On Wednesday, the Buccaneers announced a multi-year contract extension for fourth-year quarterback Chris Simms.
There were rumors Simms might test the free agent market this coming offseason to see what his value was to other teams, but in his first interview since signing the new deal he simply said he likes living in Tampa, he likes the people here and the organization, and signing the contract is a load off his shoulders.
“Nothing is guaranteed anywhere, and I think, all in all, what it comes down to is what I’m comfortable with,” Simms said. “And like I’ve said before, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I like the offense, I like Coach [Jon Gruden] and I like the direction the organization is going in.
“At the end of the day there are a lot more ‘ifs’ as far as what’s going to happen out there in free agency then what’s going to happen here, so I’m definitely comfortable with my decision.”
Simms, 26, was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2007 after signing a one-year deal last March worth $2.1 million as a restricted free agent.
He ruptured his spleen against Carolina on September 24 and underwent a Splenectomy that evening. Since then, he has been steadily rehabbing and doing his best to stay in a positive frame of mind.
In fact, on Wednesday, he spoke to the press wearing a black t-shirt that read “GOT SPLEEN?” It’s a shirt Simms said the trainers had gotten him for the holiday.
Simms was placed on injured reserve on November 3.
Simms’ two-year contract extension put him under contract with the Bucs through 2008. Although it was previously reported that Simms’ new deal included $5 million in guaranteed money, that isn’t the case.
The new contract included a $3 million signing bonus and a $2 million base salary in 2007, the former of which is the only portion guaranteed to Simms.
Simms’ deal could be worth as much as $14.5 million with escalators and incentives.
While neither Simms nor the Bucs organization gave specific numbers pertaining to the contract, Simms implied it was significant.
“The contract somewhat speaks for itself,” he said. “They gave me a pretty good sum of money and I think that shows at least they are committed to me in some way or form.
“I think it’s starter money. I’m not trying to put myself out there or put anybody else down, but I believe Coach [Gruden] and [General Manager] Bruce Allen made a commitment to me, and are telling me we’ve got a lot of confidence in you and go do it.”
One month ago Simms was unsure what would happen or where his future would take him, so he prepared himself to become a free agent. On Wednesday, he said that over the last month talks between he and Gruden escalated and that Gruden was “extremely encouraging” toward him as far as getting him back and had a lot of great things to say about him.
“It’s great to have him back,” Gruden said. “It’s unfortunate he had an injury to disrupt his season. He’s a young guy that’s paid the price and we’re excited to have him back.”
Simms said he and his agent explored and evaluated the need for quarterbacks in the upcoming free agent market and came to the conclusion that there may not be a lot of opportunities. He also said his injury did not influence the decision to re-sign with the Bucs.
“I showed [Gruden] how much I wanted to be here as well, and I think were both on the same page,” he said.
Simms opened the 2005 season behind Brian Griese, but took over as the starting quarterback after Griese suffered a season-ending knee injury in the sixth game of the year.
The lefty completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,035 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions, leading the team to the NFC South division title and a playoff appearance.
He is aware of the fact he won’t be handed the starting role on a platter and said he wouldn’t be surprised if Gruden brought in other quarterbacks through free agency or the draft. But Simms is confident in his abilities.
Admittedly, he didn’t play as well as he would’ve liked to in getting off to a 0-3 start this season before the injury, but he doesn’t think he played as bad as his numbers might indicate.
In all, Simms has started 15 games as a Buccaneer and completed 291-of-492 (59.1 percent) for 3,087 yards and 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
The fact Tampa Bay will have significant room under the salary cap to sign free agents as well as three picks in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft keeps Simms optimistic about the possibility of a dramatic turn around in 2007.
As far as talk of Simms not being Gruden’s “guy” or fitting into the coach’s system, that’s simply not true, he says.
“Yeah, I feel like it is the right system [for me], I really do,” Simms said. “You guys can say all you want about the batted balls and the three-step drops, but those are things that have worked here for a long time in this offense. Will some of that have to change, we’ll see.
“We had a number of balls batted down this year after I got hurt too, I don’t know if you guys seem to talk about it that much though.”
INJURY REPORT Bucs TE Alex Smith (back) and CB Alan Zemaitis (shoulder) are listed as doubtful.
CB Juran Bolden (quadriceps), DL Julian Jenkins (ankle), G Davin Joseph (knee), S Jermaine Phillips (wrist), RB Carnell Williams (foot), LB Jamie Winborn (knee) and DT Ellis Wyms (ankle) are all questionable.
Bolden, Jenkins, Joseph, Phillips, Smith, Williams, Winborn and Wyms missed Wednesday’s practice
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