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Brooks gave up a lot
Bucs star will pass up nearly $12-million over the next two seasons.
By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published March 8, 2006
Derrick Brooks declined to say whether he took a pay cut with the restructuring of his contract. Turns out, he was merely being modest.
The most decorated player in Bucs history, Brooks will forego almost $12-million in salary over the next two seasons, according to details in his reworked contract obtained by the St. Petersburg Times.
Brooks was slated to be the team's highest-paid player, but he restructured his contract to help the team get below the salary cap by tonight's midnight deadline. All of the $4.75-million in 2006 cap space the team clears with the new contract comes directly from Brooks' base salary, which drops from $7.75-million to $3-million.
Brooks was scheduled to earn a base salary of $10-million in 2007, $11-million in 2008 and $12-million in 2009. Under the reworked contract, Brooks will earn $3-million annually in base salary through 2009, plus $100,000 annually in "likely-to-be-earned incentives." The deal includes no signing bonus, though it calls for his entire 2006 salary and $2-million in 2007 to be guaranteed.
Another benefit for Brooks is that the contract's structure makes it a virtual certainty he will finish his career where it began - in Tampa Bay. Though his cap number stands at $6.9-million this season, it drops to approximately $3.85-million for the final three seasons of the deal, a very acceptable number for the franchise.
"As I talk to more and more people around the league, they feel the same way I do about me in Tampa: It's hard not to put the two together," Brooks said Monday. "It was a real big key in doing it."
It's possible the team would have been forced to waive Brooks had he not agreed to restructure and lower his cap number for this season ($11.65-million) or beyond. But that might not have been a negative for Brooks. The nine-time Pro Bowl selection who turns 33 next month could have commanded substantially more money on the free-agent market, particularly if a deal can be reached on a collective bargaining agreement. That development would result in an increase in the salary cap.
Instead, Brooks' sizable concessions were driven by his desire to stay in Tampa Bay, where he has consistently heard pleas in recent weeks that he find a way to stay with the Bucs.
"I was very humbled by the support," Brooks said. "This community, honestly, has treated my family and myself very well, and that was important to us, to stay here in Tampa. I continue to pray that that will continue to be the situation."
As a point of reference, the Bucs have agreed to a contract with defensive tackle Chris Hovan that will pay him an average of $3.5-million for five years, with as much as $10-million of it guaranteed. Brooks' agreement went a long way toward making the Hovan deal possible.
Brooks' sacrifices also improve the chances of other players returning, even quarterback Brian Griese. General manager Bruce Allen indicated in a radio interview Tuesday that Griese may be let go but still might find his way back to the Bucs.
"It might turn out he'll want to be a free agent for a few days or so and still come back to the Bucs," Allen said.
The Bucs would save more than $4.5-million if they release Griese before the start of free agency. If he is released, he would become a free agent and could gauge the market for interest before determining whether to rejoin the Bucs.
The likelihood of fullback Mike Alstott returning seems to increase by the day. Alstott met with Allen on Monday in a rare move for a player whose representatives are negotiating with a team. But Alstott's agents felt it was a unique situation and encouraged him to hear what Allen had to say.
"Bruce did not want to talk to Mike about a contract," agent Ben Dogra said. "He just wanted to explain the issues to him and (reiterate) that they want him back for 2006."
Alstott's hopes of returning for an 11th season would improve significantly if a CBA can be negotiated, thereby freeing up more cash for the Bucs.
In other free-agency news, kicker Matt Bryant, still a prime target of the Bucs, has decided to test the market, according to his agent. Bryant has not ruled out a return, though the Bucs might be enticed by Green Bay free agent Ryan Longwell, whose former holder is Bucs punter Josh Bidwell.
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.