General Manager Bruce Allen wants QB Brad Johnson to take less of a beating in 2004
(Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen joined Rich Eisen on *NFL Total Access to discuss his team's offseason moves, which include John Lynch's pending departure and the latest on Warren Sapp and Keyshawn Johnson. NFL Total Access airs Monday through Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT (aired March 15, 2004).*
Rich Eisen: Fire up Bucs cam for the man in the middle of it all, a man who went from the Oakland frying pan into the Tampa Bay fire. Bruce Allen, the GM of the Bucs, joins us. How are you today?
Bruce Allen: Very good, Rich. How are you?
Eisen: Fine. So did your honeymoon period there last about five seconds, Bruce? What do you think?
Allen: Well, we've been trying to go as fast as we can and with this coaching staff, you've got to stay in the fast lane.
Eisen: I bet so. I don't even know where to start. There are so many things that are going on with the Buccaneers. Let's start with Warren Sapp. Let's start right off the bat with number 99. Is he coming back to your team? What do you think?
Allen: Well, Rich, I still think it's early in free agency and I know Warren and his representative think that the market will heat up fairly soon and we'll see what happens.
Eisen: But there is still a chance that number 99 could be catching passes, as you see there, and rushing quarterbacks for the team that he knows and loves?
Allen: Well, he's had a very good career here and his contract situation was really developed over the last three years and it was designed for him to be a free agent this year and we'll just see what happens in the future.
Eisen: But there is still interest, at least, from Tampa Bay that Warren Sapp could wind up back home again?
Allen: Well, every day Jon Gruden comes in and puts on my desk a cover of a magazine that has Warren Sapp's smiling face. Yeah, he has an agent here in the building in Coach Gruden.
Eisen: Okay, so let's talk about John Lynch now. How did this come about where you and the team decided to tell John that he could seek trades from other teams?
Allen: We had a discussion last week -- John and I -- and there were three elements of it that we really didn't come to an agreement on and it had to do with his medical condition, contract, and playing status. We felt it was best, at the time, John and I, for him to seek opportunities elsewhere where maybe all three of those criteria could be met by another team.
Eisen: So were you surprised by the uproar in the community there hearing that John Lynch wasn't coming back?
Allen: Oh, heck no. I haven't been in the NHL; I've been in the NFL.
Eisen: I was just talking about the intensity of the uproar. It just seems it's been so very intense from the fan base there that you guys decided to part ways with him and, obviously, you knew something like that had to be coming.
Allen: Well Rich, it's not surprising. Any time a warrior such as that leaves a team, the fans obviously invested a lot in him and this team. I remember that uproar when Sonny Jurgensen retired. I remember when Johnny Unitas left the Baltimore Colts. I remember when Joe Willy Namath left the Jets. That's part of the industry we're in and it's part of the changing game.
Eisen: So, why not just flat out release him? A lot of folks are looking at that to think perhaps there's going to be a signing for him to go to another team and then a trade. Is that what's happening or are you going to just release him once he finds a team?
Allen: Well, we're going to give him the freedom to pick his team, any team he would like, that will, once again, meet all of his criteria, and if need be, we'll release him. I know that his father has asked for us to release him and we're not going to stand in his way at all.
Eisen: So there won't be a situation where he signs with a team and there'll be a compensation issue between you and that team?
Allen: No Rich. Originally what we had talked about was trying to treat it in a manner that other players have wished to seek employment elsewhere, but I think his father is asking us to release him and that's what we'll do in the near future.
Eisen: Okay. Well Joey Galloway appeared on NBC's Arena Football League coverage this weekend and said that he's talking to you guys. Is that the case?
Allen: Well, that is the case and we've been having discussions with him for the last couple weeks about possibly joining the Bucs. It would be part of the trade with the Dallas Cowboys where Keyshawn (Johnson) would go to the Cowboys and we'd get Joey and we're just trying to see if we can find some common ground on a contract and, if we can, it'll work out. If it doesn't, then we'll look for other compensation from the Cowboys.
Eisen: Is the eventual releasing or departure of John Lynch play any role in terms of finding cap room for Joey Galloway?
Allen: No, not at all. We have plenty of cap room in order to do the Keyshawn trade without that.
Eisen: Okay, so do you think that there will be a meeting of the minds in your heart of hearts here that Joey Galloway will be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer?
Allen: Well Rich, you're asking me to look into a crystal ball and I don't have that right now. We'll wait and see.
Eisen: So it just seems there's been so many names that have been associated in this offseason, whether the current players on your team leaving, or whether they're free agents or not, or others visiting. Jeff Garcia being a name that was thrown into all this mix as well. What role does that play, now that even though he's in Cleveland, in the future of Brad Johnson on your team?
Allen: Well, Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl just 13 months ago and we're excited to have Brad as our starting quarterback. I think what you're seeing is a lot players want to play for this coaching staff in this city and it's an exciting time for us. It's not just one-way phone calls where we're calling players, but players are calling us to see if they can find a way to wear the Buccaneer uniform. It's quite an exciting time.
Eisen: But you can understand why people would be somewhat confused. As you said, Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl there a couple years ago and Jeff Garcia is coming in for a chat.
Allen: No Rich, I don't see it that way. In the NFL, you need at least two, maybe three quarterbacks, to get through a season. There's so much wear and tear on quarterbacks these days and we've allowed everyone to know that Brad is our starting quarterback. We told Jeff that and we'll tell all the other prospective quarterback that we bring in. We have two quarterbacks on the rosters and we need to sign some more.
Eisen: So you certainly have new protection for these quarterbacks, no question about that. One thing that you've done is totally revamp this offensive line. Can you talk about what you were looking to do going into this offseason and building a new line?
Allen: We'll, we've seen firsthand, the devastation of a great pass rush against a quarterback. Tampa won a Super Bowl thanks to their fearsome pass rush out of their rush men and we didn't like the fact that our quarterback, Brad Johnson, took such a beating last year. We're looking to add players to make sure that we can protect our quarterback and enhance our running game here. We're very pleased with the four offensive linemen that we've acquired.
Eisen: Including Todd Steussie on Monday. Talk about him and why you went after him.
Allen: Well, clearly, when you get somebody in your division, you know him well. Our defensive coaches probably did as good a scouting job on acquiring Todd as anybody because they know how tough he's been as an opponent. He just started the Super Bowl for the Carolina Panthers and we felt that bringing him in would not only add to our pass protection, but to our running game.
Eisen: So, just one last question on the Keyshawn matter. Can you talk about how the salary cap might play into your decision-making here and when you might do something with Keyshawn Johnson?
Allen: Oh, I think that this trade is going to happen within the next week to 10 days, whether it involves a player or a draft choice.
Eisen: Okay, so you think that Keyshawn will officially be off the roster in a week to 10 days is what you're saying?
Allen: Yes, I do.
Eisen: Okay, terrific. So one last question for you here. In your estimation, who has the tougher job: you or your brother?
Allen: I think that politics is a little rougher than even our quarterback position, so I'm going to say him for right now.
Eisen: You have a highly political job, not to say it's on par with being a Republican senator from Virginia. But you've got a highly political job.
Allen: Well, yeah we do, but I think his job's tougher and I actually have another brother who's a shrink so that might be the worst job of all.
Eisen: The two of you might go visit him.
Allen: At least I can admit it.
Eisen: Alright Bruce. We appreciate you joining us on what has been a busy offseason that only stands to get busier there in Tampa. We appreciate you joining us.
Allen: Thank you, Rich.