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Bucs audition free agents

Published Oct. 6, 2005

The checkout process continued Monday at One Buc Place as Tampa Bay intensified attempts to bag its first free-agent signee of the off-season.

Concentrating on need positions, the Bucs worked out three unrestricted free agents Monday: Kansas City outside linebacker Lonnie Marts, Philadelphia guard Eric Floyd and Indianapolis cornerback Tony Stargell. In addition, Tampa Bay confirmed that it had Miami defensive end Jeff Hunter _ also unrestricted _ in for a workout last Thursday.

The Bucs also are expected to make a decision today on whether to extend an offer sheet to Green Bay restricted free-agent Jackie Harris, the fourth-year tight end who has emerged as their leading free-agent prospect. If Tampa Bay makes a bid for Harris, the Packers will have one week to match the offer and retain him.

"We've got a little ground to cover, but both sides want to get something done (today)," said Jim Steiner, Harris' agent. "Since we have seven days to burn, they want to know whether they've got him or they don't."

Harris earned $385,000 in 1993, and as a transitional tight end must earn a minimum of $1.181-million in 1994. To keep the Packers from likely matching their offer, the Bucs would probably have to grant Harris a package worth in the neighborhood of $2-million for next season.

Matching funds won't be a factor in Tampa Bay's interest in Marts, Floyd, Stargell or Hunter. Such was not the case with Hunter last off-season, when the Bucs signed the fourth-year defensive lineman to a late-April offer sheet, then watched the Dolphins match it. Hunter missed seven games in 1993 due to a knee injury, but still finished fourth in sacks for Miami (three). He started one game.

Marts, who would fill the void at linebacker created by the likely departure of Jimmy Williams, started 15 games for the Chiefs in 1993, earning $185,000. The fourth-year NFL veteran has already visited New Orleans and was K.C.'s fifth-leading tackler (73 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 forced fumbles). He had his best game of the season in the Chiefs' season-opening win at Tampa Bay _ 8 tackles, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles.

Floyd would address the Bucs' right-guard position, which is likely to lose starter Ian Beckles, an unrestricted free agent. A Plan B signee of Philly's in 1992, Floyd started all 16 games that year, and was No.

1 on the depth chart for the first three games of 1993 before missing the remainder of the season with two torn ligaments in his left knee. The fourth-year pro, a former Charger, earned $307,000 in 1993.

Stargell filled mostly a nickel-back role for the Colts last season. The former Jets third-round pick (1990) earned $318,000 in 1993, starting one game for Indianapolis and totaling 2 forced fumbles, 23 tackles, 1 sack and 6 passes defensed.

The Bucs, who will receive a visit from unrestricted Denver cornerback Charles Dimry on Wednesday, passed on the chance to work out unrestricted Dallas guard Nate Newton early this week. Newton, one of the league's most prized free agents, will embark on a 10-day free-agent swing that starts in Atlanta today. The onetime Tampa Bay Bandit is planning to visit the Bucs in two weeks.

"Nate has a busy traveling schedule," said Jim Neader, Newton's agent. "We would have gone in but they said they had a lot of guys coming in. We're going on this trip and if somebody gives us an offer we can't refuse, we aren't waiting."

The Bucs also still plan visits with Houston Pro Bowl defensive end William Fuller, who's scheduled for early next week, after stops in Washington and Phoenix, and Giants tackle Doug Riesenberg. Both are unrestricted free agents.

Around the league

Vikings: Chris Hinton, an All-Pro offensive lineman with the Atlanta Falcons, signed a three-year contract with Minnesota. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Seahawks: Two-time Pro Bowl tackle Howard Ballard of the Buffalo Bills signed a four-year, $10.5-million contract with Seattle.

Falcons: Atlanta and Bobby Hebert extended for one month the deadline for a decision on the quarterback's contract for 1994.

Giants: Quarterback Phil Simms will undergo diagnostic arthroscopic surgery today on his right shoulder, which has not responded to physical therapy.

Cowboys: Only four Cowboys _ Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Russell Maryland _ will meet with President Clinton at the White House. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Jimmy Johnson also will attend. With 23 free agents, it was hard to gather the entire team for the traditional visit.

Packers: Signed free-agent defensive end Matthew Eller and offensive lineman John Fisher.