Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris discussed the quarterback competition after Wednesday's practice. Morris addressed the report from NFL.com that the team is looking to trade one of its quarterbacks. Byron Leftwich, Luke McCown, and Josh Johnson are rumored to be on the trading block.
"Everybody in this league, all 32 teams around this time, start calling other front offices. I can't control who calls us," Morris said. " I can control who we call. Everybody is interested everybody's roster. Everybody is looking to nit pick off other team's rosters. Everybody has talent, and you are trying to accumulate the best talent on your football team. That's just all that talk is."
Conversations Pewter Report has had with members of the Bucs front office in the past support Morris' explanation for the report that suggests the team might be open to trading one of its four quarterbacks.
"Well, it is what it is. This is the time for front offices to talk. This time for front offices to mingle, and that is what that they got to do," Morris said. "For me I have to coach football games. I got to get the guys on the football field and let them run around, and make decisions on quarterbacks."
McCown says he has chosen to ignore the rumors and focus on winning the starting position.
"I don't have a reaction," said McCown. "I have a competition to stay focused on and a game to play. I'm going out and putting my best foot forward.
"They told me I'd have an opportunity to compete. We're still competing. That's all I know."
Morris said that as a coach he wants to keep the three best quarterbacks. Tampa Bay may chose to trade a veteran like Leftwich or McCown to get a draft pick, and trim some salary. Leftwich and McCown both make more than Johnson, a second-year player. McCown has a base salary of $ 2.5 million after receiving a $2.5 million signing bonus. Leftwich is slated to earn $2 million, and Johnson's base salary is $426,833.
"For me, you just want to have the best three guys to help your team win," Morris said. "You get those guys out, you put them in a line, and you let them play. You pick a starter, and the other guy has to prepare like he is the starter because he is one snap away from going into the game at all times, and that third guy usually he runs your scout team and usually he is ready to go because you never know when his number is going to be called. He's the 46th man on game day, so he's two snaps away from going in the game. Those guys always have to be ready. They have to be ready to lead your team, and it is what we have to prepare for."
In line with trading one of the veterans, Morris said that he wouldn't rule out having one of the young quarterbacks serve as the backup to a veteran starter. Josh Freeman was previously mentioned by Morris as a candidate to be the backup quarterback despite his rookie status. Johnson was on the Bucs' roster last season, but did not make any game appearances.
"This group of quarterbacks are sharp," Morris said. "I don't know if you know, or if [quarterbacks coach Greg Olson] told you, but his room one, I hate to talk prematurely for him, but this is one of his favorite rooms he has ever coached. He loves being in it. They are detailed. They are sharp. I know we got some young ones in there, but they are the same way and they are cut from that mold."
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Leftwich completed 12-of-26 (46.1 percent) of his passes for 124 yards and tossed one touchdown and no interceptions in two preseason games. He also led two drives that resulted in field goals. Leftwich has a quarterback rating of 73.2.
McCown (6-3, 217) completed 10-of-17 (58.8 percent) passes for 70 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. McCown's quarterback rating is 107.5. McCown also has run three times for 12 yards.
Freeman (6-6, 248) has completed 9-of-16 passes (56.3 percent) for 103 yards with no touchdowns and one interception that was returned for a touchdown. A 28-yard touchdown run was the highlight play of the preseason for the Bucs first-round pick.
Johnson (6-3, 205) has completed 5-of-9 passes (55.6 percent) for 36 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Johnson has a touchdown run of 43 yards, and he has totaled four rushes for 45 yards.
Leftwich has 46 starts to McCown's seven in the NFL. Whichever quarterback performs better against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night is expected to be named the starting quarterback. Leftwich is going to start the game, and McCown will come in second.
Morris said that McCown would play into the second half of the game with a series or two in the third quarter of the game. Freeman is projected enter the game in the third quarter like he has in the first two preseason games. This preseason game will be vitally important to the careers of McCown and Leftwich.
"They're all big, whether that's preseason or regular season," said McCown. "Any opportunity I have to put my stamp on the game and show what I can do is big for me."