JEFF GARCIA (Starter)
STATISTICS: 209-of-327 passing, 2,440 yards, 13 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 94.6 passer rating.
ANALYSIS: Garcia stabilized a position that had been in flux since mid-2004. In doing so, he provided leadership and direction for an offense that was in dire need of it. He excelled early in the season in finding Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard, but his numbers tailed off as he suffered a back contusion and Earnest Graham became a bigger focus of the offense. When he's allowed to work within the system and be the quarterback he's been for the past nine years, he's one of the most efficient quarterbacks you'll find. He needs to work on his red-zone efficiency, though. The Bucs really sputtered inside their opponents' 20-yard line, in terms of touchdowns. He did, however, help the Bucs to one of the best points off turnovers total in the NFL.
OUTLOOK FOR 2008: Will count $3.5 million against the salary cap in 2008, though it's likely the Bucs will seek to extend his contract, which may alter his cap number. He turns 38 in January, so keeping him healthy will be key. So will surrounding him with more talented players than just Joey Galloway. Garcia's window for a Super Bowl title is closing. He knows it. Jon Gruden knows it. The Bucs' top priority this offseason will be accumulating offensive talent to maximize Garcia's ability.
LUKE MCCOWN (Backup)
STATISTICS: 94-of-139 passing for 1,009 yards, 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 91.7 quarterback rating.
ANALYSIS: He saw the field in a meaningful game for the first time since 2004 and stunned many observers with three fine starts against New Orleans, Houston and Carolina. The New Orleans starts was his first as a Buc and he put together an efficient outing that included a late game-winning drive. He boasts a big arm, solid mobility and good accuracy for a player that hasn't had much regular-season experience. Two things quickly became apparent. McCown needs to learn when to get rid of the football on the run and how to protect the football on the run.
OUTLOOK FOR 2008: McCown is in the final year of a contract that will count $551,000 against the salary cap. He probably won't see that contract extended, but he'll enter the offseason as the No. 2 quarterback, and his play in 2007 gives the Bucs some reassurance that they have someone behind Garcia that can play. It might also allow them to trade Chris Simms.
BRUCE GRADKOWSKI (Backup)
STATISTICS: 13-of-24 for 130 yards, no touchdowns, 1 interception, 52.4 passer rating.
ANALYSIS: He played in just one meaningful game, but in that one game he didn't impress. Coming off the bench for the injured Jeff Garcia, Gradkowski led the Bucs to a win over Washington in spite of his uninspired play. Yes, he didn't see reps during the week. But it was obvious that he had made little progress from his rookie season. As quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett said, "There were at least four plays in that game that you would expect him to make at this stage." His arm strength is a liability, though on short-range passes he is accurate. Plus, he's mobile and good throwing on the run.
OUTLOOK FOR 2008: Gradkowski is signed for two more years, but only counts $381,000 against the cap. He'll be the No. 3 quarterback in the offseason and will be fighting for his job. You get the feeling, though, that he has a job as long as Gruden has a job.
CHRIS SIMMS (Backup, finished on IR)
ANALYSIS: Rushed himself back from his spleen injury and never got back to his pre-injury form before the Bucs put him on injured reserve in October. He told reporters after the season that he's back to being the "Old Chris Simms."
OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He's in the last year of a deal that will pay him $3 million. If he is back to his old form, he'll compete with Gradkowski for the No. 3 job, and the Bucs may just shop him. Despite Simms' troubles with short patterns, there are several teams that would jump at the chance to trade for him. Or did you miss some of the pathetic play at quarterback this season?
TUESDAY: Running backs.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.