TAMPA — This is just what Jeff Garcia needs — another reason to be cranky.
The Bucs quarterback has been unappreciated for most of his career, so feeling underpaid might just put him over the edge.
Sure, you probably think Garcia lights his cigars with $100 bills.
It's true he signed an incentive-laden deal last year that included a $3-million bonus and a $2-million base salary. He is scheduled to earn $2-million in 2008.
In other words, he's worth as much to the Bucs as Chris Simms, who hasn't played in 18 months.
All Garcia did was win the NFC South in his first season in Tampa Bay and get selected to the Pro Bowl.
Garcia said last week it was "disappointing" the Bucs had not extended his contract.
It's especially irritating because Garcia narrowly missed out on at least $1-million worth of incentives for failing to play 70 percent of the offensive snaps. He fell short because the Bucs held him out of the second half at San Francisco and the entire regular-season finale against Carolina.
Garcia, 38, also can blame his kamikaze style of play, which resulted in him missing nearly a half against Seattle, most of the game against Washington and all of games against New Orleans and Houston.
The Bucs made some promises to Garcia they have not fulfilled, presumably agreeing to revisit his contract and make up for some of those lost wages. Salary cap rules prevent them from handing him the cash in an envelope.
But as yet, Garcia says the Bucs aren't on the same page.
At the very least, he deserves to earn the $3-million salary paid to linebacker Derrick Brooks and cornerback Ronde Barber.
Don't believe it? Just listen to his agent, er, coach, Jon Gruden.
"He's a Pro Bowl player," Gruden said. "I don't know how many balls we had tipped at the line of scrimmage last year — maybe none. A lot of things he does aren't on stat sheets or thought about or talked about. He makes a lot of plays with his feet, with his arm and with his competitiveness.
"Not a lot of guys are diving for first downs and taking on people on the sidelines. His leadership, his emotional style, it turns people on in the locker room. It's a huge assist."
The cause for pause with the Bucs is Garcia's age and his risk of injury. Gruden worries about it constantly.
"The way he plays, that's the key," Gruden said. "It doesn't matter what age. If you look at him, you'd think he's a young guy. He's built. He takes great care of himself. It's the way he plays. It's the hits he takes. It's the fact that he doesn't care. He ain't changing. That's the question. I worry about him from the opening game until the end of the season. But I love him. I love the way he plays, and it's a credit to him.
"We have enough quarterbacks collected that if something does happen, we ought to be able to have a good backup."
A little review. Simms wants to be traded. Brian Griese never wanted to be traded to the Bucs and let Gruden have it for doing so. Jake Plummer retired rather than play here. Now Garcia is unhappy. So far, he hasn't missed any "voluntary" offseason workouts. But that could change unless progress is made on a new deal.
The Bucs have about $25-million in salary cap room, money they plan to use to lock up players such as safety Jermaine Phillips, fullback B.J. Askew, cornerback Phillip Buchanon and running back Earnest Graham.
In time, the Bucs will get around to addressing Garcia's gripe.
"I think he'll be better in our system the second year," Gruden said. "I think he'll be better, and hopefully, he'll be healthier, too."
In the meantime, the Bucs better hope he keeps showing up for work.