TAMPA — The offseason was one of varied story lines for the Bucs.
There was a reunion (the signing of Warrick Dunn). There were new beginnings, such as the drafting of cornerback Aqib Talib. There was even inspiration, as running back Cadillac Williams continues his battle back from a career-threatening knee injury.
But the one thing there was no shortage of was off-the-field matters that resulted in hurt feelings and an equal number of harsh words.
Most revolved around money, a common summertime theme. Another controversy, in the case of quarterback Chris Simms, centered on his assessment that his career is in limbo as he remains on the roster of a team he thinks doesn't want him.
There was nary a dull moment. With training camp three days away, here is a recap of all that was said and done — and in some cases, what remains undone.
Last season's starting quarterback has every intention of reporting to camp, though a few days late because of a family commitment. Give him credit for honoring his contract despite an offseason in which he repeatedly assailed the team's lack of willingness to negotiate a new deal. He was offered a minimal contract early in the offseason, but the terms were as undesirable as his current deal, which ends after this season. Currently, there is no indication the Bucs will cave to Garcia's demands, meaning he'll line up under center with a deal that pays him $2-million in base salary despite his Pro Bowl credentials in 2007.
He also recently received a roster bonus of $750,000 that was included in the deal he signed in March 2007, but remains miffed about missing out on a play-time incentive of more than $1-million in part because of a late-season benching.
And just to make things interesting, Garcia, 38, will participate in training camp under never-ending speculation linking the Bucs to the Packers' Brett Favre, 38, who could become available in the near future.
The fifth-year veteran ran into our consciousness in 2007, preserving the team's running game when its top two backs — Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman — went down. Their injuries were the best thing that ever happened to Graham's wallet, with the longtime special-teams player agreeing last month to a four-year contract that will pay about $11-million. Graham was absent for all offseason work except a three-day mandatory minicamp in June, at which point he declared his contract extension "needs to get done." He's cleared one hurdle but he'll be in a three-man race for carries with Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett.
His was perhaps the most heartwarming story in 2007. But the former Arena Football League player turned Bucs sack leader has gotten a lukewarm response to his efforts to reach agreement on a long-term contract. Being an exclusive-rights free agent whose limited NFL experience restricts him to negotiating with only the Bucs, White is in a difficult position. As of Tuesday, his agent, Jack Bechta, said nothing was imminent though talks will continue. White's age complicates the situation. He entered the league after years of kicking around as a semi-pro, and will enter his second NFL season at the relatively advanced age of 29. His opportunity to cash in is limited. To retain exclusive rights to White, the Bucs were only required to offer a one-year, $370,000 deal, which they have done.
Nearly two years after his traumatic spleen injury in September 2006, Simms still hasn't suited up for the Bucs. He's beginning to think he never will and has asked for his release. The front office has balked, but when cuts are required during training camp, the Bucs will face a tougher call. How long can they afford to keep Simms? With five quarterbacks on the roster, the question might soon be answered.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3377.