Add another quarterback, at least temporarily, to the list of veteran passers available in free agency.
The Tampa Bay Bucs on Friday night released former starter Brian Griese, who lost his job to Chris Simms in 2005 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury after leading the club to a 5-1 start. But how long the eight-year veteran will stay unemployed remains to be seen.
Releasing Griese, who was due a $2.6 million roster bonus on Saturday that would have pushed his salary cap charge to $7.08 million, was a move that has been anticipated for weeks. Tampa Bay officials have been discussing with agent Ralph Cindrich all week the potential for a restructured contract, and there is still a decent chance the Bucs will quickly re-sign the veteran passer to a more palatable deal.
Cindrich acknowledged Friday night that there is a proposal on the table and that the two sides likely will resume negotiations on Saturday, with the aim of having Griese re-join the team. But if the Bucs don't act quickly, Griese will explore other options.
By cutting Griese, the Bucs saved not only the $2.6 million roster bonus, but also shaved $4.549 million from their 2006 salary cap. Tampa Bay also released offensive lineman Matt Stinchcomb and linebacker Jeff Gooch, and restructured some contracts, to squeeze under the league-mandated spending limit of $102 million. All teams had to be in compliance with the salary cap by Friday evening.
Bucs team officials and coach Jon Gruden have reiterated in recent days their desire to keep Griese, but acknowledged his current contract was prohibitive, particularly since he figured to go to training camp as the No. 2 quarterback, behind Simms. Having played well in the Tampa Bay offense when he started, and facing a glutted quarterback market in free agency, Griese has indicated he will consider re-signing, but only under the right financial conditions.
It's believed that Griese and Cindrich are seeking a contract that would protect the veteran quarterback in the event he regains the starting job. That would probably mean a deal with plenty of incentives based on playing time and performance.
Griese, 30, completed 112 of 174 passes for 1,136 yards, with seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions in 2005 before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He had led a resurgence of the Bucs offense, and of his own career as well, in playing productively in a Gruden-designed offense that melds nicely with his strengths. But Simms played well as a replacement for Griese, appears to be the quarterback for the long-term future of the franchise, and recently signed a one-year, $2.1 contract.
In eight seasons, Griese has completed 1,463 of 2,318 passes for 16,344 yards, with 103 touchdown passes and 78 interceptions, for a career efficiency rating of 84.8. A former University of Michigan star, Griese has started in 72 of 75 appearances with Denver (1998-2002), Miami (2003) and Tampa Bay (2004-2005).
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.