TAMPA — It seems like Lovie Smith is always asking Josh McCown if he will play quarterback for him. Smith did it again Wednesday, and the free agent signed with the Bucs, knowing the starting job is his to lose when training camp starts in July.
The first request came during training camp in 2010 when Bears backup Caleb Hanie suffered a shoulder injury in the first preseason game. McCown, who was playing for the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League at the time, amazingly turned Smith's offer down.
"I called Josh," said Smith, then the Bears' coach. "Being the man that he is — and I said, 'Hey, Josh, I want you to come (to Chicago).' He had promised his team (Hartford) in the other league (the UFL). He said, 'Lovie, I would really like to come, and it would be a quarterback's dream to be in the NFL, but I gave the coach my word that I would stay here this year.'
"We went to the NFC Championship Game that year. That's what he turned down. When you start looking at the character of the man and what you are dealing with, it started then.''
The next year, McCown was coaching quarterbacks at Marvin Ridge High School in Charlotte, N.C., when he accepted an invitation from Smith to be the Bears' backup to Jay Cutler. "When I had the chance to get with him again, I had I different perspective of him, and it just worked," Smith said. "I think we all end up where we are supposed to be."
On Wednesday, Smith used his persuasive powers on McCown again, this time convincing him to come to Tampa Bay as the Bucs' starting quarterback.
McCown, 34, signed a two-year, $10 million contract that could be worth as much as $15 million with incentives, and he knows he has the inside track to the starting job.
Mike Glennon, who went 4-9 as a rookie with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season, would have to do something extraordinary to win the job.
"There has to be a starting spot, a starting point, a starting person to go out there first. And that would be Josh," Smith said.
"I told Josh, 'You knew for a fact, even though I couldn't talk to you, that when I got a job, I would call you.' And he did. You have to believe in your quarterback like that. We got our guy."
However, Smith made it clear that McCown's signing will not prevent the Bucs from taking a quarterback in the draft with the team's No. 7 overall pick.
"Free agency just puts us in better position for the draft," Smith said. "That's all it's doing. We're not held hostage."
The day began with a news conference to introduce four free agents who will play significant roles for the Bucs in 2014 — Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, Titans Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner, Seahawks defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and Giants tight end Brandon Myers.
It was postponed for 90 minutes to accommodate the signing of McCown, who is scheduled to be introduced in a news conference at 2 today.
Just prior to the proceedings, the Bucs, as expected, announced the release of cornerback Darrelle Revis, sending shock waves through the NFL.
Unable to trade Revis because he would not restructure his $16 million contract, the team felt it had no other option.
With so many needs to address coming off a 4-12 record and only five selections in the draft, the Bucs avoided having to pay Revis a $1.5 million bonus and having to send the Jets a third-round pick in 2014 to complete last year's trade with the Jets. Instead, New York will receive a fourth-round selection.
"You saw these four guys here," general manager Jason Licht said. "You saw the transaction, adding the quarterback. And we're not done yet. We would've have been able to do that if that certain transaction hadn't happened."
On Wednesday night, the Bucs were believed to be on the verge of reaching a deal with Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Collins.
They also were visited by Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, Panthers receiver Ted Ginn, Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith and Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher.
But nothing sets the template for a franchise like a starting quarterback and McCown never expected to find himself in this position after bouncing around to six teams.
Last season he had a career year, playing in eight games, with three wins in five starts filling in for injured starter Cutler. McCown ranked third in the league with a passer rating of 109.0.
More importantly, the Bears referred to him as the "glue'' to their locker room.
"It's a new year,'' Smith said. "We have a long way to go, but we'll start it together."
Bucs' projected depth chart
LT Donald Penn
LG Jamon Meredith
C Jeremy Zuttah
RG Carl Nicks
RT Demar Dotson
WR Vincent Jackson
WR Mike Wlliams
TE Brandon Myers
QB Josh McCown
RB Doug Martin
RB Mike James
RDE Michael Johnson
DT Gerald McCoy
NT Clinton McDonald
LDE Adrian Clayborn
WLB Lavonte David
MLB Mason Foster
SSLB Jonathan Casillas
RCB Jonathan Banks
LCB Alterraun Verner
SS Mark Barron
FS Dashon Goldson
K Connor Barth
P Michael Koenen
KR Eric Page