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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Seeking a veteran QB? Bucs' options are limited



TAMPA -- The Bucs have made it clear they expect to bring in competition for Mike Glennon for the team's starting quarterback job, but as free agency begins this weekend, there are limited options in the established passers available on the open market.

The Bucs could use their top draft pick (No. 7 overall) on one of the draft's perceived top three quarterbacks -- Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, though not necessarily in that order -- but could also bring in a veteran to challenge Glennon.

The Bucs won't know until May 8 whether one of those quarterbacks will still be there at No. 7, so here are five names of options they could sign as free agents, now or later in summer after additional roster cuts are made:

1. MICHAEL VICK, Eagles: He turns 34 in June, but fans still clamor for the dual threat, perhaps remembering his 2010 comeback season: 21 touchdown passes against just six interceptions, with another nine touchdowns on the ground.

Thing is, his numbers have dropped off since then -- his completion percentage has dropped three years in a row, and since 2011, he has 35 touchdowns against 27 interceptions, with just four rushing touchdowns total in those three seasons.

Vick lost his starting job in Philadelphia to Nick Foles, and he could certainly challenge Glennon, their differing skill sets -- one a threat to scramble, the other much less so -- might mean adjusting the offense depending on the starter.

2. JOSH MCCOWN, Bears: He played under Lovie Smith in 2011-12, but his best numbers came this past season, when he filled in for Jay Cutler and had 13 touchdowns with only one interception. 

McCown turns 35 in July, and didn't play much under Lovie, with two touchdowns and four interceptions as a backup. But 6-foot-4, he's built more like Glennon, and at his age is unlikely to get a lengthy contract in free agency. His season high in 2013 was 355 yards, throwing two touchdowns to beat Minnesota and current Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

3. MATT CASSEL, Vikings: Again, this is a free agent Frazier can give a detailed profile on, having coached him in Minnesota this past season. Cassel has been linked to the Texans, where first-year coach Bill O'Brien coached him as a Patriots assistant years ago.

Cassel, who turns 32 in May, had a strong 2010 season in Kansas City, with 27 touchdowns against seven interceptions, but he's struggled since that year. In three seasons, he has the same 27 touchdown passes total, but against 30 interceptions, and he hasn't started more than nine games in any of those seasons.

4. MATT SCHAUB, Texans: Six months ago, Schaub was a quarterback that experts thought could take Houston to the Super Bowl -- two games into the season, he had six touchdowns in a 2-0 start.

Then the wheels came off -- he threw 14 interceptions and lost the starting job to unheralded Case Keenum. Now, as the Texans ponder taking a quarterback with the No. 1 pick in the draft, Schaub could be a salary-cap cut, due to count $14-million against the cap.

If Schaub hits the open market, he could be a match for Tampa -- from 2009-12, he averaged 22 touchdown passes and half as many interceptions. After a difficult 2013, he'd still be seen as a reclamation project, but a potential starter if he can return to old form.

5. MARK SANCHEZ, Jets: Like Schaub, Sanchez is technically under contract, though his current $40-million extension makes him one of the league's most overpaid players, ripe for a salary-cap cut.

The Jets drafted Geno Smith last year to limited success, but Sanchez has $2.5 million in bonuses ahead and a $9 million salary, so it's hard to justify keeping him on roster unless they've already given up on Smith.

Sanchez is still just 27, and won four playoff games in his first two NFL seasons, but his career numbers are mediocre, with 68 touchdowns against 69 interceptions.

-- Another option, between the prospect of drafting another rookie or signing a declining veteran, would be trading for a current backup quarterback. The Bucs have only five draft picks, so such a move seems unlikely, but the Redskins could offer third-year backup Kirk Cousins, as could the Patriots with Ryan Mallett -- Bucs general manager Jason Licht was an executive in New England when he was drafted in 2011. Both have promise, but neither have enough NFL experience to necessarily hand a franchise over to, especially with a young if unproven quarterback already in place.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 6, 2014 4:41pm]


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