Quarles Close To Re-Signing With Bucs

March 6 - Pewter Report has learned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are close to re-signing middle linebacker Shelton Quarles. Quarles' agent, Jim Steiner, told Pewter Report that a deal could be finalized within the next 24-48 hours.

It looks like Shelton Quarles is close to boarding the Pewter Pirates' ship again.

Pewter Report learned Thursday that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are close to re-signing Quarles, who was the team's starting middle linebacker last season. Jim Steiner, who serves as Quarles' agent, told Pewter Report that a deal could be finalized as early as Friday.

"We're very, very close to getting something done," Steiner said. "It's really just a matter of ironing out a few things in terms of the language.

"I think it would be fair to say a deal could be done within the next 24-48 hours."

Quarles, who became a free agent on February 28, has been Tampa Bay's No. 1 priority in free agency, but the Bucs have struggled to free up enough salary cap room to sign players, including Quarles.

The salary cap didn't, however, appear to be an issue on Thursday when the Bucs agreed to terms with New York Giants unrestricted free agent offensive lineman Jason Whittle on a five-year, $8.2-million contract.

Quarles, 31, will enter his seventh season in the NFL in 2003. A Vanderbilt graduate, Quarles joined the Bucs in 1997 via free agency. He earned the starting strongside linebacker spot in 1999 and played at that position until last season, when the Bucs moved Quarles to the middle linebacker position.

While some viewed Tampa Bay's decision to move Quarles over to the "Mike" linebacker position as a tremendous gamble due to his 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame, Quarles proved his skeptics wrong by using his speed and solid tackling ability to finish second on the defense in tackles with 159. He also played in his first Pro Bowl last month after Atlanta MLB Keith Brooking was unable to play due to a hamstring injury.

Unless contract negotiations between the Bucs and Steiner hit a last-minute snag, Quarles could be re-signed as early as Friday, which would then allow the team to focus on re-signing free agent left tackle Roman Oben, who visited Pittsburgh on Thursday.

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