They haven’t locked him up long term, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have locked up quarterback Chris Simms for the time being. learned Tuesday that the Bucs have tendered Simms a one-year, $2-million deal that comes with the right of first refusal and first- and third-round draft pick compensation should another team sign away the restricted free agent.

Simms, 25, completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,035 yards and tossed 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions en route to going 6-4 as a starter in place of injured QB Brian Griese last season.

It is unlikely that another team will give Tampa Bay the compensation needed to acquire Simms, and there’s still a chance the Bucs could sign the 2003 third-round pick out of Texas to a long-term contract later in the offseason.

However, first Tampa Bay must clear as much as $19 million in salary cap room by Friday in order to be in compliance with the NFL-mandated salary cap, the amount of which has yet to be determined since the NFL and the NFL Players Association are attempting to negotiate an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement past the 2007 season.

If the CBA isn’t extended, the 2007 season will be uncapped, and the Bucs will be forced to release more players than they would if a new CBA was agreed upon.

One of the players Tampa Bay will likely have to part ways with if the CBA isn’t extended by Friday is QB Brian Griese, who is scheduled to receive a $2.6 million roster bonus on March 3, which would bring his cap value to $7.083 million in 2006.

“I don’t have a good read on where the Bucs are going,” said Cindrich. “I believe they’d like to have Brian and Chris back. We’ve met a couple of times. Bruce and I have a good rapport. Hey, if we can’t do it then we just can’t do it.

“Likely nothing will change unless something changes league wide, and even then it would be really difficult to say. Bruce and I have had some discussions, but there are a lot of limitations on both sides unless there’s a new agreement.”

The Bucs have three other quarterbacks – Tim Rattay, Luke McCown and Jared Allen – under contract for the 2006 season.

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