The Bucs still consider Josh Freeman a franchise quarterback, despite his struggles last season. He already has a better supporting cast around him heading into his fourth season, with additions such as G Carl Nicks and WR Vincent Jackson, and the team plans to continue that effort in the draft.
If anything, the Bucs are looking to give Freeman a contract extension in the very near future, rather than thinking about replacing him.
Beyond Freeman, the team has made some headway in solidifying the position. It signed veteran backup Dan Orlovsky to a two-year deal last month, adding someone who has seen NFL action but who isn't viewed as a threat to Freeman. Tampa Bay lost backup Josh Johnson when he signed with the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh, Johnson's college coach at San Diego
Is Orlovsky a temporary answer as a backup, one who can learn the system and be a viable option when or if Freeman is injured? Or is he little more than a short-term answer in the absence of something better?
Perhaps the team's approach to quarterback in the draft will tell us, though we suspect the Bucs have sufficient confidence in Orlovsky. If the decision is made to draft a late-round, developmental quarterback, it's likely a sign the team is interested in him being the backup for the foreseeable future.
What they're looking for
The details of new offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan's offense remain unknown, but from what we've learned, he seems to emphasize running and will look for opportunistic throws down the field.
Given that, the team likely will want traditional pocket passers rather than some of the spread-option types that dominate college football these days. That doesn't mean a mobile quarterback should be ruled out — Freeman is quite the runner, actually — but it does mean the team is looking for someone willing and able to make throws with five-step drops.
Fitting the bill
The team doesn't see quarterback as a pressing need, but if it opted for one in a later-round, there are some viable options.
Take, for instance, Tennessee-Chattanooga's B.J. Coleman, a classic pocket passer who has worked extensively from under center, unlike a large percentage of today's college quarterbacks. He possesses good size at 6 feet 3, 230 pounds, but there are concerns about his accuracy (he completed less than 58 percent against mediocre competition).
San Diego State's Ryan Lindley is an interesting prospect as a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent. He also has ideal size at 6-3½, 230, and has worked in a pro-style offense, too. The biggest question is whether he can be more accurate after struggling in that regard without his top two receivers as a senior.
The top 10
|1. Andrew Luck
6-4, 234, Stanford
|The total package, a player the Colts hope will prove transcendent like his predecessor, Peyton Manning. His tireless work ethic gives him a shot.|
|2. Robert Griffin III
6-2, 223, Baylor
|Doesn't get enough credit for his accuracy, even after completing 72.4 percent last season. Has dazzling athleticism, but uses it judiciously.|
|3. Ryan Tannehill
6-4, 221, Texas A&M
|The size and arm strength are really intriguing assets. Perhaps the primary question is whether he can immediately become a franchise QB or needs time to develop.|
|4. Brandon Weeden
6-4, 221, Oklahoma State
|Tied or broke 15 school records as a senior. The former minor-league pitcher, however, will be 29 as a rookie, and that's an issue.|
|5. Brock Osweiler
6-7, 242, Arizona State
|Some have questioned his decision to come out early, but he could thrive in the right situation. His arm strength is considered his greatest attribute.|
|6. Kirk Cousins
6-3, 214, Michigan State
|A proven winner who isn't necessarily dynamic but looks prepared to play. Considered a very accurate passer, a key NFL prerequisite.|
|7. Nick Foles
6-5, 243, Arizona
|Threw for 4,334 yards and 28 TDs as a senior in a pass-first offense. His pocket presence is one of his strengths.|
|8. Russell Wilson
5-11, 204, Wisconsin
|A winner who is a dual threat as a passer or runner. His severe lack of height will significantly impact his draft spot, however, making him a late-rounder.|
|9. B.J. Coleman
6-3, 233, Tennessee- Chattanooga
|He throws a good ball with nice velocity and has a pocket presence. However, can he make the jump from the Southern Conference to the NFL?|
|10. Ryan Lindley
6-3, 229, San Diego State
|He has been a bit erratic, showing a lack of consistency during games. But he has some pro assets, including his size and arm strength.|
The Bucs have too many pressing needs to pick a quarterback in the early rounds. But it's very possible and, perhaps, likely that they would acquire one in the later rounds or look for an undrafted free agent.
Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer
|ROUND 1:||ROUNDS 2-3||ROUNDS 4-7|
|8 p.m. Thursday, ESPN, NFL Network Bucs pick: No. 5 overall||7 p.m. Friday, ESPN, NFL Network Bucs: Round 2, 4/36th overall; Round 3, 5/68||Noon April 28, ESPN, NFL Network Bucs: Round 5, 5/140; Round 6, 4/174; Round 7, 5/212|