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This piece is not a lame attempt for me to convince you that the Bucs should draft a QB in a couple of weeks, it’s simply to tell you why the Bucs are better suited than most teams to invest in a young quarterback early in this year’s draft.
Let’s start with the Bucs newest quarterback and likely starter for the 2014 season. Josh McCown signed a 2-year contract with the Bucs this off-season, but with only the 1st season being guaranteed and his salary in his 2nd season escalating to over $5 million, the Bucs have put themselves in a position to cut, renegotiate, or keep McCown after one season with zero ramifications to any decision they make. For example, if McCown is great, then the Bucs will be glad to pay him $5.25 million in 2015 to stay on as starter. If McCown is just average in 2014 as he has been for most of his career, the Bucs can either keep him as a backup and renegotiate his contract or just release him with zero cap hit.
Josh McCown’s experience and character could be the Bucs secret weapon in using him to groom a young quarterback selected in this year’s draft. McCown has played for 5 different teams during his 11-year career. Lovie Smith trusts Josh McCown to run a basic offense now, but I believe it is a perfect time to groom a quarterback to be the future of your franchise. That’s something the Bucs have never truly done. Not with Josh Freeman. Not with Trent Dilfer. McCown’s solid mistake-free management of an offense is safe, but gives the Bucs a chance to allow a young quarterback to sit and learn for an entire year before seeing game action.
“That’s the most fulfillment that you find in life, whether it’s football or anything else … imparting that knowledge to somebody else to make their journey better,” McCown said to the Tampa Bay Times. “That’s the key to life in general: What can you do for somebody else?”
Whether the Bucs fancy Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, or another quarterback in this draft, the fact is that the Bucs, unlike other QB-needy teams, are in position to sit their future and allow him to develop.
While some would say that the 7th overall pick must see the field in his rookie season, I’m here to remind you that Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano are no longer the coaches in Tampa. A head coach can not worry about pleasing the fans all of the time. If the best move for the future of the franchise is to allow that young quarterback to sit and learn, then it is up to the tough-minded coach to ignore the pleads from the fans to see that quarterback before that quarterback is ready…even if his name is Johnny Manziel. Lovie Smith is that kind of tough-minded coach.
The other positive aspect with having Lovie Smith as head coach is having a pair of fresh unbiased eyes to evaluate Mike Glennon. There’s little doubt that Lovie Smith will see what most of us have already seen. Mike Glennon will make for a good backup during his NFL career.
In Chicago, Lovie Smith did get to a super bowl with Rex Grossman, but also traded away two 1st round picks, a 3rd round pick, and Kyle Orton to bring Jay Cutler to the Bears. Obviously, Lovie Smith sees the importance in the quarterback position.
While the Bucs might be able to win with Josh McCown in 2014, the soon-to-be 35 year old does not shine a bright light on the Bucs future at QB, no matter how much “tread is left” on his tires. If Lovie Smith and Jason Licht want to be in Tampa for a long time, figuring out the future at quarterback for the team should be a high priority for the team in two weeks during the draft.
The good news, recent mock drafts by the industry’s most respected analysts have all of the quarterbacks available to the Bucs with the 7th pick. Who’s your fancy?
Follow Justin Pawlowski on twitter @Commishonline for updates on the NFL Draft and the Bucs.