Once thought of as a potential starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Luke McCown is now a backup – for the Jacksonville Jaguars. On roster cutdown day in the NFL, the Bucs decided to keep all four quarterbacks, but that decision was short-lived as McCown was dealt to the Jaguars for a third-day pick (between rounds 4-7) in the 2010 NFL Draft on Saturday night.
McCown, who signed a two-year contract with a $2.5 million base salary and a $2.5 million signing bonus in February, was given the opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback job in training camp. But he lost a narrow decision after three preseason games to Byron Leftwich despite being the highest-rated QB (86.6) and throwing the most touchdown passes (two) in the preseason.
Just days after firing offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, a move that will still cost the Bucs $1 million because Jagodzinski's contract is guaranteed, the Bucs seemingly wasted another $2.5 million in McCown's signing bonus, which he gets to keep.
McCown, who will back up David Garrard in Jacksonville, was deemed to have the most trade value between he, Leftwich and Josh Johnson, and had attracted interest from Green Bay and Jacksonville over the past week. McCown had his best outing of the preseason against Jacksonville, throwing two touchdown passes in the second quarter in Tampa Bay's 24-23 win in Week 2.
With McCown's departure, it's a safe bet that 2009 first-round draft pick Josh Freeman will become the backup quarterback. With Freeman being the QB of the future, McCown was ultimately going to be expendable and the lure of the draft pick was what made the Bucs pull the trigger on the trade.
However, Tampa Bay was concerned with how it was going to properly groom Freeman as the third-string QB rarely gets any reps in practice. With Freeman now becoming the backup, he will at least be getting some of the reps in the Bucs offense that will aid in his development. It also means that Freeman will likely see some playing time in the 2009 season now that McCown is gone.
McCown has played in 12 career games with seven starts, including three in Tampa Bay in which he was 1-2. He has completed 142-of-238 career passes for 1,617 yards with nine TDs and 10 INTs. McCown has rushed for 157 yards on 21 carries.
By trading McCown, the Bucs now have 51 players on its 2009 roster with the roster exemption for free safety Tanard Jackson, who is suspended for the first four games of 2009.