TAMPA — Regardless of whom the Bucs select with their No. 1 overall draft pick, they will have a new starting quarterback next season.
With the team on the clock to draft either Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota, time ran out on veteran Josh McCown, whose contract was terminated by Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
McCown, the handpicked starter by coach Lovie Smith last offseason, went 1-10 and missed five games with a right thumb injury on his throwing hand. He signed a two-year, $10 million contract, meaning his release will give the Bucs an additional $5.25 million on the salary cap for 2015.
The move indicates the team has confidence in third-year pro Mike Glennon, either as a backup or a starter. Glennon, 25, has a career mark of 5-13, but young, experienced quarterbacks playing under their rookie contract have value.
McCown, 35, was disappointed but took the news in stride.
"We'll see what (the Lord) has planned next," McCown, a devout Christian, said in a text to the Tampa Bay Times.
His agent, Mike McCartney, said McCown planned to play this season. While McCown was surprised at the timing of his release, McCartney said, the agent added that his client was grateful the club made the decision prior to the free agent signing period.
McCown was a career backup but was coming off his finest season as a pro in 2013 when he went 3-2 for the Bears as a starter in relief of injured Jay Cutler, throwing 13 touchdowns and only one interception.
But McCown was plagued by turnovers with the Bucs. He completed 184 of 327 (56.3 percent) for 2,206 yards, with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, for a 70.5 passer rating. He also lost a team-high four fumbles and was sacked 36 times. Only Jaguars rookie Blake Bortles rated lower among starting quarterbacks last season.
McCown also was hurt by the sudden loss in the preseason of offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, who had a procedure to have two stents placed in a coronary artery and was placed on an indefinite medical leave of absence.
That left Marcus Arroyo, 32, and with no previous NFL experience, to handle play-calling duties. Arroyo was fired at the end of 2014 as the Bucs finished ahead of only the Jaguars and Raiders in total offense. The Bucs hired former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter in January.
Koetter was high on Glennon, saying from a distance he had some similar traits to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
McCown's release could be the start of a veteran purge of free agents who signed in 2014. The Bucs received little or no production from left tackle Anthony Collins, who was benched the final four games, and defensive end Michael Johnson, who had four sacks.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
McCown's stint in Tampa Bay might be most remembered for his emotional, tearful outburst after a 27-17 home loss on Nov. 9 to the Falcons, who dropped the Bucs' record to 1-8.
"I know and I understand where I'm at in my career," he said after the game. "As you get older, the opportunities are less and less, whether you are a franchise quarterback or not. When you're 35 years old, you know the clock is ticking and you don't want to let these moments get away."
The clock ran out Wednesday on McCown.