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Bucs should keep uneasy ties with Simms, for now

The Bucs need Chris Simms to show something in preseason, then keep him as a backup or perhaps trade him for a pick. A splenectomy has limited him to three starts in two years.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2006)

The Bucs need Chris Simms to show something in preseason, then keep him as a backup or perhaps trade him for a pick. A splenectomy has limited him to three starts in two years.

Great guy, Chris Simms.

Smart, funny, immensely likable.

As awkward as his time in Tampa Bay has been, he has always handled himself with grace and dignity. So I sincerely hope he gets the opportunity to move on and continue his career elsewhere.

Yet, having said that, the Buccaneers would be wise to hang on to him for now.

It's a touchy situation, I know. Simms has stopped attending voluntary workouts and would be very happy to sign his playbook over to any draft picks heading to town this weekend.

But I just don't see an upside to parting ways now.

Are you suggesting a trade? Sorry, but his trade value is virtually nil. He hasn't played a meaningful game in 19 months, and no right-thinking general manager is going to offer much in return for a quarterback with a $2-million salary and a 7-8 record as a starter, not to mention coming off a major injury.

Would you suggest releasing him? That makes no sense, either. As much as we like to joke about the number of quarterbacks hanging in Jon Gruden's closet, what happens if Jeff Garcia or Brian Griese breaks an ankle in training camp? Do you suppose you might appreciate having Simms around at that point?

The only move that makes sense is bringing Simms to training camp and figuring out how healthy he is once preseason games begin.

In a best-case scenario, Simms looks as good, or better, than he did in 2005. He proves he is healthy, and he shows he is still hungry. His trade value increases dramatically and he becomes a hot commodity because most of the other veteran quarterbacks are off the market.

Or, Gruden decides Simms is a better option than Griese (and he made that decision once before in 2004) and keeps him as Garcia's backup.

In a worst-case scenario, Simms is unhappy and looks sluggish in training camp. So the Bucs cut him before the regular season begins, and they are off the hook for his $2-million salary.

I suppose Simms could complain publicly about his situation — and I wouldn't blame him — but I just don't think he has it in him to become a major distraction. And forget about holding out. Having already missed most of two seasons, Simms would be sabotaging his career if he stayed out of training camp.

The reality probably resides somewhere between the best- and worst-case scenarios. Simms will show enough in preseason to pique the interest of another team, and the Bucs get a draft pick in a trade.

Unfortunately, none of those scenarios is real enticing for Simms. He would like to get as far away from Gruden and Tampa Bay as quickly as possible. And the sooner he begins studying a new team's playbook, the better his chances of seeing legitimate playing time in 2008.

Regrettably, this is the ugly side of sports. For athletes, teams and fans alike. You would hope a guy as warmhearted as Simms would be accommodated if he asks for a trade, but the reality is the Bucs cannot afford to throw away assets, even if this one no longer appears to fit in their plans.

Let me put it another way:

A year and a half ago, the Rays had a player who had been off the field for several seasons. A guy virtually everyone had written off when it came to his future in Tampa Bay. So the Rays left him unprotected on the roster and another team took a gamble on him.

As of Thursday, Josh Hamilton was leading the American League in RBIs.

Now the likelihood of Simms blossoming into a Pro Bowl quarterback is pretty slim. Still, the Bucs will know more about his health in August than April, so why not wait until they're sure of what they have?

You can say it is coldhearted, and I would not disagree. You can say it is putting business ahead of people, and I would not disagree. But if you say it is unfair to Simms, I might have a quibble.

Simms, 27, has been well-compensated in Tampa Bay. He has made $7.1-million the last two seasons without winning a game. Now that's not entirely his fault since a 2006 splenectomy has limited him to three starts in two years, but that doesn't change the amount of money spent by the Glazers.

In the end, there is no simple solution.

If you're a Simms fan, you just want the Bucs to do right by him.

He literally gave up his body for the franchise, and you would hope the team would seriously consider his request to have a chance at a fresh start in a new city.

But if your loyalties lie more with the team, it just doesn't make sense.

At least not yet.

John Romano can be reached at romano@sptimes.com.

NFL draft

When: Saturday (Rounds 1-2) and Sunday (Rounds 3-7)

TV: 3 p.m. Saturday, ESPN; 8 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2; 10 a.m. Sunday, ESPN

Bucs picks (round-overall):
1-20, 2-52, 3-83, 4-120, 5-154.

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Bucs should keep uneasy ties with Simms, for now 04/24/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 27, 2008 10:44am]
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