Tampa Bay is in the market for a veteran quarterback, and the free agent signing period could deliver a familiar one to the Buccaneers.

Philadelphia quarterback Jeff Garcia is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 2. Garcia’s chances of re-signing with Philadelphia greatly diminished when the Eagles signed backup QB A.J. Feeley to a three-year contract extension on February 26.

That likely was good news to the Buccaneers, who have quarterbacks Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski, Luke McCown and Bruce Eugene under contract in 2007, but are believed to be interested in signing a quarterback with Garcia’s ability, veteran credentials and familiarity with the West Coast offense.

Should the Buccaneers attempt to sign Garcia, the interest would be mutual, according to Garcia’s agent, Steve Baker.

“If the Buccaneers express a serious interest in signing Jeff, there’s no doubt Jeff would be interested in playing for Tampa Bay,” Baker told PewterReport.com.

Tampa Bay has actually 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 only offered him close to the league minimum each time.

But things appear to be different this time around as Tampa Bay has approximately $24 million in salary cap room.

Of course, Garcia is now 37, but he’s coming off an impressive stint with Philadelphia, where he completed 116-of-188 (61.7 percent) passes for 1,309 yards and tossed 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions in eight games (six starts). Garcia played well in place of injured QB Donovan McNabb and led the Eagles to the NFC East division title and playoffs after a 5-5 start under McNabb. 

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 in ‘99, has also displayed impressive mobility and playmaking ability with his feet, evidenced by his 1,878 yards and 24 touchdowns via the ground game.

In addition to Tampa Bay, several teams are expected to be interested in signing Garcia, including Denver, Minnesota and Oakland.

But the fact that Garcia has shown a genuine interest in playing for Gruden and the Bucs in the past could give Tampa Bay a legitimate chance of signing him in free agency this time around.

“What has intrigued Jeff about playing in Tampa Bay in the past has been the opportunity to play for Jon Gruden,” Baker said. “Coach Gruden has an impressive track record with quarterbacks. I mean, three years ago Jeff came pretty close to turning down $25 million [from Cleveland] to come play for Gruden and the Bucs.”

Want the inside scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2007 offseason plans? Want to find out who the Bucs are targeting in free agency and the NFL Draft? Subscribe to PewterReport.com's Pewter Insider by clicking here.

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