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Bucs news can dry up a bit this time of year. While a few organized team activities and Tampa Bay’s three-day mandatory mini-camp have yet to be conducted (will be held in late June), the Bucs don’t report to training camp until July 26.
Pewter Report prides itself on looking ahead, and that’s exactly what we’ll do between now and the start of training camp.
The next several weekly installments of Flynn’s Focus will focus on the free agents-to-be in the 2008 offseason. This includes Tampa Bay’s own free agents as well as other NFL players that are scheduled to become free agents during the ’08 offseason.
That said, we’ll start with quarterbacks.
It might be difficult to believe, but when Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen traded for Jake Plummer earlier this offseason, he was planning beyond the 2007 season.
The Bucs acquired Plummer, 32, from the Denver Broncos in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick in 2008. If Plummer, who is currently retired (although it is believed that he has not yet filed retirement papers with the NFL), opts to play for Tampa Bay, the Bucs will keep their seventh-rounder and instead be required to hand the Broncos a fourth-round pick.
The good news for the Bucs is Plummer is under contract through the 2009 season, which made the trade that much more appealing. Having Plummer, Chris Simms, Jeff Garcia and Bruce Gradkowski under contract for the 2008 season puts the Bucs in an ideal situation at quarterback for at least one more season.
Although he has announced his retirement, Plummer continues to have dialogue with Allen, which is a good sign for the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay wants Plummer to play this season, but he’s still unhappy with how he was treated during the latter part of his career in Denver, where he was benched in favor of rookie Jay Cutler while the Broncos were in the middle of the hunt for the playoffs, which they eventually missed.
Several people inside the Bucs organization believe Plummer can win the starting job if he decides to report to training camp this season. In the meantime, the Bucs are being extremely patient in hopes that Plummer opts to play for them this season, or worst case scenario, in 2008.
Although they can go after as much as $7 million in bonuses should Plummer fail to report to training camp, the Bucs aren’t in a hurry to play that card. They’d rather have Plummer willingly play for the Bucs as opposed to threatening him into reporting.
In the meantime, Garcia and Simms are battling for the starting job. Odds are one of these two quarterbacks will be Tampa Bay’s starting signal caller on opening day in 2007, but there’s no guarantee Garcia will see the final year of his contract since he turns 38 next year.
Not only that, but before he traded for Plummer, Allen likely took a look at the free agents-to-be at the quarterback position in 2008 and didn’t come away impressed.
Here are arguably the top 10 free agents-to-be at quarterback in 2008:
Kyle Boller (Baltimore) – UFA Rex Grossman (Chicago) – UFA Tony Romo (Dallas) – UFA Byron Leftwich (Jacksonville) – UFA Eli Manning (New York Giants) – RFA Phillip Rivers (San Diego) – RFA Seneca Wallace (Seattle) – UFA Marc Bulger (St. Louis) – UFA Mark Brunell (Washington) – UFA Doug Johnson (Cincinnati) – UFA
At first glance, this list seems quite attractive with names like Manning and Rivers on it, but both of those players are scheduled to become restricted free agents, which makes it unlikely that the Bucs or any other team would be able to acquire them without giving up a considerable amount of compensation in the form of draft picks.
Leftwich, 27, might be the most sought after free agent quarterback in 2008, but that all depends on what type of season he turns in in 2007.
The fifth-year veteran is experienced, evidenced by his 44 career starts. However, he’s been inconsistent, completing just 58.7 percent of his career passes while tossing 51 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.
Even if Leftwich has a Pro Bowl-caliber year in 2007, don’t expect the Buccaneers to be too interested in signing him should he hit the free agent market as scheduled.
With Plummer’s base salary dropping from $5.7 million to $4.8 million and Garcia and Simms scheduled to earn $2 million each in base salary, Tampa Bay will already have $8.8 million of its salary cap space allocated to its quarterback position in 2008.
The Bucs, who are scheduled to be approximately $30 million under the salary cap in 2008, can afford to carry all three of those signal callers, but it would be difficult to see a scenario where Leftwich or another veteran quarterback like Bulger, Romo or Wallace would willingly sign with Tampa Bay since the competition already appears to be quite stiff.
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