Simms Not a Lock For Next Year

Bucs have to deal with salary issues at quarterback

By Jeff Berlinicke

TAMPA – There shouldn't be much of a question about the future of Chris Simms in Tampa.

He did about all that could be expected of him in 2005 except win a playoff game. With his Buccaneer future in the balance, he took over admirably for the injured Brian Griese early in the season and matured as the year went along. Coach Jon Gruden even seemed to grow fond of Simms, something he never seemed to be in the past.

So all is rosy between Simms and the Bucs, right?

Not necessarily. It all comes down to contract numbers. Simms has free agency on the horizon and the Bucs simply don't have much money to play with. It's likely that Griese is already a goner, but with the trade for Tim Rattay, could Gruden be looking for an option if the numbers don't work out?

Simms picked up the offense and developed a great chemistry with Joey Galloway as the season went on. With the advent of Cadillac Williams at running back, it's clear that any Bucs quarterback in the near future will be asked two things: No. 1, no turnovers or stupid mistakes. No.2, give it to Cadillac. In other words, don't try to be a hero; just don't try to be a goat.

Simms fits that job description well. As the season went on and he had more experience under his belt, he rarely made a costly error and his confidence grew as the season progressed. He's prefect for the Gruden system, but the numbers don't lie and contracts are going to result in serious casualties. Rattay isn't the answer by any means, nor is Griese who could also be a salary albatross.

Simms is a restricted free agent and all the Bucs have to do is offer a one-year qualifying offer to retain right of first refusal, or ask for compensation for any team that wants Simms badly enough. If Simms signs a one-year deal, he becomes an unrestricted free agent after 2006. Meanwhile, Griese has a salary cap value of more than $7 million next season.

So what are the choices? Keep Simms, try to sign him to a long-term deal, and cut some fat somewhere else. Griese would have to go as well. They could bite the bullet and keep Simms and Griese and cut more than one of their defensive standouts. As it is, one of Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks, or Ronde Barber is likely to be gone before next season rolls around. Do the Bucs want to take another public relations hit by cutting a popular player? They could also dump Simms and Griese and roll the dice with a free agent quarterback. Gruden may be growing to like Simms, but he's still not giddy yet.

It's too early to speculate, but the numbers crunchers at 1 Buc Place are no doubt considering a lot of possibilities right now. There are a lot of salary issues to deal with, but it isn't too early to start thinking about Simms and 2006.

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