tampabay.com

Plummer halts trade to Bucs

The veteran picks retirement over a QB controversy.

By RICK STROUD AND STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published March 3, 2007


TAMPA - The Bucs believed quarterback Jake Plummer would be a perfect fit.

Instead, he threw one.

Plummer put the brakes on a trade that would have sent him from Denver to Tampa Bay on Friday for a fourth-round draft pick by informing his family and both teams he would rather retire.

Plummer, 32, would have competed for the Bucs' starting job with Chris Simms. But he did not want to be part of another quarterback controversy. He lost his starting job last season with five games left to rookie Jay Cutler.

Bucs coach Jon Gruden reportedly spent the past several days trying to talk Plummer into accepting the trade. But just hours after news of an agreement in principle for a trade, Plummer decided to quit rather than start over with a third team.

On a hectic first day of free agency, the Bucs re-signed cornerback Phillip Buchanon to a two-year, $5-million contract and agreed to terms with Broncos defensive end Patrick Chukwurah on a five-year, $5.5-million deal. They also re-signed cornerback Torrie Cox, a Pro Bowl alternate on special teams last season.

Plummer's decision, however, left them scrambling to find a veteran backup for Simms, 26, who signed a two-year extension in December.

Tampa Bay quickly began negotiations with Jeff Garcia. Garcia, 37, who rallied the Eagles to an NFC East title after taking over for injured starter Donovan McNabb, also talked to the Raiders.

However, those talks reached an impasse late Friday. Meanwhile, the Texans entered the bidding for the quarterback.

Agent Steve Baker said Garcia would be paid like a starter no matter where he signs.

"Jeff's always been very excited about the prospect of playing for Coach Gruden," Baker said. "Right now, we are more focused on finding the system where he has the best chance to succeed."

The Bucs appear willing to pay Garcia like a starter, something they were not the past three offseasons.

There was speculation that Plummer's decision was a ploy to force the Broncos to trade him to the Texans, where he would be reunited with former Broncos quarterbacks coach Gary Kubiak.

Plummer has three years left on his contract with Denver and was set to earn $5.3-million in 2007. If he retires, he could be forced to return millions from a prorated signing bonus.

Buchanon, 26, joined the Bucs in October after being claimed off waivers from the Texans. A 2002 first-round pick by the Raiders, the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder became a key cog in the secondary, especially with the season-ending turf toe injury to Brian Kelly.

According to agent Drew Rosenhaus, Tampa Bay is nearing a deal with Giants offensive lineman Luke Petitgout, 30, who broke his left leg last season and had a physical in Tampa on Wednesday. Attempts to sign him took on more urgency when Bengals guard/tackle Eric Steinbach signed with the Browns on Friday.

The Bucs remained focused on improving their offensive line. San Francisco center Jeremy Newberry is scheduled to visit this weekend. He had surgery to repair a microfracture in his right knee in August.

Chukwurah, 28, is expected to be used as a third-down pass rusher. At 6-1, 250 pounds, he had 41/2 sacks last season in 14 games in that role for Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer, who is now the Bucs defensive line coach. Chukwurah will replace Dewayne White, a free agent who visited the Lions on Friday.

Vikings linebacker Napoleon Harris is scheduled to visit today. He was a first-round pick of Bucs general manager Bruce Allen in Oakland in 2002.

Former Viking Brad Johnson, the Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Bucs, is moving forward with visits to Denver and Dallas. Other viable options for the Bucs at quarterback include Dolphins free agent Joey Harrington or trading for the Texans' David Carr.

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@sptimes.com and Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com or 813 226-3377.

. bucs and free agency

Signed

- DE Patrick Chukwurah (from Denver)

Re-signed

- CB Phillip Buchanon

- CB Torrie Cox

On the radar

- QB Jeff Garcia

- OL Luke Petitgout

- C Jeremy Newberry

- LB Napoleon Harris