Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson

Jordan Jefferson shows enough during minicamp to get a deal.
Jordan Jefferson's strong arm impressed the Bucs.
Jordan Jefferson's strong arm impressed the Bucs.
Published May 7 2012
Updated May 7 2012

TAMPA — It's just the first of many difficult steps in fulfilling his NFL dream, but Jordan Jefferson isn't going anywhere yet.

The quarterback, who went 24-8 as a starter for LSU, signed a contract with the Bucs on Sunday after impressing coaches during the weekend's rookie minicamp.

Jefferson is among several players who will be added to the roster, coach Greg Schiano said. He said the team could have "22 to 29" transactions involving some of the 14 rookie free agents it signed last week and those to whom it gave camp tryouts. That amounts to a major shakeup of the bottom of the roster even with the 90-man limit enacted by the NFL last month.

Jefferson entered camp without assurances beyond meals and a place to sleep. As a tryout candidate, he had four practices to prove he was worth keeping. After not being drafted or signed, the odds in favor of his being kept around appeared slim.

But Schiano said the Bucs are intrigued.

"He's an athletic guy who has a strong arm," Schiano said. "We wanted to gauge his development as a quarterback. I thought he made consistent improvement all weekend. There's a lot of upside there, so I think we would like to have a chance to work with him."

The Bucs already had four quarterbacks on the roster:

• Josh Freeman, the starter entering his fourth season.

• Dan Orlovsky, the expected No. 2, who has appeared in 21 games and started 12 for four teams since entering the league in 2005.

• Brett Ratliff, who has been with six teams but appeared in no games since entering the league in 2007.

• Zach Collaros, who went undrafted out of Cincinnati last month.

Jefferson — suspended for four games last season after being accused of participating in a bar fight (a hearing on a misdemeanor charge of simple battery is scheduled for Thursday in Baton Rouge, La.) — is not seen as a polished quarterback and faces long odds.

Still, he relishes the opportunity.

"I just want to prove that I'm a very talented player," he said.

"I played at LSU for a large (number) of games. I had a very strong winning percentage there. At the same time, I'm not where I want to be. But I'm a competitor, and I can be the pro style quarterback that Tampa Bay wants me to be."

Jefferson could appeal to the Bucs as a short-yardage and goal-line option given his running ability and athleticism; the Jets are expected to use Tim Tebow in a similar role. But the focus has been on evaluating Jefferson's traditional skills.

One thing Jefferson has done is win.

"That's definitely my strong (point)," he said. "But at the same time, I still have a lot of work to do.

"Those 24 games that I did win probably weren't my best performances, but it was good enough for us to win."

Meanwhile, Schiano repeatedly emphasized turnover will be extensive. Even the rookie free agents aren't guaranteed spots, he said; the coaching staff re-evaluated all participants of the camp.

"We look at it like we evaluate (the players) regardless of what has been done," Schiano said.

The Bucs decided not to conduct a practice Sunday morning after the staff met Saturday evening, discussed its evaluations and agreed it had seen enough Friday and Saturday.

Another player among the keepers is cornerback Derrick Roberson, who played at Rutgers under Schiano. Roberson appeared in six games for the Bucs in 2009 but has been out of the NFL since 2010. He has sought another shot since recovering from a severe tear of his abductor muscle.

But his background with Schiano didn't ensure him a shot. He had to maximize his weekend opportunities.

"One thing I knew was I couldn't take me and Coach Schiano's relationship for granted," Roberson said. "I knew I was going to have to come in here and prove myself.

The Bucs also signed tryout candidate Hilee Taylor, a defensive end and 2008 seventh-round pick of the Panthers who hasn't played since 2010.

He was claimed off waivers by the Lions in August after his release from Carolina but did not report. His agent told the Detroit Free Press he was retiring to pursue other opportunities in his life.

It wasn't clear what changed.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @BucsBeat.