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Although Tampa Bay re-signed Luke McCown to a two-year contract and will allow him to compete for a starting job, the Buccaneers still are in the market for a quarterback.
That's because McCown, Brian Griese and Josh Johnson are the only quarterbacks the Bucs have under contract in 2009.
McCown lacks experience, Griese may not have the arm strength new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski is looking for in his signal callers, and Johnson, a 2007 fifth-round draft pick, is fighting an uphill battle since he has a strong arm, but is considered a West Coast quarterback and raw prospect that needs more time to develop.
By signing McCown to a two-year, $7.5 million contract, the Bucs are no longer believed to be in the market for New England QB Matt Cassel, who was franchised by the Patriots and is looking for a long-term, lucrative contract, not to mention the premium compensation New England will require in order to trade him.
It is unlikely the Bucs will re-sign Jeff Garcia, who will hit the free agent market on Feb. 27. While the Bucs could still sign a free agent quarterback like Byron Leftwich or even trade for a signal caller like Green Bay's Brian Brohm, Tampa Bay is expected to seriously consider using its 2009 first-round draft pick on a quarterback.
That's something the Bucs haven't done since 1994 when the team selected Trent Dilfer.
This year's class of quarterbacks is considered weak by draft pundits. The top three signal callers are Matt Stafford (Georgia), Mark Sanchez (USC) and Josh Freeman (Kansas State). All three quarterbacks are considered first-round candidates.
Over the last decade (1999-08), 28 quarterbacks have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. By our calculations (which are of course subjective), 13 of those signal callers (46.4 percent) have panned out.
Take a look for yourself.
Performed Well Matt Ryan (Atlanta) – 3rd overall pick 2008 NFL Draft Completed 61.1 percent of passes for 3,440 yards and tossed 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions
Joe Flacco (Baltimore) – 18th overall pick 2008 NFL Draft Completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,971 yards and 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions
Jay Cutler (Denver) – 11th overall pick 2006 NFL Draft Completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 9,024 yards and 54 touchdowns and 37 interceptions
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) – 24th overall pick 2005 NFL Draft Completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 4,367 yards and 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions
Jason Campbell (Washington) – 25th overall pick 2005 NFL Draft Completed 59.7 percent of his passes for 7,242 yards and 35 touchdowns and 23 interceptions
Eli Manning (N.Y. Giants) – 1st overall pick 2004 NFL Draft Completed 55.9 percent of his passes for 14,623 yards and 98 touchdowns and 74 interceptions
Phillip Rivers (San Diego) – 4th overall pick 2004 NFL Draft Completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 10,697 yards and 78 touchdowns and 36 interceptions
Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) – 11th overall pick 2004 NFL Draft Completed 62.4 percent of his passes 14,974 yards and 101 touchdowns and 69 interceptions
Carson Palmer (Cincinnati) – 1st overall pick 2003 NFL Draft Completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 15,630 yards and 107 touchdowns and 67 interceptions
Michael Vick (Atlanta) – 1st overall pick 2001 NFL Draft Completed 53.8 percent of his passes for 11,505 yards and 71 touchdowns and 52 interceptions. Also rushed for 3,859 yards and 21 touchdowns
Chad Pennington (N.Y. Jets) – 18th overall pick 2000 NFL Draft Completed 66 percent of his passes for 17,391 yards and 101 touchdowns and 62 interceptions
Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia) – 2nd overall pick 1999 NFL Draft Completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 29,320 yards and 194 touchdowns and 90 interceptions
Daunte Culpepper (Minnesota) – 11th overall pick 1999 NFL Draft Completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 23,208 yards and 146 touchdowns and 100 interceptions
Below Expectations JaMarcus Russell (Oakland) – 1st overall pick 2007 NFL Draft Completed 53.9 percent of his passes for 2,796 yards and 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions
Brady Quinn (Cleveland) – 22nd overall pick 2007 NFL Draft Completed 49.5 percent of his passes for 563 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions
Vince Young (Tennessee) – 3rd overall pick 2006 NFL Draft Completed 57.3 percent of his passes for 4,964 yards and 22 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. Has also rushed for 974 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Matt Leinart (Arizona) – 10th overall pick 2006 NFL Draft Completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 3,458 yards and 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions
Alex Smith (San Francisco) – 1st overall pick 2005 NFL Draft Completed 54.4 percent of his passes for 4,679 yards and 19 touchdowns and 31 interceptions
