It's hard to argue against the notion that Tampa Bay has a penchant for collecting quarterbacks. The Bucs, did, after all, add a seventh quarterback to their roster on Sunday when they used their fifth-round selection to draft San Diego signal caller Josh Johnson.
The Bucs like what Johnson, who tossed 43 touchdowns and just one interception as a senior, did in San Diego's version of the West Coast offense, but head coach Jon Gruden stopped short of anointing the former Div. I-AA star Tampa Bay's quarterback of the future.
"He's a late fifth-round pick, we did a lot of work on the quarterbacks," Gruden said about Johnson. "You can't deny he comes from a small college and you can't deny that he was very productive and dominated either. Statistically 113 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. 68 percent completion percentage [1,864] yards rushing and when you do the individual makeup of the kid you see a 6-foot-2, 215-pound youngster that has 4.5 speed. I think he's a heck of a kid. Some of the coaches at San Diego I'm familiar with. They were on my staff in Oakland. So we've known a lot about his kid for some time.
"Is he the quarterback of the future? I don't know, but he will compete and he will be very interesting to follow."
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said the team did its research on Johnson and came away impressed what his former coaches and teammates had to say about him.
"Well we like the talent of Josh," said Allen addressing the drafting of Johnson. "He has not good statistics not great statistics — he has spectacular statistics. He's been coached by coaches were very familiar with Jonnie Morton has said some very positive things about him. Coach [Jim] Harbaugh has said some great things about him and we want to give him a chance to see what he can do in the NFL."
Johnson will be given the chance to compete in training camp, but not all of the quarterbacks on their roster will be afforded that opportunity. The Buccaneers made it clear that they have no intention of bringing seven quarterbacks to training camp. Instead, they plan to bring five signal callers to camp.
"Well I've said to you before and Ill say it again we'll bring five quarterbacks to training camp and that's what we planned on doing and that's what we'll do," said Allen. "How that works out, we have until July 25 I think until we go to training camp. We'll make those determinations."
At first glance, Tampa Bay didn't even appear to have an immediate need for a quarterback with Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski and Jake Plummer under contract.
However, a closer look shows that Garcia, who made the Pro Bowl in his Bucs debut, is 38 and Griese is 33. Both Garcia and McCown are in the final year of their contracts, and Plummer has yet to play for Tampa Bay and remains retired.
Although the Bucs claim he is 100 percent healthy, Simms, a 2003 third-round pick, has yet to prove on the football field that he is recovered from the spleen injury that has sidelined him for nearly two years ago.
Both the left-handed Simms and/or Gradkowski, a 2006 sixth-round selection, appear to be on the trading or chopping block. With Plummer retired, the Bucs likely will part ways with either Simms or Gradkowski before they report to training camp on July 25.
While it only intends to bring five quarterbacks to training camp, Tampa Bay could come out of camp and preseason with four signal callers on its 53-man roster in September.
That appears to be a likely scenario since Garcia has established himself as the starter and the Bucs traded a 2008 sixth-round pick to acquire Griese, who spent two seasons (2004-05) in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay has acknowledged that Johnson, a Div. I-AA star at San Diego, could need some time to develop at the NFL level, and the Bucs still are high on McCown, who completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 1,009 yards and tossed five touchdowns and three interceptions in five games in relief of the injured Garcia in 2007.
The quarterback carousel in Tampa Bay will continue. It's just a matter of which signal callers will continue to go along for the ride and which ones will get off before the Bucs go to training camp in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. in July.
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