Young Signed by Buccaneers for $5 Million : Former Express Quarterback Buys Out Contract, Signs Six-Year Deal

Times Staff Writer

Steve Young, Los Angeles Express quarterback, was freed from the United States Football League Tuesday when he bought out his USFL contract and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

And what’s that they say about the rich getting richer?

Young, who signed his highly publicized $40 million contact with the Express in March, 1984, signed a six-year deal with the Buccaneers that will pay him more than $5 million.

Not considering deferments, which made up the bulk of his celebrated $40 million deal with the Express, Young received about $5 million in cash for less than two seasons with the Express.

After this season, Young’s attorney, Leigh Steinberg, claimed that Young was a free agent because his contract was breached when ownership of the financially troubled Express was assumed by the USFL.

To avoid a probable court battle, USFL Commissioner Harry Usher agreed to release Young from the USFL for $2 million.


Steinberg called it “a king’s ransom.”

On Tuesday, Usher settled for about half the king’s ransom, agreeing to set Young free for $1.2 million.

But don’t fret Young’s loss. His signing bonus with the Buccaneers, believed to be about $1 million, nearly cancels out what it cost him to leave the USFL.

Young, reached in Tampa Bay, said that he would have remained with the Express under the right conditions. Unfortunately, the team’s condition is critical right now.

Young figured that the end was near when Usher fired Express President Don Klosterman after the season in June.

Klosterman was instrumental in signing Young, a star at Brigham Young University, in March, 1984.

“When Don Klosterman left, well, he was the man I trusted,” Young said. “He was the one who made the deal.”

But there were other tell-tale signs that prompted Young’s departure.

The Express, which finished 3-15, was beset with one disaster after another.

The team played this season without an owner and was financed out of the pocketbooks of the 13 other USFL owners.

It was devastated with injuries and not allowed replacements, a policy that forced Young to play running back in the last game of the season.

The team still has about $1 million in outstanding debts.

And although the team protected 15 players in the off-season, no one remains in the front office, and there is no new owner in sight.

What will the league do with Young’s payment of $1.2 million? Will the USFL finally pay off Express creditors? Or will the league use the money to help reimburse USFL owners who financed the Express this season?

The USFL plans to switch to a fall schedule in 1986, and Usher plans to have a team in Los Angeles. But it won’t have Young, one of the league’s big attractions.

Usher, in a prepared statement, said: “We felt that in the best interests of both Steve Young and the USFL that he should be released from his contract.” Usher, on July 16, sent Steinberg a letter stating that he would allow Young to negotiate with the NFL.

Tampa Bay had the rights to Young, having claimed him in last year’s supplemental draft.

Young and Steinberg flew to Tampa Bay Monday night and the deal was negotiated with Phil Krueger, assistant to Hugh Culverhouse, Tampa Bay owner.

Young will start working out with the Buccaneers immediately, but Coach Leeman Bennett said Tuesday that he probably arrived too late to help the team this season.

Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback is Steve DeBerg, who was acquired from Denver, where he lost a quarterback battle to John Elway.