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The Bucs' search for another veteran quarterback is on.
Shortly after signing quarterback Chris Simms to a two-year contract extension in December, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden made it clear that he and the Buccaneers would attempt to add another veteran signal caller to their roster via a trade or free agency.
PewterReport.com recently learned that it is highly unlikely the Bucs will use their first-round draft pick on quarterbacks Brady Quinn (Notre Dame) or JaMarcus Russell (LSU) in April.
Although the free agent signing period doesn’t begin until March 2, the inside word out of the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. has three veteran quarterbacks – Houston’s David Carr, Philadelphia’s Jeff Garcia and Denver’s Jake Plummer – on the Buccaneers’ radar.
Garcia has started 92 of the 99 career regular games he’s played in since entering the NFL in 1999 with San Francisco 49ers. He’s completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 20,385 yards and tossed 136 touchdowns and 73 interceptions.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Garcia, who had a brilliant career in the Canadian Football League before entering the NFL, has also displayed impressive mobility and playmaking ability with his feet, evidenced by his 1,878 yards and 24 touchdowns via the ground game.
At first glance, Garcia’s starting experience and success while playing in the West Coast offense in San Francisco and Philadelphia make some believe he’s at the top of the Bucs’ wish list.
However, PewterReport.com has learned that while Tampa Bay would be interested in signing Garcia, the Bucs have some serious reservations about such a move and the price would have to be right.
Tampa Bay has attempted to sign Garcia three times over the past three years, but to no avail. Although he wanted to play for the Bucs, Garcia passed on the opportunity to play in Tampa Bay all three times due to the fact that the salary cap-strapped Bucs were only offering him close to the league minimum.
Three years have gone by, and now Garcia, while coming off of an impressive stint with the Eagles, will turn 37 next month, and the Buccaneers have some reservations regarding whether signing him to a long-term, lucrative contract at this point in his career would be a wise investment. Given the fact that Garcia directed the Eagles to the playoffs in 2006 only increases his price tag.
Tampa Bay has prepared itself for the possibility that Garcia might not even hit the free agent market and could re-sign with Philadelphia. And if Garcia hits the free agent market, the Bucs could be forced to overpay for his services since several other teams will be in the market for a quarterback with his credentials.
Although Tampa Bay has $24-plus million in salary cap room this offseason, the Bucs front office is mindful of the fact that the team could get itself back into serious cap trouble if it overpays for players. In short, even though the Bucs have a significant amount of money to spend in free agency for the first time in several years, they aren’t going to be reckless spenders.
If Tampa Bay doesn’t make a hard push for Garcia, which at this point looks like a real possibility, the Bucs likely will target Plummer, who is another veteran signal caller that is well versed in the West Coast offense from his playing days in Denver.
Despite Denver getting off to a 7-4 starts this season, Plummer (6-2, 220) was benched in favor of Broncos rookie QB Jay Cutler, who was the 11th overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan benched Plummer because he wanted to get his prized number one pick on the field.
Some believe Plummer, who entered the league in 1997 with the Arizona Cardinals, has underachieved, and some of his stats would support such a notion. He’s completed just 57.1 percent of his career passes for 29,253 yards while tossing 161 touchdowns and 160 interceptions.
The biggest knock on Plummer is his decision-making ability. He’s earned a reputation for forcing throws, which would explain his high interception total.
Still, Plummer has 136 career starts, and he produced an impressive 40-18 record as Denver’s starter. More often than not, quarterbacks are judged on their won-loss record.
Plummer also has good mobility. He’s rushed for 1,851 yards and 17 touchdowns during his pro career.
Gruden is looking for a quarterback with clout, and the interesting part about Plummer is there are some glaring similarities between he and Rich Gannon, who was a journeyman quarterback before finding an offense he could thrive in out in Oakland.
Gannon joined the Gruden-led Raiders when he was 33. Plummer recently turned 32. Both quarterbacks are similar in size and have good mobility, which Gruden craves in a signal caller.
Plummer is signed with Denver through the 2009 season, but the Broncos likely will release or trade him before March 2 for salary cap reasons because Cutler is their clear-cut starter.
As of right now, it appears that Plummer is the veteran quarterback Tampa Bay would be most interested in signing should he hit the free agent market as expected.
And even if he doesn’t hit free agency, the Bucs could be willing to trade for Plummer in an effort to keep teams like Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Minnesota and Oakland from competing for his services. Houston will be the biggest competition for Plummer's services because Texans head coach Gary Kubiak was Plummer's offensive coordinator in Denver.
Speaking of trading for players, the Buccaneers might seriously contemplate such a move in order to land another veteran quarterback this offseason.
And if it’s not Plummer, Tampa Bay could trade for Carr, a move Pewter Report recently proposed in the “How To Fix The Bucs” feature article the Season Wrap-Up Issue.
Carr (6-3, 230) doesn’t appear to be a quarterback that would necessarily come with clout, but he does have starting experience and upside.
The number one overall pick in the 2002 draft, Carr has completed 60 percent of his passes and tossed 59 touchdowns and 65 interceptions while starting 76 career games during his five-year career.
Carr has good mobility and has picked up 87 first downs and eight rushing touchdowns with his feet. He owns a 4.6 avg. as a runner.
At 27, Carr has plenty of upside, especially after producing a career-high completion percentage of 68.3 percent and an 82.1 QB rating in his first season in Kubiak’s West Coast style of offense that he brought from Denver to Houston.
The one concern Tampa Bay has about Carr is the fact that he’s been sacked 249 times in five seasons. Houston’s offensive line play has been suspect at best, and some worry Carr may be permanently scarred from taking so many sacks, like a “deer in the headlights” syndrome, which is what former Bucs QB Rob Johnson had. Instead of seeing the field as he drops back to pass, Carr could find it difficult to break the habit of looking at the oncoming pass rush.
Still, when given the time to throw, Carr, who has an extremely strong arm, has been an effective passer, and he’s shown tremendous durability and toughness by playing through the sacks.
The Texans haven’t made the playoffs or produced a winning record with Carr, which is why some believe he could be on the trading block.
If he is, consider the Bucs interested as Carr has two years remaining on his contract that includes a base salary of $5.25 million in 2007.
One interesting scenario could have Denver trading Plummer to Houston to reunite with Kubiak, and the Texans shipping off Carr to Tampa Bay in exchange for a player and/or draft pick.
In a related note, Bucs general manager Bruce Allen met with agent Michael Sullivan on Tuesday night in Mobile, Ala. Sullivan represents several players in the NFL, including Carr.
Believe it or not, the Bucs are so determined to bolster their quarterback position with capable and starting-caliber talent that they could even attempt to land both Carr and Plummer, and have them both players come in and compete with Simms for the starting job while the losers fill the backup and No. 3 QB roles.
That scenario, while expensive, is possible since the Bucs have the cap room. Of course, if that scenario were to come to fruition, Bruce Gradkowski and Luke McCown would be the odd men out in Tampa Bay.
However, it's safe to suggest that at least one of these players – Plummer, Carr or Garcia – will be in Tampa Bay in March or April.
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