Milanovich has helped mostly from the sideline during his Buccaneer career, but he's playing regularly in Europe
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced on Monday that they have re-signed QB Scott Milanovich to a one-year contract. It was the team's second such announcement in four days, as G Frank Middleton was brought back into the fold on Friday, May 5.
Both Milanovich and Middleton were restricted free agents, meaning they had been extended one-year tender offers by the team at the beginning of the free agency period in February. Those two and five other 'RFAs' – CB Ronde Barber, C/G Kevin Dogins, TE Patrick Hape, S Damien Robinson and CB Floyd Young – had until April 10 to negotiate with other teams, though the Buccaneers retained the right to match any contract offer.
After last month's draft, which followed an intense period of roster re-shaping by the Buccaneers, General Manager Rich McKay indicated that the next few months would be relatively quiet in terms of player signings. However, the signing of the above restricted free agents, plus the team's five recent draft choices, obviously remains a priority.
Milanovich's contract signing was actually a little more complicated than most, as the document had to be shipped to Germany and back. He is currently overseas playing in the NFL Europe League, where he has recently earned increased playing time under center for the Berlin Thunder. In each of the last two weeks, Milanovich has relieved starter Eric Kresser early, directing one come-from-behind win for the Thunder and completing a combined 16 of 33 passes for 189 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Milanovich has spent three seasons and part of a fourth as the Bucs' third quarterback, meaning he was inactive for almost every game. He appeared in one 1996 contest during his rookie season, completing two of three passes for nine yards. Though he was selected by Cleveland in last year's expansion draft, he did not go to camp with the Browns and was not on an NFL roster until the Bucs re-signed him in December.
Milanovich's return to the Buccaneers was brought on by consecutive injuries to Eric Zeier (chest) and Trent Dilfer (shoulder). With Dilfer effectively finished for the season with a fractured clavicle suffered on November 28 and Zeier still recovering from a ribs injury, Milanovich was brought back to backup then-rookie Shaun King. He was the team's first option for that role because of his familiarity with the offensive system.
When the season ended, Milanovich was allocated to NFL Europe, where it was hoped he would see his most extensive live action in years. NFL Europe has steadily increased in competitiveness and the 31 NFL teams are seeing more and more benefit in sending their young players overseas to develop. This is particularly true after the wild breakout success of last year's league MVP, St. Louis QB Kurt Warner. Warner was similarly successful during an NFL Europe stint with the Amsterdam Admirals in 1988.
"Kurt Warner put the league more in the spotlight by winning the Super Bowl," said Milanovich. "There were others before him, like Scott Mitchell and Brad Johnson, who showed what going to Europe can offer, but by having the sort of year he did, Warner made a big difference."
Milanovich's signing puts four quarterbacks under contract on the Bucs' roster. Second-year man Shaun King, the projected starter, returns, as does Zeier after his own re-signing as an unrestricted free agent earlier this spring. In April, Tampa Bay devoted a seventh-round draft pick to Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, a thrilling prospect who lasted late into the draft due to his lack of ideal height. Training camp for these four and the rest of the roster begins on July 23.