QB Jake Plummer has led 23 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career, second over the last decade to Drew Bledsoe's 24
As the 2007 league year began on Friday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had two targets in mind in regards to their quarterback position. They hit both of them.
In addition to signing coveted free agent Jeff Garcia on Saturday, the Buccaneers have also acquired the rights to former Bronco Jake Plummer, who has three years remaining on his current contract. Tampa Bay sent an undisclosed pick in the 2008 NFL Draft to Denver for the Broncos' all-time leader in passer rating.
The deal between Tampa Bay and Denver was heavily reported on Friday, of course, as was Plummer's contemplation of retirement. However, in addition to incomplete information regarding the pick involved, it was also inaccurately assumed that Plummer's possible retirement plans scuttled the agreement. In fact, that trade has been completed and the 11th-year veteran is a part of Tampa Bay's roster.
"We own the rights to Jake Plummer," confirmed Bruce Allen, the Buccaneers' general manager, during a Saturday press conference to introduce Garcia. "I talked to Jake yesterday and he feels that at this time he's contemplating retirement. We understand that, but he's a member of the Buccaneers right now.
"I think Jake Plummer will play again, and I think he's a good player. His record over the last four years, he's with the best quarterbacks in our league. I think he has the fourth-highest winning percentage, and he's the only one who hasn't won a Super Bowl trophy, of those four. I think right now he's just taking time to think about it, which is fine."
Plummer, who had led the Broncos to a 7-4 record last season, has compiled a 39-15 record as a starter over the 2003-06 seasons. That winning percentage of .722 ranks fourth over that span to those of Tom Brady (.781), Peyton Manning (.781) and Ben Roethlisberger (.725). In addition, Plummer has directed 23 game-winning drives in fourth quarter or overtime over the past decade, which ranks second only to the 24 led by Drew Bledsoe.
Allen insisted that the Buccaneers would go to camp with all five quarterbacks currently on their roster – Garcia, Plummer, Chris Simms, Luke McCown and Gradkowski – if Plummer chooses to play in 2007.
"Knock on wood – it feels good right now to have competition at the position, not only good talent but good character and good teammates. But I think we've all witnessed that people get hurt in this league. But hopefully this stable of quarterbacks can lead us through this season."
Allen also said that the Buccaneers did not require the rights to Plummer simply to trade them again, and that the team specifically targeted both players. Plummer's mulling of retirement on Friday did not change the Bucs' approach to pursuing Garcia, who chose to meet with his hometown Oakland Raiders before flying in to Tampa.
"Our goal was to get both of these guys, and we did," said Allen. "I don't know if it would have been possible unless Jake was going through what he was going through. But the love affair with the Buccaneers and Jeff Garcia is well-documented over the last three years."
Plummer first entered the league as a second-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 1997. In 10 seasons for the Cardinals (1997-02) and Broncos (2003-06), he has completd 2,484 passes in 4,350 attempts for 29,253 yards, 161 touchdowns and 161 interceptions, compiling a passer rating of 74.6. He has also rushed 428 times for 1,853 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Despite those accomplishments, Allen said the Buccaneers understand what has prompted Plummer's decision to consider retirement, and that the team and the quarterback would have additional conversations about the future soon.
"Players are people," said Allen. "We do put them up on pedestals and many of them belong in the role model image. He went through a tough season. He's the fourth-winningest quarterback in the NFL and he got benched. Can you imagine any of the top three guys getting benched? No. He was 7-4 when he got benched. It is something that is unusual. He was a Pro Bowler the year before. I'm sure he just wants to weigh some things on his mind and take some time."