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The Buccaneers had trouble landing a veteran quarterback for depth in free agency, so the team will likely stick with Chris Simms as Brian Griese’s backup and select a passer in the NFL Draft. Akili Smith, a former first-round pick, was signed in the offseason, but he will play in NFL Europe rather than practice with Tampa Bay in the offseason and is likely just an extra arm for training camp. Jon Gruden wants a mobile passer who has the intelligence to pick up his complex offense and the accuracy to deliver the ball on short and intermediate routes and avoid turnovers. Gruden’s ideal passer is in the 6-foot-2 range, as great West Coast QBs like Joe Montana, Steve Young and Brett Favre were all that height.

The Bucs may be shopping Simms, a third-year quarterback, to see if they can get a high second-round pick or a package of picks. Simms, who was a late third-round pick in 2003, will be an unrestricted free agent in 2007 and the team has signed Griese to a long-term deal and he will likely be the quarterback of the immediate future. But just because Tampa Bay may be shopping Simms doesn’t mean he will actually be dealt as the team failed to sign a proven veteran quarterback like Jeff Garcia or Kurt Warner in free agency. Had the Bucs acquired a veteran, the chances of Simms being traded would increase. Gruden has been lamenting over the fact that he wants a mobile quarterback who can pick up hidden yardage by scrambling for first downs and keeping drives alive. Like Griese, Simms has some mobility, but he’s not the scrambler that Gruden ultimately wants.

The Bucs will flirt with the idea of drafting Cal’s Aaron Rodgers or Utah’s Alex Smith if either player happens to be there at No. 5, but Gruden needs to win now to keep his job and likely doesn’t have time to develop a young quarterback, especially with Simms already in the fold. Akron’s Charlie Frye is an ideal fit in round two, as would Auburn’s Jason Campbell, whom Gruden coached in the Senior Bowl, but Tampa Bay probably won’t address the QB position until at least the third round. Ex-Florida State and Arena Football League star Adrian McPherson has intrigued the Bucs for a long time. Tampa Bay tried to sign him last year until the NFL stepped in and said he must go through the 2005 draft. McPherson has great size, mobility and arm strength, but questions about his character and maturity linger. The team really likes Harvard’s Ryan Fitzpatrick and he would be a good fit on day two of the draft. Fitzpatrick aced his Wonderlic and finished it with three minutes to spare, which is almost unheard of. Other second day options are Louisville’s Stefan LeFors, Oklahoma’s Jason White and Florida A&M’s Ben Doughtery.

Tampa Bay has shown an increased amount of interest in Smith, whom sources say would be the preferred quarterback of choice between he and Rodgers. Tampa Bay visited with both quarterbacks over the weekend. The team will also workout Campbell. Tampa Bay was conspicuously absent from McPherson’s workout in nearby Bradenton and do not have any plans to bring him in for a pre-draft visit, according to agent Leigh Steinberg. However, the Bucs have coveted McPherson for some time and collected enough info on him and conducted a personal interview with him at the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Tampa Bay was scouting Frye at the Senior Bowl and at his pro day at Akron. While the Bucs did not attend Fitzpatrick’s pro day, they spent a great deal of time with him at the East-West Shrine Game.

BUCS’ BEST BET – QB RYAN FITZPATRICK (Harvard) Fitzpatrick is one of the smartest quarterbacks in the draft, and has the tools to be successful in the West Coast offense. He is likely a second day, fallback option if quarterbacks like Campbell, Frye and McPherson are not available when the Bucs want to draft them.

Brian Griese, Chris Simms, Akili Smith

For more detailed analyis on each draft prospect, refer to the positional draft previews in the on-line version of the Pewter Report Bucs Draft Preview.

This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers. Be sure to read the latest issue of Pewter Report on-line in PDF format on Buccaneers merchandise in the world.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at:
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