Dwayne Rudd, Kerry Jenkins and Karl Williams may be looking for work.
By RICK STROUD
Published February 22, 2004
INDIANAPOLIS - As the Bucs consider how to reload for the 2004 season, they are preparing to unload several costly reserve players in order to improve their salary-cap situation.
Linebacker Dwayne Rudd, guard Kerry Jenkins and receiver Karl Williams are expected to be released within the next few weeks unless they agree to accept significant pay cuts.
By waiving the three veterans, the Bucs would realize a savings of $2.53-million, putting them more than $2-million below the projected $80.5-million salary cap by the March 2 deadline.
"I don't want to speculate," coach Jon Gruden said. "But the salary cap, if it doesn't resolve itself pretty quick with restructured deals, there's only one thing you can do and that involves terminating players and we don't want to do that."
Rudd, who is scheduled to make $970,000, never won the starting strongside linebacker position as expected when he signed as a free agent last year. Instead, he backed up second-year pro Ryan Nece.
Jenkins is owed a roster bonus of $1-million on March 1, agent Jack Reale said. He has three years remaining on a five-year contract that will pay him base salaries of $900,000 in '04 and $2-million in both '05 and '06.
But last season, he lost his starting left guard job to Cosey Coleman, only to return to the lineup when right guard Jason Whittle was injured.
Williams, who slipped to fifth on the receiving depth chart, is in the final season of a three-year contract that will pay him $660,000.
General manager Bruce Allen is attempting to restructure the contracts of several starters, including linebacker Derrick Brooks, cornerback Ronde Barber and defensive end Simeon Rice.
But he said there are likely to be some players released because of the cap.
"Yeah, as does every team in the league," Allen said. "It's something that we've analyzed, that's why we're seeing what type of room we can create and if we can find some players that would help us or improve us, that's really what we're looking to do."
The Bucs got some help when league and union officials announced Friday they expect the salary cap to be increased from the expected $78.7-million to $80.5-million for 2004.
Allen was scheduled to meet with Brooks' agent, Roosevelt Barnes, during the scouting combine. The seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker will earn $5.5-million in base salary next season. The Bucs are $500,000 over the salary cap.
"It doesn't do anything significantly, really," Allen said of the increase. "We still have the least (uncommitted money to work with) in the conference. I suggested them just giving us the $2-million, but that didn't work. ... I think it actually will have a bit of a ripple affect with some of the players that were projected to be waived by other teams. So there might not be as many guys available. It's obviously $2-million more than we had but we still have to create room to get players."
The Bucs plan to let defensive tackle Warren Sapp and running back Thomas Jones test the market when the signing period begins March 3. But Tampa Bay would like to retain both.
"Obviously, they'll become unrestricted free agents if you can't sign them by that time," Gruden said. "I've got great respect for Warren Sapp as a player and as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, but we've got a lot of issues we've got to work through."