BUCS' QUARTERBACKS FREE AGENCY PREVIEW
With free agency scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m. on March 11, PewterReport.com brings you its annual free agency preview by position. On Monday, PewterReport.com began taking a look at what Bucs will become free agents at each position, who the Bucs have under contract at the previewed position, then take a look at five players that could fit into Tampa Bay's plans, known as the Bucs' Best Bets. Tuesday’s preview is the quarterback position.
BUCS' PENDING FREE AGENTS
Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky is the only pending free agent at the quarterback position for the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are not expected to re-sign Orlovsky although it is not completely out of the question if they do not come to terms with another veteran. Head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht both have mentioned they would like a veteran in the mix, however most think that player will be a more accomplished starter than Orlovsky.
WHAT THE BUCS HAVE
Other than Orlovsky, the Buccaneers have last season’s starter Mike Glennon who will be entering his second season, and also recently signed Mike Kafka.
Glennon had a solid rookie season but hasn’t established himself as a bona fide NFL starter as of yet in most fans' minds, and it has yet to be determined exactly how the new coaching staff and front office feel about the former North Carolina State product. Glennon has the intelligence, arm strength and leadership most feel to succeed in the NFL, but if one of the top three ranked college prospects (Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater or UCF's Blake Bortles) fall to the Buccaneers with the No. 7 selection, the staff will have a decision to make. Part of the decision may depend on how Glennon performs during April’s mini-camp.
Glennon finished the 2013 season throwing for 2,608 yards with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, but the question mark remains – is he a quarterback who can make those around him better, or is he just an average game manager?
Kafka, a former Eagles prospect, was signed earlier this year as a free agent but is most likely thought of as a developmental project-type player and another camp arm. Kafka has little NFL experience, with just 16 NFL pass attempts.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED
The Buccaneers will look to determine if Glennon is the answer at quarterback. If he's not, the team will most certainly look to draft a potential starter early in the May NFL Draft. And if that is the case they will surely be on the lookout for a veteran free agent that could man the position until a rookie is ready to take over. And even if Glennon ends up as the starter, it would still make sense to bring in a solid NFL veteran to at least help develop Glennon and be ready in the event of an injury.
BUCS’ BEST BETS
1. Chicago QB Josh McCown
McCown appeared in eight games with five starts for the Bears in 2013, finishing with 13 touchdowns, just one interception and a passer rating of 109. That's pretty impressive numbers for a journeyman, career backup quarterback. Bears starter Jay Cutler recently signed an extension that pays him $54 million in guaranteed money over the length of the deal. McCown joined the Bears in 2011, two years before Love Smith was fired after a 10-6 2012 season, so the Bucs have all the intel they need to decide if McCown is the answer at QB – at least temporarily. The problem with throwing a lot of money his way is McCown’s age, as he will be 35 when the regular season begins. Another issue that needs to be explored is the fact that McCown could be a one-year wonder. Why didn’t he ever seize an opportunity throughout his prior 11 NFL seasons?
2. Philadelphia QB Michael Vick
Vick, who will be 34 in June, has played a full 16 games in just one season in his NFL career, missing significant time with a constant string of injuries. Durability is a big concern for teams looking for a short-term solution at the quarterback position. Vick can’t expect a long-term deal given his age and injury history, but could be a value to a team, like Tampa Bay, looking to transition to a younger starter. Vick also comes with baggage for his highly publicized dog fighting and animal cruelty charge that sent him to prison and cost him millions of dollars in salary and endorsements while with Atlanta. The Eagles were the first to reach out to Vick, giving him a second chance in the league, and by all accounts he was a model citizen, even handling a demotion with class last season after being injured and giving way to Nick Foles. Vick still is a unique talent, but an aging one. Still, someone will come calling, and already there have been reports of interest by Tampa Bay and also the New York Jets.
3. Minnesota QB Matt Cassel
Cassel started six games for the Vikings and threw for 1,807 yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions and a 60.2 completion percentage and was set to earn $3.6 million with the Vikings but voided his deal to test the free agency waters. Cassel played for the Patriots from 2005 until 2008, and led the Patriots to an 11-5 record after filling in for an injured Tom Brady in 2008. He parlayed that into a big contract with the Chiefs where he struggled with injuries. It is doubtful that the Bucs would be willing to meet his asking price, but if he finds the market soft, he could be in Tampa Bay’s plans for 2014.
4. Jacksonville QB Chad Henne
Henne filled in for the oft-injured Blaine Gabbert during the 2013 season and put up decent numbers while leading the Jaguars to a handful of wins. Henne thinks he can be an effective starter in the NFL, but is most likely relegated to another backup situation in his next stop. He could come fairly cheap, and with his starting experience, he may be an option to help groom either Glennon or the Bucs' next quarterback. The Jaguars are reportedly interested in keeping Henne, but a deal has yet to be reached.
5. Seattle QB Tavaris Jackson
Jackson is an intriguing player for teams looking for an inexpensive backup that also could fill in effectively in an emergency situation. Jackson completed 60.2 percent of his passes in leading the Seahawks to a 7-9 record back in 2011. Jackson has good mobility, a strong arm and the experience to be a solid NFL backup. Jackson’s biggest downfall has been his inability to protect the football over his career however, something that the front office of the Buccaneers would need to feel the coaches could correct.
TOP FIVE QUARTERBACKS IN 2014 FREE AGENCY
1. Philadelphia QB Michael Vick
In an average-at-best free agent market for quarterbacks, Vick is the clear-cut favorite to draw the most attention from a number of teams, quite possibly even by the Buccaneers. Loaded with unique ability, Vick will have to convince a team that he can stay healthy in whatever capacity he ends up being signed to fill.
2. Chicago QB Josh McCown
Cutler's misfortune last season turned McCown into a desired target in free agency and most likely helped him earn a significant paycheck after his terrific season filling in for the injured QB in Chicago last season.
3. Minnesota QB Matt Cassel
Cassel’s gamble to void the final year of his Vikings contract could backfire on the aging veteran, but a solid resume dating back to his days in New England will help him find a handsomely paying job in 2014. Will it be more than the $3.6 million he was set to earn in Minnesota? We should know fairly quickly once free agency opens next week.
4. Minnesota QB Josh Freeman
Say what you want about Freeman’s 2013 meltdown in Tampa Bay last year, but the former first-round pick is still a talented – and young – quarterback that will be desired by someone once the free agency bell sounds next Tuesday afternoon. The safe bet might be Oakland where he would be reunited with offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
5. Jacksonville QB Chad Henne
The former Michigan star could very well end up back in Jacksonville as a backup and to help mentor what is expected to be a new quarterback in 2014. The Jaguars have the No. 3 overall pick and most expect them to take one of the young guns coming out of college in the 2014 NFL Draft and turn away from Blaine Gabbert.
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.