Bucs Hope To Keep One Of Its Two Free-Agent QBs

February 27 - While Tampa Bay is focused on re-signing middle linebacker Shelton Quarles and left tackle Roman Oben, the Buccaneers believe they will be able to re-sign one of its backup quarterbacks from last season, but not both. Quarterbacks Rob Johnson and Shaun King will receive some attention on the free-agent market, but will either player return to Tampa?

Brad Johnson will likely be the only quarterback on Tampa Bay's active roster on Friday.

That's because both backup quarterbacks Rob Johnson and Shaun King will become unrestricted free agents on Friday, which means they'll be free to seek work elsewhere.

While the Bucs are focused on re-signing middle linebacker Shelton Quarles and left tackle Roman Oben, the team believes it can bring back either Johnson or King next season, but not both.

"We would like to get one of those two guys back," said Bucs general manager Rich McKay. "I do believe that is one, where because you are dealing with a quarterback, you can't predict for them what their money might be. When they hit the market, they will hit the market."

Rob Johnson completed 57-of-88 passes for 536 yards and completed 64.4 percent of his passes in his first season as a Buc. He threw one touchdown and two interceptions. While Johnson went 2-0 as a starter in place of injured QB Brad Johnson, he was sacked a whopping 19 times and failed to lead Tampa Bay's offense into the end zone in his two starts against Carolina and Chicago.

King made one start last season, but he didn't fare well in it. King, who has started 22 games for the Bucs during his four-year career, completed 10-of-27 passes for 80 yards in Tampa Bay's 17-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last season. He threw no touchdowns and one interception last season.

Tampa Bay would like to bring back one of the quarterbacks since Brad Johnson will be the only signal-caller on the team that has digested Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's offense.

While neither player is considered a superstar, both will likely receive some strong consideration on the free-agent market because of their experience.

"Quarterbacks who play in the league will always have a market," said McKay. "What you never determine, with respect to that position, is to predict what a team will offer him. It is harder than any other position because the coach has to be very comfortable, not just with the tangible but the intangible. So that one usually requires the player to come in and spend time with the coach. It takes more than just seeing him on tape and saying, ‘that guy can play, we want him.' There is a lot more to it, and I'm sure those guys (Johnson or King) will draw some interest."

While the Bucs don't appear to favor one quarterback over the other, the team might prefer to bring back King since they have a 1999 second-round draft pick invested in him. The fact that King grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida could also help the Bucs convince King to re-sign.

But Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo, who served as the Bucs' director of player personnel for 14 seasons, has already expressed strong interest in King. The fact that Chicago will aggressively pursue King could raise King's price tag higher than the Bucs are willing to pay to keep him in Tampa.

The Bucs would like to add a quarterback to its roster in the next couple of weeks since Gruden's quarterback orientation at One Buccaneer Place is scheduled for mid-March.

"(The quarterback position) won't be settled but there might be one more guy added to the list before the (orientation)," McKay said. "We'd like to do that."

The free-agent market will feature several experienced quarterbacks, which could bode well for the Bucs and its efforts to re-sign either Johnson or King.

Charlie Batch (Pittsburgh), Jeff Blake (Baltimore), Jake Delhomme (New Orleans), Jake Plummer (Arizona) and Kordell Stewart (Pittsburgh) are just some of the quarterbacks that will join Johnson and King on the free-agent market on Friday.

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