When a team has six quarterbacks on its roster, it is asking for trouble. The Buccaneers are learning that as
Garcia, who earned his fourth Pro Bowl nomination while leading the Bucs to the NFC South title in 2007, is set to earn $2 million in the final year of a two-year, $7 million contract. However, he feels he's underpaid as a starter and his unhappiness could result in a holdout prior to training camp.
Don't expect the Bucs to cave in. "You have to be careful when rewarding a player for past performance," said an AFC scout. "He played well last season, but can you count on him to duplicate that production?"
At 38, Garcia is hardly the Bucs' long-term solution. Although he steadied Tampa Bay's floundering offense last season, his surprising success did not erase the memories some people have of his woeful performances in Cleveland and Detroit.
Fortunately, the Bucs have several options when pondering whether to keep Garcia beyond 2008. They could extend him on a short-term deal that pays market value for a starting quarterback ($7 million per season) or they could use the franchise tag in 2009 (likely $9 million) to keep him under wraps for another season.
They could also move on without him.
If Simms had his way, he wouldn't be an option either. He wanted the team to trade or release him earlier this spring, and has stopped showing up at workouts to draw attention to the matter. He was quoted earlier this week as saying, "The relationship between me and coach [
Don't expect the team to make a move until after Simms participates in training camp. The Bucs want more time to assess his' talent in comparison to others on the roster. Also, by giving Simms exposure during the preseason, the Bucs may be able to drum up trade interest.
As the team's starter in 2005-06, Simms compiled a 7-8 record and showed flashes of developing into a solid player prior to being sidelined with a ruptured spleen. In fact, his play was so promising that the Bucs signed him to a two-year extension at the end of the 2006 season. The Bucs are wisely taking their time before making a decision on the disgruntled Simms. The league is short on quarterbacks, and the Bucs need to be sure he doesn't have any long-term potential before letting him hit the streets.
• Another team with an unsettled quarterback situation is Baltimore.
Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State, started the final two games of last season and earned his teammates respect for his leadership skills. That, coupled with an impressive dedication to the team's offseason program, has Smith making a strong case to be the starter in 2008. "He's a natural leader," said a Ravens official. "He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He has been doubted on every level and always had to prove people wrong. ... He has always risen to the challenge and that has given him unbelievable confidence."
While Smith still needs to work on his accuracy (52.9 percent completion rate in four games), his decision-making and exceptional mobility make him a solid complement to the Ravens running attack. Offensive coordinator
• The Bears' decision to release
Benson, who rushed for only 674 yards on 196 carries last season, never lived up to the hype of being the fourth overall selection in the 2005 NFL Draft. He gained only 1,593 rushing yards in three injury-plagued seasons. In spite of Benson's disappointing performance, the team had shown surprising patience prior to his latest incident. "They waited patiently for him to turn it around because he was a first-round pick," said an AFC scout. "But he never played to their level of expectation and the incidents only fueled the fire. With
Forte, the Bears' second-round pick from Tulane, has displayed outstanding running skills and appears to be an ideal workhorse for their power offense. The team will possibly add a veteran (
As for Benson, expect a team to take a chance on him this fall after his legal woes are resolved. It's a perfect opportunity to scoop up a talented player on the cheap. Although teams will have reservations about his character, Benson will persuade some team to sign him if he displays some of the skill that made him a top-five selection.