Bucs should sign quarterback Michael Vick

Michael Vick is the best veteran quarterback available and it's believed he is interested in Tampa Bay, Tom Jones writes.
Michael Vick is the best veteran quarterback available and it's believed he is interested in Tampa Bay, Tom Jones writes.
Published Feb. 14, 2014

If this was 10 years ago, you wouldn't think twice. You would take this guy in a second and gladly hand him the keys to your franchise.

If this was six years ago, you also wouldn't think twice. You wouldn't want anything to do with him.

But today, here in 2014, the answer is not so clear either way.

He's still controversial. He's still an enigma. At this point, there are no guarantees that he has much of anything left in his tank.

But if you're the Bucs, you could use talent anywhere you can find it. If you're the Bucs, you need to take some chances.

If you're the Bucs, you should just do it.

Sign Michael Vick.

His career and his life are well documented. Up and down. Glorious and dark.

He went from first overall pick in the 2001 draft out of Virginia Tech to star quarterback for the Falcons to a felon guilty of being involved in a dog-fighting ring and murdering dogs.

He went to prison, seemingly turned his life around and has spent the past five seasons with the Eagles, where he has played, been injured and been benched. He has looked good at times, not so good at others and now, a few months shy of his 34th birthday, he finds himself looking for a starting job in the NFL.

I know what many of you are thinking: Why in the world would the Bucs be interested in Vick?

Here's what I say: Why wouldn't they be?

Have you forgotten last season?

This is a team that went 4-12. It was dead last in the league in passing. It was dead last in total offense.

It can't get any worse.

As the Bucs head into this pivotal offseason under new coach Lovie Smith, they have three options at quarterback.

They can draft a quarterback with the seventh overall pick.

They can stay with the status quo, meaning Mike Glennon returns as the starter.

Or they can go out and sign a free agent in March while they figure out what they have in Glennon.

As far as drafting a quarterback, if the Bucs can draft Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. Louis­ville's Teddy Bridgewater or UCF's Blake Bortles, they should absolutely do that.

But if they do, that guy is now your franchise quarterback. You don't take a quarterback with the seventh pick and then wait and see if he develops. You have to be convinced he is your man from the get-go and give him every chance to become your franchise quarterback. The problem is, no one in this group is a sure thing and, besides, there's a good chance all three will be gone when the Bucs pick.

As far as sticking with Glennon, well, that's a big risk. He wasn't awful as a rookie. He started 13 games. He threw 19 touchdowns, only nine interceptions. Not bad. But he won only four games. He didn't have much around him. The offensive line was beat up. Running back Doug Martin missed most of the season. So did No. 2 receiver Mike Williams.

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But, as far as Glennon goes, I still just don't see it. I never saw that magic moment, that flash of brilliance that convinced me he can be a future star. Frankly, he looks like a career backup.

Even if you like Glennon, what's the harm in bringing in a veteran?

And that veteran should be Vick. He's the best of what will be available, and it's believed he is interested in Tampa Bay.

Is he still a special player, an elite player? No. If he was, he wouldn't be available.

He tends to break down. He has been inconsistent and ineffective at times with the Eagles.

But there's a lot to like, too. He can still run, he can still move around, and that has become an important quality in today's NFL. He has experience with more than 100 NFL starts. He still throws a good ball. He went 20-20 as a starter with the Eagles. Not too shabby.

Of course, there's more to it than just signing Vick.

The Bucs will have to hold the news conference explaining why they're bringing in a convicted felon who once did some deplorable things. That will not be easy. Some fans will turn their back on the Bucs forever. Some will refuse to buy a ticket while Vick is on the team.

But most should understand that Vick has paid his price to society and, by many accounts, learned his lesson. For the most part, that chapter of his life and the stigma associated with it is old news. Most have moved on.

Heck, Vick might even sell some tickets at this point.

Bring Vick in. Draft an offensive lineman or a pass rusher with the seventh pick. Keep working with Glennon.

The best thing that can happen is Vick turns back the clock a few years, wins you a bunch of games and helps Glennon along the way.

The worst thing is Vick gets hurt or doesn't pan out, but he still helps Glennon. Maybe Glennon turns into Nick Foles, who went from Vick's understudy in Philadelphia to a solid QB in 2013. Either way, you're no worse off than you are now.

It's worth the risk.

The Bucs shouldn't even think twice.