Wednesday, March 7
Johnson, Bucs agree on $28M deal

TAMPA, Fla. – Free-agent quarterback Brad Johnson agreed to terms on a five-year, $28 million contract Monday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who outbid the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens for the most coveted free agent quarterback.

The deal also includes a $6½ million signing bonus and a base salary of $750,000 next season. Nearly half the contract, including a $3.5 million salary and $2 million roster bonus in 2002 – would be paid in the first two years.

The Bucs confirmed general manager Rich McKay struck a deal with Johnson, but said the team would not comment until the former Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings star signs a contract.

The Ravens, who were thought to have the inside track, reportedly offered Johnson and former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Elvis Grbac identical offers worth about $22 million over four years.

The Bucs had several things in their favor. Johnson was a Vikings quarterback while Bucs coach Tony Dungy was defensive coordinator in Minnesota. Also, Johnson played at Florida State and currently lives in Tallahassee.

However, Johnson also is a close friend of Baltimore coach Brian Billick, who was Johnson's one-time offensive coordinator with the Vikings.

"I'm excited to be a Buccaneer. I have a lot of respect for the organization and for Tony (Dungy) and for the guys I played against for so many years," Johnson, who lives in Tallahassee, told Tampa television station WTVT, Channel 13.

"I feel like I'm putting myself in the best position to be successful and to win at a high level, and that's with Tampa Bay."

Although McKay suggested last week that signing a quarterback wasn't necessarily a high priority because the Bucs were happy with Shaun King as their starter, the acquisition of Johnson wasn't a surprise.

King helped Tampa Bay reach the NFC championship game as a rookie two years ago. But he was inconsistent in leading the team to a 10-6 regular-season mark last season, then played poorly in a first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia.

Dungy fired offensive coordinator Les Steckel, who was criticized for not getting Keyshawn Johnson more involved in the team's attack, and promoted former quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen into the job.

The Bucs also claimed former San Diego quarterback Ryan Leaf off waivers last Friday. But McKay reiterated earlier Monday that the club did not consider him a solution to their concerns on offense.

"We wouldn't bring Ryan in here and say that you have to play tomorrow and you have to be on the field going. We're looking at this more as developmental – see where you are as a football player and let's try to get better and use your talents," McKay said.

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