The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will need to create as much as $19 million in salary cap room by Friday in order to be in compliance with the NFL-mandated salary cap.

The uncertainty surrounding the future of the Collective Bargaining Agreement hasn’t stopped Bucs general manager Bruce Allen from negotiating with agents, including Jim Steiner, who represents fullback Mike Alstott and middle linebacker Shelton Quarles.

Quarles, who turns 35 in September, recorded a team-high 196 tackles in 2005, but he’s scheduled to have a $5.075 million cap value in 2006. The Bucs are trying to lower Quarles’ cap value and avoid paying him the $400,000 roster bonus he’s scheduled to receive on Friday.

“We did a little restructure with Shelton last year, and we’ve recently had some discussions about Shelton,” said Steiner. “That’s really to the extent of it. I really can’t give you any indications of what’s going to transpire.”

If they can’t come to terms on a restructured contract, the Bucs could opt to release Quarles, a move that would create approximately $1.925 million in cap room and pave the way for second-year LB Barrett Ruud to enter the starting lineup.

The Bucs are also in the process of trying to rework Pro Bowl LB Derrick Brooks’ contract. Brooks, who turns 33 in April, is scheduled to have a $11.657 million cap value in 2006.

Tampa Bay can create approximately $5.5 million by releasing Brooks, but the two sides are working to avoid that scenario and rework Brooks’ deal so that the nine-Pro Bowler can be afforded the opportunity to retire a Buc.

Allen and Steiner have also had discussions regarding the possibility of Alstott forgoing retirement and re-signing with the Bucs.

“There have been some discussions about him coming back, but it’s not 100 percent headed in that direction yet,” said Steiner.

Alstott, 32, is believed to be seeking a contract worth $1.5 million, but the Bucs are not yet willing or able to pay the “A-Train” that type of money to bring him back, or at least not before the team creates the cap room necessary to be in compliance with the NFL salary cap.


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