Josh Freeman – entering second of five year contract
Josh Johnson – 2 years ($512,000, $600,000)
Byron Leftwich (for now) – 1 year ($2 million)
Rudy Carpenter – minimum
Josh Freeman took over the offense after the bye week and led the 0-7 Buccaneers to their first victory. He battled inconsistency all season but didn’t have much of a receiving arsenal to work with. My biggest issues are his poor accuracy and questionable decision making ability. He threw for less than 60% in 6 of his 9 starts, and it’s not like this is something new. Freeman was under 60% in 8 of his 12 games as a senior at Kansas State. He did show a little promise, but noticeable progression is needed. We’ll go as far as he takes us. The results weren’t any prettier when Josh Johnson was under center, but I think he showed enough to be a #2 QB. Leftwich won’t be back, and are we any better if Rudy Carpenter is?
Should we try to upgrade the #2 spot in free agency or get a #3 in the draft? Chad Pennington looks to be the best free agent option at the moment, but Miami and the Jets seem like far likelier options than Tampa. I think both Kyle Orton and Jason Campbell return to their teams as RFAs. Why not in an uncapped year? Also, is either one going to come here and sit behind Freeman? Almost everyone else is pure garbage and not worth wasting a roster spot on. I’d rather keep Carpenter or an undrafted free agent than sign David Carr, Rex Grossman, or Daunte Culpepper. The one exception I see at the moment would be Chris Redman. He’s been a #2 for a while, knows how to lead an offense, can throw the football, and has shown that he can step in and not embarrass himself when called upon.
As far as draft prospects, below are my rankings. This is in no way an indication of the order in which I think they’ll be drafted. Rather, this is how I rank their potential as NFL passers as I see it.
1) Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame (6-3, 220)
effortless motion; confident; accurate; great touch on deep ball; plus passer on intermediate routes; most experienced pro style guy in this class; sees the whole field; good pocket presence, senses pressure; tough; footwork could use work; not an overpowering arm; doesn’t always step into passes
2) Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (6-4, 220)
very accurate; really nice footwork; pro style offense experience; good pocket presence; reminds me somewhat of Peyton Manning in the pocket at times; quick release; always has head up downfield; some might have issue with his delivery; injury history / durability; not an elite arm
3) Tony Pike, Cincinnati (6-6, 215)
intelligent; leader; effortless motion; accurate; throws a very catchable ball; pretty good mobility for a big QB; I like him in a WCO; looks too thin; not terribly athletic; footwork needs work; doesn’t throw well on move; would like to see more zip on his passes
4) Jarrett Brown, West Virginia (6-4, 225)
(stock up) plus size and mobility; very strong arm; underrated accuracy; I like his upside; only 1 year as a starter; comes from a run first offense; will have to adjust to NFL game speed; has a lot of work to do as a pocket passer
5) Colt McCoy, Texas (6-2, 210)
four year starter; plus mobility and accuracy; great on timing routes; quick release; makes plays with his feet; productive in college; slight frame; is he susceptible to injury?; is he tough?; hasn’t played in a pro style offense; not an elite arm; his best asset (running/mobility) will be negated a lot in the pros
6) Jevan Snead, Mississippi (6-3, 222)
quick drop; really strong arm; underrated mobility; confident; precise when he’s on; high upside; really inconsistent and unspectacular ’09 season; doesn’t step completely into throws; hasn’t been forced to go through progressions; poor pocket presence; really disappointed me this season
7) Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan (6-3, 236)
four year starter; extremely mobile; nice run/pass combo; leader; nice game management skills; accurate; reads progressions well; not a terribly strong arm; short arms a lot of throws; game won’t translate as well in NFL
8 ) Tim Tebow, Florida (6-3, 235)
great size; leader; winner; competitive; aggressive runner; nice deep ball; horrible and slow footwork; elongated delivery; poor touch; no pro style offensive experience; hasn’t been forced to make reads; lack of speed will really hurt his game in the pros
9) John Skelton, Fordham (6-5, 252)
see Josh Freeman – great size; solid build; big arm; strong in the pocket; impressive speed and mobility for a guy his size; nice upside; slow delivery; inconsistent passing on the move; despite the strong arm he floats too many passes that would be INTs in the pros; poor level of competition in college
10) Levi Brown, Troy (6-4, 225)
I like his size; very accurate passer; noticeable poise and pocket presence; holds up well with pressure in his face; keeps his head up looking downfield; throws well on the run; really like his upside; makes throws at every level; not a ton of starting experience; shotgun spread offense at Troy
11) Tim Hiller, Western Michigan (6-5, 232)
experienced; good NFL size; intelligent; shows great command of the offense; accurate in short game; reads defenses; goes through progressions; sees the entire field; productive; upside; weak arm; poor mobility and footwork; mostly shotgun/spread offense
12) Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State (6-3, 215)
three year starter; legit running threat; quick; improving passing fundamentals; improving arm strength; poor feel for the pass rush; seems more comfortable outside the pocket; inaccurate
13) Sean Canfield, Oregon State (6-4, 220)
tough; decent arm; quick release; accurate passer throughout his career; seems to read defenses pretty well; lot of timing routes; could stand to add some muscle; not very mobile; lefty; poor NFL deep ball; don’t see a lot of upside
14) Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee (6-4, 228)
don’t like him as a prospect; too inconsistent; inexperienced; not impressed with his accuracy or command of the offense; did show some progress this season; I think he’s a poor decision maker; don’t see any upside as a pro
Tebow will surely go much higher than I have him ranked here. The reason I list him so low is because I think he has a really long way to go before he’s a viable option as an NFL QB. Every player I have listed above him is a much better pure passer at this point. Tebow was a tremendous college talent, but most of the key skills you look for in a QB – accuracy, the ability to read defenses, footwork, and the familiarity of leading a pro style offense – need a ton of work. He looks slow against elite talent and isn’t going to be able to run over NFL linebackers. Best of luck to the kid though.
My round for round favorite – Jimmy Clausen
I think he has the best chance of being great.
Late sleeper – Levi Brown
I like his all-round game and think that with some coaching he can develop into a decent starter.
Most likely to be a Buc – John Skelton
If you draft a QB, why not take a guy who matches up well skill-wise with your starter? I think he’d cost a sixth round and could be a sneaky late selection.
Of this draft class, Skelton and Brown would be my favorites for the Bucs, and given that this is Freeman’s show win or lose, it might be best to go with one of these guys as Leftwich’s replacement. If not, then I’d seriously consider Redman. He’s a veteran who would give you that fill in guy without causing Freeman to look over his shoulder. Or you can get really tricky and sign Redman, draft/sign Skelton or Brown, and trade Josh Johnson for a draft pick. I’m still a big Josh Johnson supporter, but if he’s not going to be anything but Raheem’s career backup, then I’d like to see him get an opportunity to develop elsewhere.