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Rice seems likely to stay with Bucs

Some Bucs will be salary cap casualties as the team strives to comply by the March 3 deadline. One who appears unlikely to be among that group is defensive end Simeon Rice.

Rice's agent, Tom Condon, said Wednesday the Bucs have not approached him regarding Rice's contract even though Condon said Rice will count more than $10-million against the 2006 salary cap.

Condon's comments mesh with recent statements from general manager Bruce Allen that indicate the Bucs might be comfortable with Rice's price tag in relation to his production.

Allen was unavailable for comment.

There has been speculation Rice could be cut or approached for a contract restructure as the Bucs trim as much as $19-million in salary. But Rice likely would not be amenable. When the issue of a restructuring was raised with Condon, he responded, "Who's had the most sacks in the NFL the last four years?" That would be Rice, who has 56 1/2 since 2002, including 14 in 2005, third in the league.

Rice might not be a topic, but Condon and Allen have plenty to talk about as the scouting combine begins today. Among Condon's other clients are Bucs offensive lineman Kenyatta Walker and defensive lineman Chris Hovan, who are scheduled to become free agents. Condon said the Bucs have interest in both. However, it's likely both will test the waters.

Regarding Walker, who has had an up-and-down tenure in Tampa Bay, Condon said, "He's played through the five years of his contract. I think he'd like to take a look at free agency and see what's out there."

Walker had arguably his best season as a Buc despite some uneven performances. With the Bucs likely to move forward with left-handed Chris Simms at quarterback, right tackle takes on greater importance. Whether the Bucs can find an inexpensive but reliable option through the draft or free agency is debatable, so re-signing Walker is a possibility.

The Bucs have had discussions with Condon regarding Hovan, who appears to be in the Bucs' plans but could have several suitors. Condon echoed the sentiments Hovan shared at the end of the season, that he is comfortable in Tampa Bay's system and would like to return.

Allen has several meetings planned with other agents this week, including the representatives of fullback Mike Alstott, who is leaning toward playing another season if the Bucs are interested.

In other news, Terrell Owens' agent Drew Rosenhaus remained mum on if Owens will make a visit with the Bucs, who have a mild interest in the mercurial Philadelphia receiver who likely will become a free agent next week. Denver and Miami remain the most likely destinations, and the Bucs would be hard-pressed to create enough salary cap room to make a serious run at Owens.

Still, that won't prevent the Bucs from talking to Rosenhaus this week, particularly because he represents University of Miami offensive tackle Eric Winston. Winston will be among the players Tampa Bay scrutinizes during the combine because he might be available when they draft 23rd.

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