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So long Keyshawn and trade?

Johnson agrees to a deal with Dallas, while the Bucs' chances of landing Galloway are slim to none.

By RICK STROUD and ROGER MILLS
Published March 4, 2004

TAMPA - Keyshawn Johnson eventually will wear a star on his helmet, while the Bucs could be left with only egg on their faces.

Johnson agreed to terms on a four-year, $20-million contract with the Cowboys on Wednesday that includes a $4-million signing bonus. But the Bucs may not get anything for Johnson after all.

The proposed trade of Johnson for Joey Galloway appears all but dead because the Bucs have been unable to strike a deal with the Cowboys receiver.

"If Keyshawn's been offered $5-million a year, that's $4-million more a year than Joey's been offered," Galloway's agent, Leigh Steinberg, told the Associated Press. "Our hope had been with the readjustment of their cap they might me in better position to adjust their offer. We've waited to see if that's going to happen. One million for one year at this stage in his career is not exactly what Joey is looking for."

That means the Cowboys could wait for Johnson's expected release later this month, while the Bucs are simply left holding the bag for $7.15-million on their salary cap for their estranged receiver.

Johnson is owed a $1-million roster bonus April1, which the Bucs do not plan on paying, making him a free agent. Otherwise, the Bucs have to hope the Cowboys offer to trade a conditional draft pick in 2005 for Johnson, though that also appears unlikely.

One thing appears certain: The Bucs and Galloway are miles apart on an agreement to restructure the final three years of his seven-year, $42-million deal. The Cowboys may decide not to release Galloway until after June1, minimizing their hit on the salary cap.

Terms of Johnson's contract were not released, but it is believed he will earn $6-million in 2004 - the same salary he was scheduled to make with the Bucs. In addition, Johnson still will receive $2-million from the Bucs, part of his 2003 salary that was deferred until March 31.

Aside from the Johnson situation, free agency began in earnest Wednesday and it didn't take long for the Bucs to get in the mix by signing two players and laying out the welcome mat for three free-agent visits.

The Bucs signed veteran tight end Dave Moore, who played for the Bucs from 1992 to 2001, and fullback Greg Comella, who played five games with the Texans last season.

The team said veteran left tackle Derrick Deese, who has played his entire 10-year career with the 49ers, spent time at the facility and was "involved in meetings," an indication that the Bucs have a strong interest. The Bucs also entertained Eagles free-agent running back Duce Staley and Redskins receiver Patrick Johnson.

While there were some comings, there also were some goings.

Running back Thomas Jones, who emerged as a solid performer in the final four weeks of last season, signed a four-year, $10-million contract with the Bears. The deal included a $3.5-million signing bonus.

Running back Aaron Stecker landed in New Orleans at 9:30 a.m. and seems to be a lock to sign with the Saints as a backup to starter Deuce McAllister. Backup quarterback Shaun King, who played the first five years with the Bucs, will visit the Cardinals on Friday. And, according to ESPN.com, linebacker Nate Webster will sign a five-year, $11.3-million contract with the Bengals.

On Tuesday, the Bucs created about $3.5-million in spending money by releasing five players and restructuring the contract of left guard Kerry Jenkins. But more space may be needed to sign a player like Deese, running back Charlie Garner or offensive lineman Matt Stinchcomb, all of whom have drawn interest from the Bucs.

The Bucs also have been linked to 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia, who was released this week, but the team will be challenged to meet his financial demands.

By signing Moore, who played in 147 games with 95 starts during his first tenure with the Bucs, the team gets a veteran tight end who also can be a long snapper. Moore, whose family stayed in the bay area during his two seasons in Buffalo, said signing with the Bucs was a logical step.

"My intention was to re-sign with Buffalo but as soon as free agency started everything broke loose," said Moore, a 12-year veteran whose one-year, $900,000 contract will cost only $450,000 on the salary cap because of a veteran exception.

"Tampa called and we started talking and it seemed that it made a lot of sense for my situation and my family to be here all year round."

Moore, 34, said he met with coach Jon Gruden on Wednesday morning and was happy to return to the place where it all began.

"This is where I became a player," said Moore, who was drafted by the Dolphins before being picked up by the Bucs off the practice squad. "This is where I spent most of my time. Obviously, this is where I have roots. This is where my heart is."

King, who reportedly has garnered interest from the Bears, Falcons and Saints, said he told agent Eugene Parker he does not want to go on meaningless trips.

"There's no need for them to fly me here and there if no decision is going to be made until the end of March," he said. "When it's someone really interested, we can go."

King, 26, said he planned to go on a family outing this week but it looks like he will spend the weekend in Arizona getting to know new Cardinals coach Dennis Green.

"I know that Denny is a great coach," King said. "I have talked to a lot of people about him and everyone has said he's an excellent coach."

The Bucs also extended one-year tenders to restricted free agents Jameel Cooke, John Howell and Chartric Darby.

Darby, who has filled in for Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland over the past two seasons, could see increased playing time should the Bucs lose Sapp.

"We're excited that he's going to still be here with the Bucs," agent Brian Levy said. "Now, it's up to him to go out there and show his value to the team and to show that next year, when he hits the market as an unrestricted free agent, he'll garner lots of interest."

[Last modified March 4, 2004, 01:15:01]

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