Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks recently restructured his contract in an effort to help free up salary cap room for his team. The nine-time Pro Bowler talked about reworking his deal during a press conference held at One Buccaneer Place on Monday.
“I think what made this go a lot smoother was because I was familiar with the process and I have done it so much in the past,” said Brooks, who has restructured several times over the course of his 11-year career, including twice since 2004. “To me, it really wasn’t about, more or less the terms, as it was about helping the team and putting us in a position to keep a lot of our players here that we currently have. At the same time, [restructuring] gives us something to go and get a player out there that we feel can help us win a Super Bowl. So I think, with those parameters and mine, that’s what it has always been about when I’ve done this, a two-way street. So hopefully, by me doing this, it really allows us to reward some guys that we have, and at the same time, get a player or two that we feel that can take us back to where we were before.”
By restructuring his contract, which was good through the 2009 season, Brooks freed up approximately $5 million in cap space for Tampa Bay, which will allow the Bucs to be in compliance with the league-mandated cap of $94.5 million when free agency starts at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday.
Brooks is confident that Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen will put the money freed up in his renegotiated contract to good use. One of the things Brooks wants to see happen is for Tampa Bay to re-sign some of the key contributors from its 11-5 and 2005 NFC South division championship team.
“I’m not a real big fan of signing 10 free agents because not everybody is a Buccaneer,” said Brooks. “We have a way of doing things here, and the guys here or that have been here understand that. That’s why it’s important for us to bring guys back.”
One of the players Brooks is hoping Tampa Bay will find a way to re-sign is fullback Mike Alstott, who is contemplating retirement but has recently expressed an interest in playing again for the Bucs if the price is right.
“Mike feels so strongly about [playing for the Bucs] that he won’t even entertain other offers,” said Brooks. “I really hope that gets accomplished and that Mike comes back so we can try it again.”
Brooks was happy to learn that Tampa Bay will keep one of his defensive teammates, nose tackle Chris Hovan, who has agreed to terms on a five-year, $17.5 million contract that will likely be officially announced by the Bucs on Thursday. The Bucs will continue to work on re-signing more of their free agents.
“It looks good on paper,” Brooks said of the Bucs’ being a player in free agency. “I’ve been here around long enough to know that the best team on paper might not always be the best team on the field. I think it is key that we keep the same team as we had last year. That team grew so much together, and we grew up and rebounded from 5-11 so much together. We have something to build on. I think we learned that lesson from the past, and how good teams approach the next year and I think we need to take advantage of that. We put ourselves in the position to do that, and I think Coach Gruden and his staff know how to go about it now, as [compared to] 2003 when we won the championship. All of those things went into our conversations in the past five days, and know we are going to move forward.”
While he’s a team captain and considered a team-first guy, Brooks was looking out for himself as well. With a team-high $11.657 million salary cap value in 2006, Brooks realized he could suffer the same fate as his former teammate, safety John Lynch, who played 11 seasons with the Bucs before being released in a salary cap maneuver during the 2004 offseason.
“You go over all the scenarios and you do your best to prepare for each one,” said Brooks. “I wish I didn’t have the Lynch example to go by, but obviously John’s situation crossed my mind.”
Brooks, who turns 33 next month, is hoping his willingness to restructure his contract once again for Tampa Bay will afford him the opportunity to retire a Buccaneer whenever that time comes.
“That was key. That was a part of it,” said Brooks. “That was more a part of the community to me, and our fans. The past months, the conversations started and me not being here to feel the appreciation that the fans were telling me. Last week at the Pro-Am, just playing golf, all the fans were saying, ‘Stay in Tampa.’ That type of love [was important]. God put me in a position to influence people and that’s something that I don’t take for granted. I was very humbled by the support and I want them to remember that support when I miss a tackle. Again, this community, honestly, has treated my family and myself very well, and that was important to us, to stay here in Tampa. And I continue to pray that that will continue to be the situation.
“Honestly, it is very important. The only people we have [that have any] legacy, in my opinion, with this team is Lee Roy Selmon. Do people talk about Paul Gruber, or Tony Mayberry the same way as Lee Roy Selmon? No. We need more of that. We need more team history. We need to have a ring of honor in our stadium. We need an identification with history on our team, and I may be the link to do that. All those things played a part, and is a part of me staying here. I want to build on that. As I talk to more and more people around the league, they feel the same way I do about me in Tampa, it’s hard not to put the two together. It was a real big key in doing it.”
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