Bucs could seek to recoup bonus money from Plummer

Updated: July 31, 2007, 11:14 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Unable to coax Jake Plummer out of retirement, and apparently convinced now that he has no intentions of returning to the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have placed the 10-year veteran quarterback on the league's "reserve/did not report" list.

The procedural maneuver, which took place Friday, is believed to be the first move in an attempt by Bucs officials to recover signing bonus money that Tampa Bay didn't even pay Plummer, but which he actually collected from the Denver Broncos, his former team.

In a contractual technicality, when the Bucs acquired Plummer from Denver for a seventh-round draft pick, which could escalate to a fourth-rounder if he did not retire, they also gained the right to try to recoup part of that bonus money.

"There are consequences to not reporting to camp," general manager Bruce Allen noted, somewhat ominously, when speaking of Plummer's absence. "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 has been widely speculated that, if Plummer did not end his retirement and report to camp, Tampa Bay would take a similar action against him.

The Bucs cannot make a claim to a prorated share of the $7.5 million bonus until the start of the season. But because Plummer is under contract for three more years, the collective bargaining agreement allows the team to fine him a maximum of $14,000 per day during his camp absence. It is believed the Bucs have already notified Plummer of their intent to do so.

"A player [under contract] can't just unilaterally retire," Allen said. But the general manager did concede that he doesn't believe Plummer plans to report camp.

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 minicamp, Gruden traveled to Idaho to meet with Plummer about playing for the Bucs, 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.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.