J.P. Losman (Buffalo) – 22nd overall pick 2004 NFL Draft Completed 59.3 percent of his passes for 6,211 yards and 33 touchdowns and 34 interceptions
Byron Leftwich (Jacksonville) – 7th overall pick 2003 NFL Draft Completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 9,624 yards and 54 touchdowns and 38 interceptions
Kyle Boller (Baltimore) – 19th overall pick 2003 NFL Draft Completed 56.9 percent of his passes for 7,846 yards and 45 touchdowns and 44 interceptions
Rex Grossman (Chicago) – 22nd overall pick 2003 NFL Draft Completed 54.2 percent of his passes for 6,164 yards and 33 touchdowns and 35 interceptions
David Carr (Houston) – 1st overall pick 2002 NFL Draft Completed 59.7 percent of his passes for 14,141 yards and 64 touchdowns and 70 interceptions
Joey Harrington (Detroit) – 3rd overall pick 2002 NFL Draft Completed 56.1 percent of his passes for 14,693 yards and 79 touchdowns and 85 interceptions
Patrick Ramsey (Washington) – 32nd overall pick 2002 NFL Draft Completed 56 percent of his passes for 5,930 yards and 35 touchdowns and 30 interceptions
Tim Couch (Cleveland) – 1st overall pick 1999 NFL Draft Completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 11,131 yards and 64 touchdowns and 67 interceptions
Akili Smith (Cincinnati) – 3rd overall pick 1999 NFL Draft Completed 46.6 percent of his passes for 2,212 yards and five touchdowns and 13 interceptions
Cade McNown (Chicago) – 12th overall pick 1999 NFL Draft Completed 54.6 percent of his passes for 3,111 yards and 16 touchdowns and 19 interceptions
While there have been a fair amount of busts in the NFL as far as the quarterback position is concerned, current trends and history suggest a team's best chance of landing a capable starting quarterback is by investing a first-round pick in one.
Consider the fact that of the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL, 16 (50 percent) of them entered the league as first-round draft picks.
It's also important to note that the last four Super Bowl winners have had former first-round draft picks starting at quarterback.
That's probably not good news for the Bucs, who have not drafted a quarterback in the first round since 1994. Tampa Bay's trio of quarterbacks (McCown, Griese and Johnson) originally entered the league as fourth-, third-, and fifth-round picks.
This is not to say teams must have first-round picks at the quarterback position in order to succeed. A few of the league's more successful starting signal callers include Tom Brady (sixth round), Matt Hasselbeck (sixth round), Tony Romo (undrafted), Kurt Warner (undrafted), David Garrard (fourth round), Marc Bulger (sixth round), Matt Schaub (third round) and Drew Brees (second round).
Brady has won three Lombardi Trophies in four trips to the Super Bowl, and Warner has played in three Super Bowls, winning one of them.
Tampa Bay has had 12 different players start at least one game at quarterback since '94, including nine under former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden from 2002-08.
The Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII, but it wasn't with Dilfer, the former first-round pick (although he did go on to win a Super Bowl with the Ravens). It was with Brad Johnson, a former ninth-round draft pick.
But there's no denying literally half of the NFL's teams have former first-round picks starting at quarterback, and that's not even counting five former first-rounders that were recently starters but are now riding the bench or on their way out of their respective team's facilities.
This also doesn't take into account the fact that Green Bay and Seattle used first-round picks to acquire proven veteran signal callers in Brett Favre and Hasselbeck.
There's a good chance the number of starting quarterbacks that entered the NFL as first-round picks will increase this year as Detroit, Kansas City, San Francisco and Tampa Bay are in the market for quarterbacks.
Since Detroit and Kansas City own top 10 draft picks, Stafford and Sanchez likely will be gone by the time the Bucs select at 19. That said, the quarterback the Bucs have serious interest in drafting is Kansas State's Josh Freeman, who is inconsistent, but is mobile and has a cannon for a throwing arm. He was a freshman when Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris served as defensive coordinator for the Wildcats in 2006.
But there is no guarantee the Bucs will draft a quarterback in the first round this year since the team has other needs, including wide receiver, running back, defensive tackle, defensive end and cornerback.
If Morris and new Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik determine the Bucs need a quarterback of the future, their best chance of hitting on one is in the first round since the diamonds in the rough are quite difficult to find.
They're certainly harder to find at quarterback than wide receiver, evidenced by the fact that of the 64 starting wide receivers in the NFL, only 24 of them entered the league as first-round picks.
That's just 37.5 percent, which means more than half of the league's starting wide receivers entered the NFL through means other than the first round of the draft, whereas 50 percent of the NFL's starting quarterbacks entered the league as first-round selections.