Domino Effect

The Bears once again find themselves as a finalist for a veteran quarterback. Although the previous two derbies have seen the team finish out of the money, things could be different with Brad Johnson.

Johnson visited with the Bears, Detroit and Miami last week. Since then the Lions and Dolphins have both signed other quarterbacks.

Jeff Garcia was reunited with Steve Mariucci in Detroit, while Gus Frerotte is headed to Miami.

Johnson met with the Vikings on Monday. Minnesota is looking to replace Frerotte, who backed up Daunte Culpepper for the past two seasons. Johnson played for the Vikings from 1992 to 1998 including 23 starts, but would be going back to Minnesota strictly as a backup.

There is also a trip to Seattle planned. The Seahawks traded Trent Dilfer to Cleveland last week and need a No. 2 behind Matt Hasselbeck.

To handicap the three-team race, the Bears present the best opportunity to eventually start because of Rex Grossman's lack of experience and propensity for getting hurt. The Vikings and Seahawks both have established quarterbacks, but the difference could be Johnson's ties to Minnesota.

The Vikings are willing to offer Johnson approximately $1 million or more with incentives per season to sign a two- or three-year deal.

Johnson, who led the Tampa Bay Bucs to a 48-21 victory in Super Bowl XXXVII, realizes he won't be the starter in any of those situations unless something goes wrong, but he still wants an opportunity to play.

"I'm on the attack mode," said the 36-year-old Johnson, who has yet to receive an offer. "I want to play; I want to be the starter. But right now there's a different situation that's been thrown (at) me. But I've played in this league, I've won in this league — won a Super Bowl at one time. I still feel like I have that in me."

Johnson began last season as the Bucs' starter but was replaced by Brian Griese after going 0-4 for a poor offensive team that finished 5-11. He finished with 3 TD passes and 3 interceptions, completing 65 of 103 passes for 674 yards for a passer rating on 79.5, better than 14 NFL starters last season and also better than the four Bears: Grossman (67.9), Chad Hutchinson (73.6), Craig Krenzel (52.5) and Jonathan Quinn (53.7).

In his previous three seasons with the Bucs, Johnson threw for 10,266 yards, 61 touchdowns, 38 interceptions and completed more than 60 percent of his throws each season with passer ratings of 77.7, 92.9 and 81.5.

Because he will be 37 on Sept. 13, Johnson might be more willing to accept a backup role than a younger player, but he doesn't sound like he's ready to settle for holding a clipboard full time.

"Obviously (in Chicago), Rex is the guy until something else were to happen," Johnson said. "He deserves the first chance to play, and that's kind of the way it is right now. I'll be Rex's biggest fan. But I'm not somewhere for my health. You know there's a reason (I'm still playing). I'm trying to get my second Super Bowl win, so hopefully it happens."

Johnson is expected to make a decision between Chicago, Minnesota and Seattle in the coming days.


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