With QB Chris Simms at the helm, the Bucs won four of their last five games to take the 2005 NFC South title
Two days before the start of free agency, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chris Simms have removed a large part of the uncertainty that threatened to hang over the team's quarterback situation.
On Wednesday, Simms agreed to a one-year contract with the Buccaneers, who were going to tender him an offer that would have made him a restricted free agent requiring first and third-round draft pick compensation.
That is exceedingly good news for the Buccaneers, who did not want to lose the quarterback who started the last 10 games for them in 2005 and helped guide the team to the NFC South title.
Simms moved into the starting role after Brian Griese suffered a season-ending knee injury against Miami on October 16 and led a successful stretch run that included five straight intra-division wins. Griese started the first six games of the season and helped the team to a 5-1 start, and the Bucs went into the offseason with the goal of retaining all four of their quarterbacks (also including Luke McCown and Tim Rattay) into 2006.
The early re-signing is also a heady move by Simms, who could have waited well into the spring or summer to sign the tender offer that would have been extended to him by Thursday. As a restricted free agent, he could have negotiated with other teams, but the Bucs would have had the opportunity to match any contract signed or receive draft-pick compensation. In effect, Simms skipped that option in order to spend the offseason improving within the Buccaneers' offense.
Given the leaps forward he has taken over the past two offseasons, it is an understandable decision by Simms. Head Coach Jon Gruden always begins classroom work with the quarterbacks during the third week in March, and the team will hold a handful of 'organized team activity' days before the draft. Not only will Simms be able to participate fully in those activities, but he has also removed all the ambiguity about his position that could have come from two months on the free agent circuit.
Restricted free agents have until the week before the draft to solicit offers from other teams, though the majority of them eventually return to their original teams by signing their tender offers. By playing under a one-year contract, they set themselves up to become unrestricted free agents the following season. However, that could change in 2007 if the current collective bargaining agreement is not extended. Under the rules of an uncapped season, players need six years of free agency credit, not four, to become unrestricted free agents. Under those rules, players with four or five years of experience who are not under contract remain restricted free agents.
A third-round draft pick in 2003, Simms has appeared in 16 NFL games and started 12, compiling a career passer rating of 78.1. He made his first regular season start on October 10, 2004 in New Orleans but suffered a shoulder injury near the end of the first quarter and did not play again until the season finale. In his 11 games and 10 starts last year, Simms completed 191 of 313 passes (61.0%) for 2,035 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions, with a passer rating of 81.4. He threw just three interceptions over his last eight games combined, at one point tossing 127 consecutive passes without a pick. He proved particularly adept at the deep ball and had five touchdown passes of 24 or more yards.
Simms flew into Tampa on Wednesday to sign his new contract. He and Coach Gruden will be available at a press conference at team headquarters that will be carried live on Buccaneers.com, beginning at 2:15 p.m. ET.