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Big week for Bucs' future

The focus of the NFL Scouting Combine is on evaluating rookies entering the draft. But Bucs general manager Bruce Allen will have his eyes on a calender and not a stopwatch.

Looking to trim as much as $19-million from the payroll to comply with the league's salary cap by March 3, Allen will be meeting with many of the agents who represent the 15 highest-paid Bucs this week in Indianapolis.

And without an extension of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, Allen's ability to restructure contracts has been severly hampered.

"I think it's one of the reasons leaguewide you haven't seen a lot of deals done," Allen said. "And as you have discussions with individuals, you find out not everybody is up to speed. There are some people betting the farm it's going to be extended, and some betting the farm it won't be extended, and others who just want to wait."

Allen has talked with the agents for Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice and Anthony McFarland, three players who give the team some salary cap relief by restructuring their contracts or risk being released.

But there are other decisions that will come into focus.

Will the Bucs be able to keep both quarterbacks, Chris Simms and Brian Griese?

Will fullback Mike Alstott be allowed to return for an 11th season, or be forced to retire?

Will the Bucs be able to lock up placekicker Matt Bryant or lineman Chris Hovan before they become unrestricted free agents?

"It really isn't a one-player issue, it all has a ripple affect," Allen said. "Everybody has to fit together. If you're not going to have X and Y player, you'd better have four other guys that can fill the talent needs you might have. So it all has to come together at one time."

Like most teams, the Bucs have been preparing for two scenarios - one if there is an extension to the collective bargaining agreement and the free agent system remains the same; and another if no accord is reached by March 3, making 2007 an uncapped year and the system more chaotic with severe implications for both teams and players.

"Our system is based on what the Tampa Bay Bucs will do," Allen said. "We're going to be in good shape in either scenario because of the way the Glazers have set up the team, because of the great fan support we have, and we're in a market that loves their team and, nationally, we have great name recognition. So we're fine."

Perhaps, but that doesn't mean there won't be some sweeping changes in the Bucs roster for the 2006 season.

The Bucs would like to sign Simms, who will become a restricted free agent, to a long-term extension. If they are successful, it's unlikely they will pay a $2.6-million roster bonus owed to Griese in March.

If not, the team will make Simms a qualifying offer, enabling it to match any contract he might receive, or demand as much as a first- and third-round pick as compensation.

Griese's agent, Ralph Cindrich, has said he expects the Bucs to honor Griese's contract.

The Bucs have exchanged proposals with Jordan Woy, the agent representing Bryant, and more meetings are planned this week. But as a precaution, they signed former Cowboys kicker Billy Cundiff.

Others like Michael Pittman and Alstott could simply become salary cap casualties.

"It depends on who you're talking to. I really feel, leaguewide, our guys included, they want to see what the system is," Allen said. "And it affects a 25-year-old the same way it affects a 35-year-old. There's different elements of concern for the player."

Brooks has said he will consider restructuring his contract if he can finish his career with Tampa Bay.

"We'd like for that, too. We absolutely would like that," Allen said.

HIRING? North Dakota State defensive coordinator Casey Bradley has resigned to join the Buccaneers staff, Bison head coach Craig Bohl announced.

Bradley has been an assistant at NDSU for 10 years, the last six as assistant head coach. He was a free safety and punter for the Bison from 1984-88, a four-time all-conference academic selection and a member of the 1988 Division II national championship team.

"We're really excited for Casey," Bohl said.

Bradley has been unavailable for comment.

Around the league

BRONCOS: Seven-time Pro Bowl safety John Lynch, the former Buccaneers star, signed a two-year contract extension through 2008. Terms were not disclosed. Last year the 34-year-old started all 16 regular-season games.

JETS: Defensive end John Abraham was designated the team's franchise player for the second straight year, creating another unhappy situation.

Though he stands to make $8.33-million this year, he wanted the Jets to prove they want him to stick around for the future. Now the team is expected to explore trade options because they are approximately $26-million over the salary cap.

Abraham's agents, Rich Rosa and Tony Agnone, stopped short of demanding a trade but are also interested in making a move.

Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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