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Bucs work on scenarios to keep Griese, Simms

The Bucs are working on a deal to bring Brian Griese back for at least one more season.

That might not be the best news for quarterback Chris Simms, who has fired his agent in an apparent response to the slow pace of negotiations.

Simms, who has terminated agent Marvin Demoff and hired Tom Condon, is likely to receive a one-year, $2-million qualifying offer from the Bucs.

That would enable Tampa Bay to receive a first- and third-round draft pick for Simms if they fail to match an offer from another team when he becomes a restricted free agent March 3.

Griese's agent, Ralph Cindrich, met with Bucs general manager Bruce Allen at the NFL scouting combine Wednesday night and talks resumed Thursday.

The Bucs have to trim as much as $19-million from the payroll to reach the league's mandated salary cap by Thursday.

Griese, who turns 31 next month, is owed a $2.6-million roster bonus next week, increasing his salary cap value from $1.398-million to nearly $7.1-million.

Those figures seem sky high for the Bucs, who want to keep the core of their defense intact for at least one more season and make another run at the Super Bowl.

But coach Jon Gruden would love to have Griese back for at least one more season, giving the Bucs a steady veteran to complement the growth of the 25-year-old Simms, who has only started 12 games in his career.

"We had some discussions but there is really nothing new to report at this stage," Cindrich said Thursday. "We'll see what happens next."

Last week Cindrich expressed doubt that the Bucs would pay the roster bonus to Griese and indicated there was little room for negotiations. But the Bucs might regard Griese as the best quarterback to at least lead them in the short term and are hopeful of restructuring his contract for 2006. Last year at the scouting combine, the Bucs signed Griese to a five-year, $32-million deal.

Griese piloted the Bucs to a 5-1 start last season before suffering torn knee ligaments in Week 6 against the Dolphins. He is expected to be well enough to participate in some of the team's offseason workouts. In two seasons, Griese has completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,768 yards with 27 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

He would receive plenty of interest as a free agent, but if the compensation is right, Griese would prefer to remain with the Bucs and has spent the past several weeks rehabilitating his injured knee at the team's practice facility.

Simms went 6-4 in relief of Griese, including 5-1 in the NFC South.

He has hired a proven deal-maker in Condon, who represents defensive end Simeon Rice, Michael Pittman and free agents Kenyatta Walker and Chris Hovan, among others.

By making Simms the highest tender, it would buy the Bucs time to work on a long-term extension. It also might discourage teams from signing Simms to an offer sheet because of the high compensation of draft picks.

"I would say so. Especially if some of these other quarterbacks end up being out there - if Griese's out there, if (Chad) Pennington's out there - some of these other guys," Browns general manager Phil Savage said. "I think that probably hurts the market for giving up a (No.) 1.

"I haven't really studied (Simms) but I know he's go the talent to play in this league. He helped them get to the playoffs. I think they've got a pretty good core of young players down there with Cadillac Williams and Michael Clayton. They've got some things to build around and maybe the quarterback doesn't have to be a marquee player but a functional one. I think Chris certainly can be that."

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