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Interest abounds for Key

Keyshawn Johnson might have been deactivated by the Bucs, but he wasn't devalued.

The Pro Bowl receiver, who was placed on the inactive list for the final six games by coach Jon Gruden, has drawn the interest of a surprising list of teams. The Bucs are expected to release Johnson soon, instead of paying him a $1-million roster bonus in April.

Johnson's personal list of teams he likely will play for next season includes the Cowboys, Patriots or Ravens. But recently, Johnson drew the attention of Lions general manger Matt Millen and Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio.

"It's just funny to me," Johnson said. "I'm looking forward to it. Suddenly there are a lot of darkhorse teams in this thing."

A report in Tuesday's Florida Times-Union said the Jaguars have been doing extensive research on Johnson and plan to pursue him when he is released.

But there isn't much Del Rio doesn't already know about Johnson. As a football and baseball player at Southern Cal, Del Rio played catch with Johnson, who grew up in central Los Angeles and was a ballboy for the Trojans.

Johnson has four years left on an eight-year, $56-million contract he signed in 2000 after being traded by the Jets. That contract will be voided when he is released, leaving the Bucs with about a $7-million hit on the salary cap.

BUCS AIM HIGHER: The 2003 season was a downer, but at least it will make for a more interesting draft for the Bucs.

Tampa Bay owns the 15th overall pick, its highest selection since 1999. Because of the trade to the Raiders for Gruden, the Bucs have not had a first-round pick the past two years.

Scouting director Ruston Webster said Wednesday he has evaluated some of the top players in the draft at the Senior Bowl workouts in Mobile, Ala., with a chance of the Bucs selecting one.

"Well, there's been some guys I couldn't look at the past (two) years, or I looked at but it was just for fun," Webster said. "This year, yeah, it's changed. I get to look at some higher guys, obviously."

Webster said the draft is deep at receiver, linebacker and quarterback. Tampa Bay also has choices in Rounds 3-7. Its second-round pick is the last of four draft choices traded for Gruden.

EX-RAIDERS' SUIT: Former tight end Marcus Williams, who sued former teammate Bill Romanowski after being punched in the face by the linebacker, sustained a brain injury from the blow, according to a court document. The document, filed Friday in Alameda County Superior Court, says Williams seeks $3.8-million in damages. The suit stems from a fight during practice Aug. 24 at the team's training facility in Alameda.

PRO BOWL: Green Bay's Brett Favre (thumb) will be replaced by Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck. Packers center Mike Flanagan replaces Chicago's Olin Kreutz.

_ Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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