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Spires might be too pricy for Bucs
The lineman says he expects to be released if he doesn't sign a new deal. Meanwhile, Brad Johnson remains in limbo.
By ROGER MILLS and RICK STROUD
Published February 23, 2005
TAMPA - After his finest year as a pro, Greg Spires believes his career in Tampa Bay might be over.
The defensive lineman said there is a strong chance he will be released Tuesday. Spires is due $3-million in 2005, the final year of his contract.
"We're going back and forth with the proposals, and basically, if we don't come to a deal before (Tuesday), then I will be released and become a free agent," Spires said. "That's my understanding."
One player who wants to be released is sticking around a little longer.
Quarterback Brad Johnson, who was benched for the final 12 games last season, was told by general manager Bruce Allen the team has no immediate plans to release him.
"They've stated to me that when you look at who's out there (in free agency), Brad looks pretty good," Johnson's agent, Phil Williams, said. "I take it to mean that they're not going to let him go today.
"My guess is it would be more insurance than leverage."
The Bucs have been unable to close the gap on a new contract for starter Brian Griese, who is owed a $6-million roster bonus Tuesday. Griese, who turns 30 next month, is seeking a multi-year deal worth between $3-million and $5-million per season.
Johnson, 36, has asked the team to release him and expects it to happen by Tuesday. He is scheduled to earn $5.75-million in 2005 and $6.75-million in '06, an enormous amount for a team that must trim $14-million from the salary cap by then.
But if the Bucs cannot swing a deal for Griese or another free agent quarterback, such as ex-Brown Jeff Garcia, they could force Johnson to serve as a backup to third-year pro Chris Simms.
"It's disappointing, but that's Tampa Bay's prerogative," Williams said.
Spires' situation mirrors that of other teammates who might be asked to take pay cuts or be released. Allen said the team will spend this week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis finalizing talks with agents.
"I guess I'll find out what my market value is," Spires said. "And when we find that out, we can get our proposal in this weekend."
In 2004, Spires played left end, right end and under tackle. He had eight sacks, led the line with 86 tackles, forced three fumbles and recovered two, all career highs.
"There's no place I would rather be than in Tampa," said Spires, who is represented by Drew Rosenhaus. "But it's a business.
"I'll be 31 years old (on Aug.12), and I feel like I have five good years left. I'm in the prime of my career."
The Bucs likely will need to offer Spires a signing bonus between $6-million and $7-million.
The situation also is precarious for cornerback Mario Edwards, who has five years left on his deal and is due to make $1.6-million in base salary this year. Edwards, brought in to play nickelback, finished the season splitting time with second-year player Torrie Cox. Cox, a sixth-round pick in 2003, is scheduled to earn $380,000. "Whether he will be back is up in the air right now," Edwards' agent, Peter Schaffer, said.
"He has no problem with the organization. You'll have to ask them what their plans are. I respect Bruce a lot, and that (decision) will be up to them."