In a move that ostensibly ends the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' attempts to lure quarterback Jake Plummer out of retirement, the team has formally commenced the process of attempting to recover a portion of the 10-year veteran's signing bonus.
And they have been joined in the grievance procedure by the Denver Broncos, his former employer and the franchise that originally funded the bonus.
Tampa Bay officials, who placed Plummer on the league's "reserve/did not report" list when he failed to show for the start of camp, had hinted at such a maneuver. In a contractual technicality, when the Bucs acquired Plummer from Denver in March for a seventh-round draft pick, which could have escalated to a fourth-rounder if he did not retire, they also gained the right to try to recoup part of his signing bonus money.
It is believed that the teams are seeking $7 million to $7.5 million, essentially for breach of contract, because Plummer failed to fulfill his existing five-year deal. It is also believed that the Bucs are fining Plummer $14,000 per day for not reporting to camp.
The unusual part of the grievance case, which could take several months to resolve, is the inclusion of both franchises in the action.
Technically, it is the Bucs, not the Broncos, who would benefit financially if they prevail in the grievance. Denver was added to the grievance as a contingency, though, in the event an arbitrator somehow negates the trade altogether. Under that scenario, the Broncos could seek payback of the bonus.
"There are consequences to not reporting to camp," general manager Bruce Allen noted, somewhat ominously, on the day Plummer failed to report two weeks ago. "We treat him just like any other player who did not come to camp."
In 2004, when wide receiver Keenan McCardell skipped training camp and the first half of the season in a contract dispute, the Bucs filed an action to recover a portion of the signing bonus they paid him two years earlier and were successful. It had been widely speculated that, if Plummer did not end his retirement and report to camp, Tampa Bay would take a similar action against him.
"A player [under contract] can't just unilaterally retire," Allen said.
The Bucs acquired Plummer, 32, from the Broncos on March 3 and, although he did not take part in any of the offseason workouts or minicamps, coach Jon Gruden held out hope that the veteran quarterback would change his mind about leaving the game.
In fact, earlier this spring, after a Bucs minicamp, Gruden traveled to Idaho to meet with Plummer about playing for Tampa Bay but could not persuade him to join the team. Plummer hasn't spoken much in the offseason about his retirement plans. Sources close to Plummer, however, insist he is steadfast about not playing.
In 143 games, including 136 starts in Arizona (1997-2002) and Denver (2003-06), Plummer has completed 2,484-of-4,350 passes for 29,253 yards, with 161 touchdown passes and 161 interceptions, for a passer rating of 74.6.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.