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Bucs could scan free agent QB market

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

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

Tampa Bay won't know until May 8 whether one of those QBs will be there at No. 7, so here are five options the club could sign as free agents, now or later in the summer after more 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. And now Vick has lost his starting job in Philadelphia to Nick Foles.

Vick could certainly challenge Glennon, but 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 now-Bucs coach Lovie Smith in 2011-12 in Chicago, but his best numbers came this past season, when he filled in for Jay Cutler and had 13 touchdowns with one interception.

McCown turns 35 in July and didn't play much under Smith, with two touchdowns and four interceptions as a backup. But at 6 feet 4, he's built more like Glennon, and at his age McCown is unlikely to get a lengthy contract in free agency. His season high in a game 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 has struggled since that year. In three seasons since, he has the same 27 touchdown passes total but 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 who experts thought could take Houston to the Super Bowl; he had six touchdowns in a 2-0 start.

Then the wheels came off — he threw 14 interceptions total 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 counting $14 million against the cap.

If Schaub, 33 in June, hits the market, he could be a match for Tampa Bay; from 2009-12 he averaged 22 touchdown passes and half as many interceptions. After a difficult 2013, he has been 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.

Last year the Jets drafted Geno Smith, who had 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 the roster unless they've given up on Smith.

Sanchez is just 27 and won four playoff games in his first two 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. The Bucs have only five draft picks, so such a move seems unlikely, but the Redskins could offer third-year Kirk Cousins, as could the Patriots with Ryan Mallett; Bucs GM Jason Licht was an executive in New England when Mallett was drafted in 2011. Both players have promise, but neither has enough experience to necessarily have a franchise handed over to them with a young if unproven quarterback already in place.

Bucs could scan free agent QB market 03/06/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:35pm]
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