Brooks paying for his beliefs

Published March 12, 2006

TAMPA - Derrick Brooks has my vote for Bucs MVP in 2006.

It doesn't matter if he makes another Pro Bowl or a single tackle. Whatever success the Bucs have belongs to 55.

Brooks didn't just take one for the team when he restructured his contract last week, he took one in the wallet.

The future Hall of Fame linebacker reduced his salary to $3-million next season from $7.75-million, providing nearly $5-million of salary-cap relief. He will earn $3-million in '07 as well. In return, he agreed to take $5-million in guarantees over the next two seasons.

To put that in perspective, nose tackle Chris Hovan will earn more ($3.5-million) than Brooks next season and has at least $8.5-million in guarantees.

As intent as Brooks is on retiring as a Buccaneer, it's even more obvious he wants to go out like John Elway.

"It gives us something to go and get a player out there that we feel can help us win a Super Bowl," Brooks said.

Brooks, 32, has always done more behind the scenes to provide leadership than anyone realizes. He has been a mentor to receiver Michael Clayton and running back Cadillac Williams the past two years, resulting in stellar rookie performances by both.

And it's not like the guy can't get it done on the field anymore. What do you suppose Seattle general manager Tim Ruskell would've guaranteed Brooks as an unrestricted free agent?

But Brooks is Mr. Buc. Around the soon-to-be razed hallways of One Buc Place, he is a living legend. A lot of players talk about wanting to win another Super Bowl. Here's a guy willing to pay the price for it: about $11-million over the next two seasons alone.

DEAD PRESIDENTS: Speaking of salary-cap restraints, consider that one of the reasons Brooks had to take a pay cut is that the Bucs are still feeling the cost of their poor free-agent class of 2004. They have about $8.5-million in "dead money" on the salary cap this season, most of it ($6.65-million) from accelerated bonuses for such busts as tackles Todd Steussie ($2.66-million) and Derrick Deese ($1.65-million) and running back Charlie Garner ($2.46-million).

BIG WINNER: No Buc stands to benefit more from the extension of the collective-bargaining agreement than quarterback Chris Simms. He signed a one-year, $2.1-million tender before the accord between the league and its players was reached.

Had no extension been reached, Simms could not have become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2008 season. Now he will be free to sign with any team after 2006.

Assuming Simms, 25, continues to improve, he stands to become a very rich man.

FINE PRINT: Teams are still digesting the ramifications of the CBA extension. There are many interesting provisions, including one that limits a player's suspension to four games. In other words, no Keyshawn Johnson/ Terrell Owens deactivations. In addition, minimum salaries increased across the board by $40,000. Sounds like a nice raise, huh?