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Cold business: Moore signs with Bills

The nine-year Bucs tight end can't reach a deal to return to Tampa Bay, so it's on to Buffalo for a three-year, $3.8-million deal.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 12, 2002

TAMPA -- Dave Moore was just shy of spending his 10th season in Tampa Bay, a career the durable tight end marks by catches from the Bucs carousel of quarterbacks.

"I'm going to date myself by saying that I remember I caught my first pass from Vinny (Testaverde)," Moore said.

Moore, 32, who was released last month in a cost-cutting move, signed a three-year, $3.8-million contract Monday with the Buffalo Bills, a deal that included a $500,000 signing bonus.

Unable to restructure a comparable contract with the Bucs, Moore chose the Bills over Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.

"It was a heck of a ride, a tremendous run," Moore said. "I date back to the Sam Wyche days, and I've seen how we've turned this thing around. I've been fortunate and have to thank Coach (Tony) Dungy and the fans and the community as well."

As Moore departed Monday, his possible replacement was being courted in Tampa Bay by coach Jon Gruden.

Colts Pro Bowl tight end Ken Dilger ended his two-day visit to Tampa Bay, and the Bucs hope a deal could be struck as soon as this week.

It was the second meeting between Gruden and Dilger, who dined at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis two weeks ago. Washington Redskins tight end Marco Battaglia also is a candidate to replace Moore.

One of the most popular and productive Bucs, Moore figured to be an integral part of the offense under Gruden. But Tampa Bay never seemed willing to offer much more than a $650,000 minimum salary to re-sign Moore.

"I had a couple of conversations with (Gruden) and he wanted to keep me," said Moore, who says he believes he can play for three more seasons. "We discussed the ways he was going to use me in his offense, different things. But the bottom line is, it comes down to the numbers. When push comes to shove, the Bucs weren't willing to go where Pittsburgh and Buffalo wanted to go."

Moore's arrival likely means the end for tight end Jay Riemersma as a Bill. Riemersma, who was fifth in the league in receptions by a tight end last season (53), was asked to take a reduction of $1.25-million from his 2002 salary of $2.525-million.

Moore's decision was influenced by two Bills and former University of Pittsburgh teammates, quarterback Alex Van Pelt and guard Ruben Brown.

"We'll see how the situation goes," Moore said of his career with the Bills. "I don't know how it will play out.

Moore, an avid fisherman who co-owns the Island Grill on Clearwater Beach with fullback Mike Alstott, said he plans to continue to make the Tampa Bay area his home.

Originally a seventh-round pick by Miami in 1992, Moore was cut three times by the Dolphins before being claimed off waivers by the Bucs in November. He spent his first three seasons with the Bucs primarily as a longsnapper and backup tight end. But Moore is the only active tight end to catch at least three touchdowns in each of the past six seasons. Last season, Moore caught a career-high 35 passes, including a team-leading four touchdowns.

"I understand, it's part of the deal. If you're trying to run a team, you have to make business decisions," Moore said.

-- Times staff writer Roger Mills contributed to this report.

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