With the labor negotiations moving steadily towards a resolution, training camp and pre-season are starting to come into focus. With that in mind, we're going to go over all the positions, what they may look like going into training camp and going into the regular season. We'll start off with the easiest position group: quarterbacks.
We've talked about Josh Freeman a lot here. He's the man, he's the franchise quarterback and he's going to be the starter unless some horrific injury happens. And if Freeman gets injured, then the entire team is up a certain creek without a paddle and we might as well give up on the season anyway. Well, maybe it isn't that bad, but I'm not very confident that Josh Johnson or Rudy Carpenter are going to win us many games.
And that's the only thing to talk about with this position group anyway: Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter, the two backup quarterbacks. Johnson is young, physically gifted and somewhat promising. He got the chance to start a few games for a terrible Bucs team in 2009, and unsurprisingly looked flustered and largely incompetent while showing some glimpses of good play. In very limited duty last season he looked much better, as he seemed to have fixed his biggest problem: remaining calm under pressure.
Johnson is going to remain the backup behind Josh Freeman unless he's traded. This may have seemed likely at one point this offseason, but with the lockout now the Buccaneers will not have much time to introduce a new backup to the offensive system, and any team that may want to trade for him is going to find it tough to get him ready to play. Josh Johnson will most likely remain a Tampa Bay Buccaneer through at least the 2011 season, after which his contract ends.
The third-string quarterback is Rudy Carpenter, a smart passer with less arm strength than Jeff Garcia after a shoulder injury. The team seems to like him, and he's been working hard this offseason to give him the best shot of remaining on the roster. He seems to do well as a scout team quarterback, but if he ever gets into a game I hope it's because the Bucs are ahead by 60 points.
I don't think the Bucs are even going to bring in any competition for Carpenter, though. Not because he doesn't need it, but because the shortened training camp is going to make it nearly impossible for any quarterback to challenge Carpenter anyway. With Johnson likely remaining on the roster too, I don't see anything changing about
Still, if for some reason one of these players is cut, traded or gets injured, the Bucs are going to have to bring in a replacement. It's unlikely they bring in an undrafted free agent, as those players will spend most of training camp just learning the playbook. Instead, there are a number of free agent veterans they could bring in. The most likely names are Bruce Gradkowski, who has played for the Bucs before, Billy Volek, a career backup, Troy Smith, an athletic QB not unlike Josh Johnson and former Buc Luke McCown. But don't expect any of these players in a Tampa Bay jersey this season: Freeman, Johnson and Carpenter seem to be the people who will have to do.