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King a bargain, but likely not for long


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 24, 2000

TAMPA -- Add quarterback Shaun King to the list of players Tampa Bay might have to sign to a contract extension next season. And if he leads his team to the playoffs again, the Bucs could be paying a King's ransom.

King has made just 10 NFL starts. But if his 8-2 overall record and no interceptions through three games this season is any indication, the Bucs have a bargain and they know it.

King, the 50th overall pick a year ago, is signed through the 2002 season. But his deal is worth only around $2.5-million over four years, which means he makes significantly less than the $1-million per season paid to backup Eric Zeier.

Considering that the Lions recently gave $31-million to quarterback Charlie Batch, who has never made it through a season uninjured, King has a big payday in his future. But when? General manager Rich McKay says it's something the Bucs will discuss after the season.

"You're talking about value. Things all change," McKay said. "It can get better for him later, who knows. We've talked about all those ramifications, but when you start talking about players that have that many years in their contract, I wouldn't say it's something on our radar screen.

"I'll say this, you've got to sit down and talk about it. But remember when you do that, it's a choice. What I'm happy for Shaun is I'm convinced that the success of quarterbacks in this league has as much to do with the situation they're presented with as it does with the player. What's worked well for us is he fits what we've asked him to do and he does it quite well."

Next season alone, the Bucs must attempt to re-sign several starters, including defensive end Marcus Jones, tackle Jerry Wunsch, cornerback Ronde Barber and guard Frank Middleton. Adding King to that mix could force some tough choices.

BOOGIE DOWN: Defensive tackle Anthony "Booger" McFarland was going to be under the microscope after replacing Brad Culpepper. But it doesn't appear the defense has missed a beat. If anything, it's better.

Against the Lions, McFarland's quickness was on full display as he recorded 21/2 sacks.

"Anthony is playing well," coach Tony Dungy said. "He had been playing the run very well for us and doing a good job on the little things, the details. He'd been close on a couple rushes the past couple games, but to get 21/2 sacks and really get a chance to rush like that, on turf, that plays to his strengths. It just shows why we're so high on him."

OVERLOOKED: Other than Warren Sapp, who was asked repeatedly about receiver Keyshawn Johnson, players took the week off from interviews. And that was fine with them.

While the Jets are consumed with Johnson, the Bucs plan to unleash the NFL's fifth-ranked rushing offense.

"I like it," Middleton said. "Whenever you go into a game and nobody is worried about the offensive line, the tailback, the quarterback, like it's just one guy scoring all our points, it's hard to sit back and watch New York sweat about something that's not a big thing.

"I haven't seen Keyshawn score 41 points by himself yet. It's like everybody is focusing on one guy to make the difference and it's going to be the other 10 who show up and play on Sunday."

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