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OFFSEASON DECISIONS

The 2005 salary cap hasn't been finalized. Currently, the Bucs are projected to be between $10-million and $12-million above it, and they must be in compliance before the free-agency period begins March 2. Several key players are due big pay raises, and nearly 20 can become free agents.

TOP PRIORITIES

BRIAN GRIESE: The quarterback, paid $950,000 this season, is due a $6-million roster bonus in March that will raise his total compensation next season to $8-million, the average for starters. The Bucs will try to restructure his deal and start him in 2005.

DERRICK BROOKS: The linebacker, named to his eighth consecutive Pro Bowl, counts $9.8-million against the cap next season, including $5.75-million in base salary. The backbone of the defense said he is willing to restructure to finish his career as a Buc.

IAN GOLD: To retain the linebacker, the Bucs must exercise an option that could be worth as much as $6-million. Best suited for the weakside, it is unlikely the team will keep both Brooks and Gold, who proved he has recovered from knee surgery.

GREG SPIRES: The end and most consistent performer on the defensive line has a $3-million salary for next season. He said (but the Bucs have not confirmed) the final year of his contract was voided when he reached playing incentives in 2003. He plans to test the market.

MIKE ALSTOTT: The salary of the fullback, whose role in Jon Gruden's offense is limited to receiving and short-yardage situations, increases from $550,000 to $2-million in 2005. The team's most popular player, the A-Train will need to restructure to stay.

JOE JUREVICIUS: The salary of the No. 3 receiver, whose role was reduced by the inability to pass protect, increases from $1.2-million to $2-million in 2005. He indicated Monday he is willing to take a pay cut to stay.

JOEY GALLOWAY: The receiver, an unrestricted free agent paid $2-million in 2004, missed six games because of injury but showed what speed can do in Gruden's offense during the second half of the season. He scored six touchdowns during the final five games, five receiving and one punt return. He wants to increase his salary.

ONE FOOT OUT THE DOOR

BRAD JOHNSON: Less than two years after leading the Bucs to a Super Bowl victory, the quarterback was benched after an 0-4 start. Due $5.75-million in base salary next season, Johnson would count $8.55-million against the cap. By releasing him, the team absorbs $4.3-million in accelerated bonus money but saves $4.25-million.

TODD STEUSSIE: Signed last offseason to a six-year, $20-million contract, including a $4-million signing bonus, the 11-year pro lost the right tackle job to Kenyatta Walker in Week 6. Steussie's base salary jumps to $2-million next season, too much for a backup.

NOTABLE FREE AGENTS

POS '04 PAY COMMENT

Chidi Ahanotu DL $760,000 Midseason acquisition filled in on

depleted line.

Tim Brown WR $760,000 Probable Hall of Famer might

retire.

Keith Burns LB $760,000 Impact player on special teams.

Cosey Coleman OL $535,000 Always finds his way back into the

starting lineup.

Greg Comella FB $535,000 Inactive for nine of 16 games.

Jameel Cook FB $638,000 Reliable fourth-year pro.

Chartric Darby DT $628,000 Started every game.

Anthony Davis OT $230,000 Exclusive-rights free agent could

start in 2005.

Ken Dilger TE $660,000 Tenth-year pro was third on the

team with 39 catches.

Rickey Dudley TE $660,000 Missed entire season with wrist

injury.

John Howell S $628,000 Capable backup has been with team

for four seasons.

Corey Ivy CB $455,000 Special-teams head-hunter.

Dexter Jackson S $535,000 Midseason acquisition proved his

back is healthy.

Charles Lee WR $535,000 Inactive the final six games and

not likely to return.

Dave Moore TE $760,000 Veteran's most important role was

long snapper.

Ryan Nece LB $380,000 Restricted free agent could take

over at strongside.

Matt O'Dwyer OL $660,000 Projected starter barely played

because of injury.

Dwight Smith S $455,000 Two-year starter will test free-agent

market as a corner.

_ JOANNE KORTH, RICK STROUD, Times staff writers

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