Four key players, John Kaleo among them, are likely to leave the team.
Quarterback John Kaleo and defensive specialist Omarr Smith likely will not return to the ArenaBowl champion Storm, and linemen B.J. Cohen and Al Lucas will be difficult to re-sign, coach and general manager Tim Marcum acknowledged Tuesday, the eve of the free-agent signing period.
Kaleo, who ranks second in Tampa Bay history in completions (782), passing yards (9,971) and passing touchdowns (187), has reached an oral agreement with expansion Austin, Marcum said.
If he recovers fully from broken ribs sustained during the ArenaBowl, Kaleo could play the Storm twice this season in the realigned Southern Division.
Quarterback Shane Stafford returns to Tampa Bay after spending last season in NFL Europe. Stafford, who attended training camp with the Bucs, led the Storm to the second round of the playoffs in 2002.
Pat O'Hara, who threw two touchdowns in relief of Kaleo during the ArenaBowl, also is expected back.
"We're excited to have Shane back," Marcum said. "The last half of the season two years ago, the sucker played pretty doggone good."
Smith, a second-team All-Arena pick and Ironman of ArenaBowl XVI with San Jose in 2002, might be out of Tampa Bay's price range.
"He's asking too much," Marcum said, "and I hope he gets it."
Cohen, an All-Arena second team pick, and Lucas also could command raises after outstanding 2003 seasons.
Upgrading the pass rush and improving the secondary are among the Storm's priorities entering the free-agent period. Teams must operate under a $1.684-million salary cap.
Former Storm fullbacks/linebackers Andre Bowden, David White and Basil Proctor; wide receiver/linebacker Clif Dell; linemen Rod Williams, Jorge Diaz, Sai Poulivaati, Eric Thomas, Troy Wilson and Nyle Wiren; defensive specialists Corey Sawyer and John Williams; kicker Kenny Stucker and wide receiver/defensive back Hurley Tarver also are free agents.