Great for B.J. But what about Garcia, Graham?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a solid step forward on Thursday as they extended FB B.J. Askew's contract. But what about QB Jeff Garcia and RB Earnest Graham, who also want new deals? Bucsblitz talked to Scout.com's NFL insider, Adam Caplan, and got his opinion on both veterans' status. Who has more leverage in a potential holdout? Find out here.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers extended FB B.J. Askew's contract for four more years on Thursday, they took an important step, one that many have anticipated for some time this offseason.

The Bucs have maintained all along that extending the contracts of several of their free-agents to be is a priority. But Askew is the first potential 2009 free agent to benefit.

Will there be more? Realistically, he shouldn't be the only one. But during the same week Askew received his new deal, two other veterans — who are free agents in 2009 — made news as well.

QB Jeff Garcia told the Orlando Sentinel this week that he was actually considering holding out of training camp if he didn't receive a new deal by then. He said it in a way that didn't make it sound like posturing. He talked about being shown respect for what he did for the team last season, about standing up for what he thought was right. But the implication was clear.

At least Garcia spoke to the media during OTAs this week. RB Earnest Graham didn't show up at all for the second straight session. His agent is now Drew Rosenhaus, so you can make assumptions about Graham's absence.

Are the Bucs playing hardball? Or is it just a matter of time? Bucsblitz.com asked NFL insider Adam Caplan about both players and was a bit surprised by his reaction.

Caplan believes that Graham, not Garcia, has more leverage in a potential holdout. There are several factors, Caplan said, that are working against Garcia.

It starts with his age (39) and the thought that Garcia might not make it through a 16-game season. He didn't last year, and Garcia's style of play invites injuries. Plus, there are six other quarterbacks on the roster right now, and one of them — Brian Griese — is signed for three more years. Jon Gruden likes Griese and by trading for the former Bucs starter in March, the Bucs all but put together a line of succession in case Garcia departs.

"While he's in the lower half of pay for a starting quarterback ($2 million) and is on the final year of his two-year deal, he doesn't have a lot of leverage," Caplan said.

Garcia probably realizes that he has one more contract left in him, which is why he's pushing for an extension. Caplan said the one thing in Garcia's favor is the quarterback situation itself.

"The only thing that plays into his favor is the team doesn't have much talent to turn to other than him at the position," Caplan said. "While Luke McCown was a nice surprise, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks he can start a full 16-game season, same with Brian Griese."

Graham, meanwhile, is coming off the best season of his career, scoring 10 touchdowns and rushing for nearly 1,000 yards. He's due to make just $605,000 this year. Bucs GM Bruce Allen told reporters in January that extending Graham's contract was a priority. But here it is May and there's no deal.

It could just be taking a while. But Caplan thinks that Graham's situation is much different than Garcia's and that a holdout might work in Graham's favor.

"He had a terrific season in 2008 and seems to be the clear starter at running back," Caplan said. "He's on the final year of his deal and it would be smart for the team to not wait until he has another good season, then the asking price could go up. Neither Michael Bennett or Warrick Dunn has what it takes to be a starter at this point in their careers so Graham has leverage here. Carnell Williams will be lucky to contribute this season based on the injury he suffered last season."

Caplan couldn't hazard a guess as to why the Bucs are waiting on Graham. It could be they remain hopeful that Williams can regain his pre-injury form this year, rendering an extension for Graham a non-priority.

If that's the case, the Bucs are gambling with their season — especially when Graham appears to hold a pretty strong hand.


Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.


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