of the Tampa Bay strategy for dealing with its cap mess. The team made it clear that, minus a reworked contract, Griese would have been jettisoned on Tuesday, when all teams must be in compliance with the cap ceiling.
In what is structured as a deal that will essentially allow the two sides to revisit the contract after every season, Griese could earn as much as $32.6 million. Similar to his prior contract, this one also includes large roster bonuses every year. Those bonuses, all due before the start of the free agency period every year, will basically force an annual review of Griese's performance.
The bonuses could also force future restructurings.
Tampa Bay is certain now to release former starting quarterback Brad Johnson, who led the Bucs to a Super Bowl XXXVII victory, but who last year fell out of favor with coach Jon Gruden and lost his No. 1 job.
In a bounce-back 2004 campaign, Griese, 29, 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, his best since 2000, and third best in the NFC. He also led the NFL in completion percentage.
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 for the quarterback position. The team arranged a Saturday physical for free agent quarterback Jeff Garcia, who was here to undergo an examination by Detroit Lions doctors. Garcia, recently released by Cleveland after only one season, was tentatively set to meet with Gruden on Saturday night, but that session was canceled.
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. To check out Len's chat archive, click here . The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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