The Bucs attempt to sign Chris Simms to a long-term contract might be helped by the league's failure to reach a collective bargaining agreement.
If there is no extension to the CBA, Simms would not become an unrestricted free agent until 2009 after he completes six years in the league.
"Do I want to be a restricted free agent? Again. And again?" Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said of Simms' mind-set.
"We talked about it. I think that's a dialogue Chris would have with his representative. The objective is to somehow keep all of our quarterbacks. That's the objective."
Apparently unhappy with the slow pace of negotiations, Simms has fired agent Marvin Demoff and hired Tom Condon.
Allen exchanged contract proposals with Condon over dinner Thursday night and the two were expected to meet again Friday and this morning.
Simms will become a restricted free agent Friday and is likely to receive a $2-million tender on a one-year contract, giving the Bucs the right of first refusal on any offer he might receive from another team. The Bucs would receive first- and third-round draft picks if they decide not to match the deal.
The list of teams that might be interested in acquiring Simms include the Lions, Jets and Dolphins.
Condon, well respected for his deal-making ability, represents other Bucs players who might be asked to restructure contracts, including defensive end Simeon Rice and running back Michael Pittman, as well as free agents Kenyatta Walker and Chris Hovan.
"Obviously, with Tom (Condon) there's more than just one player we discuss," Allen said. "We went over a number of them. We exchanged some more ideas (Friday) morning. We're going to meet again hopefully (Friday night) and (this) morning.
The Bucs also are working on a deal to bring Brian Griese back for at least one more season.
Griese, who turns 31 next month, is owed a $2.6-million roster bonus Friday that the Bucs do not intend to pay. Tampa Bay is $19-million over the salary cap if there is no extension of the CBA.
"I can't say definitely he's going to be here," Allen said. "Because I don't know how many people are going to restructure their contracts.
"The quarterback position is important. We've gone through a few."
Labor uncertainty has stalled negotiations, according to Allen.
Gene Upshaw, the NFL Players' Association executive director, painted a gloomy picture Friday. He told a seminar of agents to prepare for the 2006 season without an extension to the CBA, setting up an uncapped year in 2007.
"I'm taking the position now that it won't get done," Upshaw said.
Upshaw said it's unlikely a deal could be struck by Thursday, the eve of the start of free agency. He said the union will not agree to delay the start of free agency.
Allen was hopeful that after Upshaw's address Friday there would be some deals completed.
"They have told everyone to slow down until this Friday and then we'll give you direction," Allen said. "Now they've got the direction. Now they've got it. I believe it's how to proceed as if this is it. So maybe this weekend, things will happen.
"I haven't gotten to see everyone yet, but for most, we're on the second and third round of thought processes on each guy and maybe you can make some things happen."
Among the issues that likely won't be decided until next week is the future of fullback Mike Alstott, who would like to return for an 11th season. Agent Ben Dogra has met several times with Allen but no agreement has been reached on a new contract for the A-Train. The last three years of Alstott's contract was voided by incentives after the 2005 season, making him an unrestricted free agent. Alstott is believed to be seeking close to the $1.5-million he received last season. If not, he would likely retire.
Allen said he's unaware whether Pittman plans to exercise a $200,000 buyout of his contact and become a free agent.
"He hasn't yet. We really didn't get into it, other than he has not expressed an interest in doing that as of yet," Allen said. "But they don't have to tell me, it's a notification thing."