Bucs' Free-Agent Activity Getting Ready To Heat Up

March 28 - It's been a slow week in terms of Tampa Bay Buccaneers free agency news, but it looks like things are about to heat up. The Bucs have finalized the restructuring of a new contract for wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, which has given the team about $2.5 million in cap room. The Bucs are expected to use that money to ink QB Jim Miller, LT Roman Oben LB Dwayne Rudd and TE Rickey Dudley to contracts.

After weeks of negotiations, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Keyshawn Johnson have finally completed the restructuring of a new contract for the star wide receiver.

Johnson, who's still under contract through the 2007 season, was scheduled to have a $6.8-million cap value in 2003, but the team turned part of his $5 million salary and bonuses in 2003 into a signing bonus, which gave the Bucs roughly $2.5 million in cap relief.

By giving Johnson another signing bonus, the Bucs are effectively committing to the 6-foot-4 wide receiver for at least another two years. The Buccaneers won't be able to release or trade Johnson without taking a massive hit to their salary cap.

Tampa Bay is about $2.8 million under the NFL-mandated $75-million salary cap, but the Bucs are expected to use the extra salary cap room fairly quickly over the next couple of weeks.

The Bucs have several players on its hot list, including Chicago free-agent quarterback Jim Miller, who will likely sign a contract within the next couple of days.

Brad Johnson, Shane Matthews and Greg Zolman are already under contract, and the Bucs are about to sign Miller, which will give the team four quarterbacks. But don't think that leaves Bucs free-agent QB Shaun King out of the mix.

Miller, who had offseason shoulder surgery, won't likely be ready to throw until June or July, which means the Bucs could use King's arm and his familiarity with head coach Jon Gruden's offense while Miller gets healthy.

There's a strong chance Tampa Bay will draft a quarterback in April, which could give the Bucs as many as six quarterbacks on its offseason roster. But that total wouldn't last long as Zolman would likely be the odd man out.

Tampa Bay is also expected to use some of the money created by Johnson's restructured contract to re-sign left tackle Roman Oben and tight end Rickey Dudley. Oben has been a priority, but Dudley became one too on Friday when Bucs TE Casey Crawford retired, which left the team with just tight ends Ken Dilger and Dan Wilcox under contract.

Linebacker Dwayne Rudd, who has already visited with the Bucs, is the front-runner to replace strongside linebacker Al Singleton, who signed a four-year contract with Dallas earlier this month. While the team is high on second-year LB Ryan Nece, they'd like to bring in a veteran like Rudd to compete for the starting job and/or add depth.

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