By 6 p.m. Saturday, we'll know if Chris Simms is still a Tampa Bay Buccaneer or not.
This is the most polarizing debate facing the Buccaneers as they make their final cuts. Should they keep Simms, the quarterback with no spleen who admittedly needs more time to be "quarterback ready," or should they cut ties with the five-year veteran, who to some has had more than enough time to fulfill his potential?
In about 24 hours, we'll know. Simms, for one, would like to stay.
"The National Football League is a business right now, more than anything," Simms said after Thursday's preseason finale. "I realize that. I grew up in it. So I know what it's all about. Loyalty is just not used a whole lot in this day and age in football. It's ‘What have you done for me lately.' I realize that. Like I said before, I'm not really worried about it. I want to be here, but there's things I can control and things I can't control."
I've maintained for weeks that while I believe the Buccaneers should keep Simms on the roster as he continues to recover, I don't believe the Bucs will keep him. I think he'll be among the final cuts, and that could trigger enough controversy to keep those of us in the notebook brigade busy for some time.
Simms did not play Thursday due to what he called a strained hip. Simms said the injury wasn't enough to put him on injured reserve or PUP. So the Bucs still have to make a decision.
There is a case to be made for keeping Simms and letting him go. I decided to explore both as a way to framing the Buccaneers' logic, whatever decision they decide to make.
The Case to Keep Simms
Even at age 27 (his birthday was Wednesday), Simms has enough talent to be a top-notch signal-caller for the next 5-7 years. He hasn't reached his prime yet, and he could still do that in Tampa Bay.
He's closer than you might think to being ready this season. Consider that hockey player Peter Forsberg needed a year to recover from a ruptured spleen, in a sport similarly physical to football. Forsberg made his return and played on for several more years. Simms told reporters on Thursday that he could be ready to play next week in Seattle, if needed.
Unlike the current backups, Simms is the only one of the three to have measurable NFL success. His record as a starter is 7-8, with a division title to his credit. Gradkowski is 3-8, McCown is 0-4.
As he demonstrates that he's healthier, his trade value improves. Keeping him enhances the Bucs' chances that they could get something for the quarterback before the trade deadline in October.
As far as poster boys for an organization, Simms is a pretty good one. He's said all of the right things, even as it became obvious that the side effects of his injury were harder to overcome than expected. He works hard, has the respect of his teammates and is considered an outstanding member of the community. In this NFL era of cracking down on off-the-field behavior, a personality like Simms' is an asset.
The Case to Release Simms
The Buccaneers don't have the roster flexibility to keep a fourth quarterback. There are simply too many other needs on the team to keep Simms.
McCown and Gradkowski have both demonstrated this preseason that they've made progress from their last appearances with the team.
Being a left-hander presents special problems to the offense, should Simms have to enter in the middle of a game or take over the offense full-time. It's a matter of "flipping" the playbook, and it's not as easy as it sounds.
There's no guarantee that Simms may be able to help the Bucs at all this year. He's played just 1 possession this preseason and has only shown that he's able to throw. Taking a hit, leading an offense and pocket presence are the big questions about Simms right now.
He likely can't be put on IR, unless his hip injury is much more serious than Simms is letting on. He must either be kept or released.
Simms has had five years to develop. Isn't that enough to get an idea of a quarterback's ceiling as a pro?
As you can see, it's a complicated issue. But it's one that will finally resolve itself on Saturday.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.