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Fiedler on the Roster

Down a QB after Luke McCown’s injury, the Bucs have signed veteran Jay Fiedler, he of the 37-23 career starting record…The team also signed TE Matt Kranchick and released two others


QB Jay Fiedler's stint with the Jets was short, but he started 59 games for the Dolphins from 2000-04

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jay Fiedler are a match.

A week ago, the Bucs brought the free agent quarterback into town for an informal chat. Tampa Bay had lost reserve QB Luke McCown to a knee injury and Fiedler was doing a late scouring of his free agent possibilities as his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder rounded back into shape.

Both sides liked what they saw. On Thursday, Fiedler signed with the Buccaneers, adding an experienced veteran presence to a crew that also includes starter Chris Simms and reserves Tim Rattay, Bruce Gradkowski and Jared Allen. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, as is team policy.

The Bucs also signed a second player on Thursday, bringing in former Pittsburgh Steeler and New York Giant Matt Kranchick. Kranchick had been released by the Giants on June 8 after New York acquired former New Orleans Saints tight end Boo Williams.

To make room for Fiedler and Kranchick on the training camp roster, the Bucs released wide receiver Ben Nelson and tackle Stefan Rodgers. Nelson, the 2005-06 Arena Football League rookie of the year, had just signed with the Buccaneers on June 12. Rodgers first joined Tampa Bay's practice squad last fall and was re-signed on January 12.

Fiedler's 60 NFL starts make him the most experienced quarterback on the Bucs' roster. Simms posted 10 of his 12 starts last year and is expected to start on opening day this season, while Rattay owns 16 career starts, all with the San Francisco 49ers. Gradkowski is a rookie, a sixth-round draft choice from April, and Allen is a first-year player who signed as an undrafted free agent last year.

Fiedler originally entered the league as an undrafted free agent too, with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994. He spent several seasons with the Eagles, coming under the tutelage of current Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden in 1995, when Gruden took over as offensive coordinator. The former Dartmouth standout saw his first regular-season action for Minnesota in 1998 and made his first start with Jacksonville in 1999.

However, it was in 2000, after moving to the Dolphins, that Fiedler moved into a long-term starting role. It wasn't the easiest situation in which to get that first break, as he was in effect replacing NFL legend Dan Marino, whose last season was 1999. Fiedler beat out holdover Damon Huard for the job and started 15 games, completing 204 of 357 passes for 2,402 yards, 14 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a passer rating of 74.5.

The Dolphins went 11-5 in Fiedler's first season as a starter, and 11-5 again in 2001, as he increased his totals to 3,290 yards, 20 touchdowns, a 60.7% completion rate and a passer rating of 80.3. He lost five games to a fractured thumb in 2002 but still completed 61.3% of his passes, threw 14 touchdowns and raised his passer rating again, to 85.2.

Fiedler started 11 more games for the Dolphins in 2003 and seven more in 2004, losing time each season to injuries. Counting his one start with Jacksonville in 1999, Fiedler has a career won-lost record of 37-23 in his 60 starts. That's a winning percentage of .617, good for ninth among all active quarterbacks heading into 2006.

Fiedler moved on to the New York Jets last year and began the season as the primary backup to Chad Pennington. However, in Week Three, in what would prove to be a season-debilitating afternoon for the Jets, both Pennington and Fiedler suffered season-ending injuries.

On just his sixth play after replacing the injured Pennington (shoulder), Fiedler was hit while completing a pass and landed on his right shoulder. He was diagnosed with a partial dislocation of the shoulder and had surgery in December after first trying a rehabilitation regimen. The surgery repaired a torn labrum and a related biceps injury. Last week, during his visit with the Buccaneers, Fiedler described a rapidly building throwing regimen and predicted that he would be fully ready for the start of training camp.

The 6-2, 225-pound Fiedler has attempted 1,717 passes, completion 1,008 of them (58.7%) for 11,844 yards, 69 touchdowns and 66 interceptions. He also has 854 yards and 11 touchdowns on 219 career rushes.

Kranchick is a big tight end (6-7, 260) who still possesses good speed and dependable hands. The Steelers selected him out of Penn State in the sixth round in 2004 and he was one of four draft picks to make the active roster that season. Kranchick appeared in two games as a rookie without posting any statistics.

Last season, Kranchick played in four games and started one for Pittsburgh, recording one reception for six yards. He later ended up on the Steelers' practice squad, from which the Giants plucked him in December. He played in two games for New York, mostly on special teams, and had two kick-coverage tackles. As a senior at Penn State in 2003, Kranchick caught 22 passes for 337 yards and one touchdown.

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