TAMPA — Jon Gruden doesn't just like old players. He likes some of the Bucs' players of old.
For the second straight year, the Bucs traded for a veteran signal caller, reaching back to their past Monday by trading an undisclosed draft pick in 2009 to the Chicago Bears for Brian Griese.
But the reunion party might not end there.
Hours after being released by the Atlanta Falcons on Monday, running back Warrick Dunn met with Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen in Tampa.
"I can still play this game," Dunn told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "This is tough. I'm not going to lie. I have a very strong base in Atlanta, a strong following, a lot of friends that I built over six years. … They're family to me, and it's hard to leave family.
"I hope people always remember the way I played, and that was with all my heart. I left everything I had out there on the field — always. These are the hardest times as an athlete."
Dunn, 33, also has received interest from the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys and the Indianapolis Colts. But the Bucs were hopeful they could reach an agreement Monday night.
One of the most popular and productive players in Falcons history, Dunn began his career as a first-round draft pick by the Bucs in 1997. He has more than 10,000 career rushing yards and 62 total touchdowns.
But because he split time at running back with Alstott in the early part of his career, Dunn still has some tread on his tires. And he still owns a home in Tampa and attended Alstott's retirement party Saturday.
Gruden has always thought Dunn would be a good fit in the Bucs offense and lamented his decision to sign with the Falcons as a free agent in 2002. That decision cost Dunn as well. He wasn't able to be a part of the Bucs' Super Bowl XXXVII championship team.
This will be Griese's second stint with Tampa Bay. He quarterbacked the Bucs in 2004-05, including a 5-1 start his final season before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Chris Simms went 6-5 down the stretch, leading the Bucs to the playoffs before a loss to Washington in the NFC wild-card game. In two seasons, Griese completed 345 of 510 (67.6 percent) of his passes for 3,768 yards with 27 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
The Bears needed to unload Griese before today, when he is scheduled to receive a $300,000 roster bonus. That payment will instead be made by the Bucs.
At the start of the '06 season, the Bucs balked at paying Griese a $2.6-million roster bonus, and he became a salary cap casualty, signing with the Bears.
Now the trade for Griese leaves Simms' future with the Bucs in doubt. Simms has not played a meaningful snap in about 16 months since undergoing a splenectomy and could be traded or released. The Bucs also have Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown. Bruce Gradkowski and Jake Plummer under contract.
The Bucs and Broncos have filed a grievance against Plummer, hoping to recoup more than $7-million in signing bonus money.
Simms would appear to be the odd man out. Griese and McCown will battle for the No. 2 spot, and Gradkowski will have to improve his play to return for a third season.
Griese, who turns 33 this month, started six games last year for the Bears and finished with a 3-3 record. His season ended after he suffered a minor shoulder injury Nov. 11 at Oakland and did not play again.
"He likes Gruden, and he was obviously very successful there," agent Ralph Cindrich said. "During the course of this deal, they let it be known they had tried to trade for him a couple times over the last few years."
Griese has three years remaining on his contract and will receive a base salary of $1.4-million in 2008, $1.8-million in 2009 and $2.2-million in 2010. Cindrich said Griese could earn an additional $1.5-million next season if he becomes the starter.
Meanwhile, the Bucs agreed to terms with outside linebacker Leon Joe, a four-year veteran. He played sparingly in eight games with Buffalo last season.