They desperately need a wide receiver. They could use another cornerback. It wouldn't hurt them to have another running back or another tight end or another defensive end.
And so the Bucs obtained another quarterback Monday.
Of course they did.
Well, gotcha! In their latest misdirection play, the Bucs have traded away a 2009 draft pick to bring Brian Griese back to town. Another quarterback sneak, you might say. If you saw this coming, frankly, you were looking in the wrong place.
Recommended reaction to this trade: "Huh?"
Recommended follow-up: "Why?"
As it turns out, we were all wrong about the Bucs. What they were missing last year was not speed or explosiveness or toughness over the middle. What they were missing was another backup quarterback. Who knew?
Let's be honest. We should have had an inkling. No matter how questionable the offense is, with Gruden the answer is often, "Get me another quarterback." Some people collect coins, and some collect stamps, and some collect interest.
As for Gruden, he collects quarterbacks.
As for the rest of us, we collect conversations that begin with, "What in the world is Gruden going to do with all of those quarterbacks?"
Yes, Jeff Garcia is still the starter. Let's don't talk crazy. The biggest difference in the awful season of 2006 and the playoff season of 2007 was Garcia. If Garcia is standing, he's starting.
After that, it's Griese. Say what you want about Luke McCown, who had his moments last year, but a team doesn't trade for a veteran quarterback to be the third quarterback.
Gruden loved Griese when he was with Tampa Bay. To a coach, a smart quarterback is a safe quarterback. Once, Gruden was asked how long he would like to have Griese play for him. "How about infinity?" Gruden said.
After that, it gets murky. There is McCown, there is Bruce Gradkowski, and, for the time being, there is Chris Simms. You might want to check back about that last name.
Does this trade mean the end for Simms as a Buc? It's hard to interpret it any other way. Simms is a likeable kid, but he has a large contract, and he hasn't won a game in a very long time. It's easier to imagine Jake Plummer on the roster than Simms.
Aha. Perhaps that is what the Bucs are going to do for a big-play receiver. They're going to tell Simms to go long!
In a way, this move fits perfectly, because it has been a muddled, mystifying offseason so far. Given how badly the Bucs need to jump-start their offense, given how much money they had to spend, you might have expected them to do a little shopping in free agency. So far, they have not.
On the other hand, wait until you see Jeff Faine in the open field.
Just kidding, of course. If the Bucs are right about Faine —- and they have seen him twice a year — then bolstering the offensive line is a swell idea. Still, wouldn't you have liked to have seen a few more touchdown scorers by now?
Which brings us to this: More than ever, the Bucs need a differencemaker among their receivers.
Which also brings us to this: No, I wouldn't have paid the contracts given to the members of this year's gaggle, either.
First things first: When it comes to the Bucs spending their money, everyone is all for it. I still haven't figured out why they didn't spent more last year. And who doesn't want a few more fireworks on offense?
And, yet, it is hard not to shake your head at some of these contracts. The Vikings gave $42-million ($16-million of it guaranteed) to Bernard Berrian? The same Berrian the Bears would not franchise? The Browns gave $35-million to Donte Stallworth? The same Stallworth who keeps bouncing from team to team? The Jaguars gave $30-million to Jerry Porter? The same Porter who has driven coaches crazy?
Put it this way: The Bucs need more help than Berrian or Stallworth or Porter.
So who does that leave? Javon Walker, perhaps. If his knee is healthy, Walker could be worth the trouble. If the Cardinals want to trade Larry Fitzgerald (and if his outsized contract could be restructured), the Bucs should listen. Otherwise, they might be looking at the draft.
Remember this: When the Patriots were looking for receivers last year, they signed two in free agency and traded for two. The two in free agency were Stallworth and Kelley Washington (who combined for 46 receptions). The two they traded for were Randy Moss and Wes Welker (who combined for 210). In other words, it's easier to trade for an impact player than find one that somebody else threw away.
Besides, if the Bucs don't end up with a receiver, there is always hope.
Maybe McCown is willing to catch the ball across the middle.