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Johnson warming to Bucs

By RICK STROUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 2001


TAMPA -- After telephone calls from the coach and offensive coordinator, they have his ear.

But what the Bucs want from Brad Johnson is his arm, and they moved closer to getting it Sunday.

Johnson, the Redskins free agent quarterback, is believed to be leaning toward signing with Tampa Bay.

Agent Phil Williams resumed negotiations with the Bucs on Sunday and will continue talks this morning. Williams would not rule out the possibility that an agreement could be reached Sunday night.

Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay made a preliminary four-year offer Saturday and likely has emerged as the front-runner.

The Bucs have competition: the Ravens, Chiefs and Bengals.

But Johnson has not made a counter proposal to Baltimore after the Ravens offered identical four-year contracts worth about $22-million to Johnson and Chiefs free agent quarterback Elvis Grbac. The Bucs might have vaulted to the top of Johnson's list after calls from Tony Dungy and Clyde Christensen.

"Their talk went fine," Williams said. "Tony told Brad how much he wanted him and Brad told Tony he'd love to play for him. "It's clear they both have an interest."

The Bucs have several things in their favor. Johnson was at Minnesota while Dungy was the Vikings defensive coordinator. He lives in Tallahassee and played at Florida State.

But he also is close to Ravens coach Brian Billick, Johnson's offensive coordinator with the Vikings.

The Ravens were unable to reach an agreement with Grbac after a two-hour negotiating session Sunday morning with agent Jim Steiner.

Grbac and Steiner flew to Cincinnati on Sunday to begin talks with the Bengals, who also like Johnson.

Johnson has a trip planned to Kansas City on Wednesday, but the Bucs hope that will be unnecessary.

The Bucs attempted to alleviate many of Johnson's concerns Saturday night. While Johnson is familiar with Billick, he wanted more information on Christensen, who has never been an offensive coordinator in the NFL. And Johnson also has been inquisitive about the Bucs second and third receivers -- Jacquez Green and Reidel Anthony.

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