The Buccaneers traded QB Luke McCown to the Jaguars on Saturday
Luke McCown arrived in Tampa via a trade, and he leaves the same way.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sent a fifth-round draft pick to the Cleveland Browns in 2005 to acquire McCown and obviously saw potential in the 28-year-old passer, keeping him on the roster for four seasons. In fact, the Buccaneers re-signed McCown, a potential unrestricted free agent, this past February and promised him an opportunity to compete for the starting job.
However, free agent acquisition Byron Leftwich — coincidentally a former Jaguar himself — won that competition and will open the 2009 season as the Buccaneers' starter. With promising young passers Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson creating a logjam at the position, the team chose to send McCown to the Jaguars, where starter David Garrard is backed up by Todd Bouman and rookie Todd Boeckman.
It is unusual for a team to carry four quarterbacks on its 53-man roster, but the Buccaneers were in that situation for a few hours after announcing their roster moves early Saturday evening. Tampa Bay brass obviously believed it had a deep stable of NFL-caliber passers, and the trade of McCown indicates the team's belief in the potential of second-year passer Josh Johnson. Obviously, roster spots had to be reserved for Leftwich and 2009 first-round pick Josh Freeman, who is considered the team's quarterback of the future.
McCown battled hard for the team's starting job and had several strong moments during the '09 preseason. In his four seasons with the team, the former Louisiana Tech star appeared in seven games and made three starts, all during the 2007 season. He completed 94 of 140 passes for 1,009 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions as a Buccaneer. McCown's best outing with the team came in a critical contest at New Orleans late in December, when he threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns and led Tampa Bay to a last-minute victory.
McCown first entered the league as a fourth-round pick by the Browns in 2004, and he started four games during his rookie campaign in Cleveland.
Leftwich signed with the Buccaneers in April after spending the 2008 season as the primary backup to Ben Roethlisberger for the Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a first-round pick of the Jaguars in 2003 and he spent the majority of his four seasons in Jacksonville as the starter. The Buccaneers believe Leftwich's strong arm and good downfield touch will be major assets in an offense that expects to run the ball well and look for big plays via the play-action pass.
Johnson was a fifth-round pick out of the University of San Diego in 2008. With his small-school roots, Johnson was considered a somewhat raw prospect, but his talents are unmistakable. In his 41 games and 34 starts for the Toreros, he threw 113 touchdown passes and also ran for 1,864 yards and 19 scores.
Those talents were on display Friday night at Raymond James Stadium when Johnson completed 12 of 21 passes for 182 yards, one touchdown and one interception and also ran five times for 43 yards. Head Coach Raheem Morris praised Johnson after the game as a player who could be effective in relief even without much previous playing time.
The trade of McCown leaves the Buccaneers with two open spots on their 2009 roster. The team initially pared down to 52 players on Saturday, one below the regular-season limit. It is likely the Buccaneers will fill those spots quickly, after the players released by all 32 teams clear waivers on Sunday.