Josh Johnson, the overlooked QB in Tampa

The Tampa Bay Bucaneers raised some eyebrows when they gave unproven QB Luke McCown a $2.5 million signing bonus this offseason. By all accounts, he has struggled, and some within that organization believe that it might be time to cut their losses with him so reps can open up for others.

The development of rookie QB Josh Freeman, the team’s first-round pick, has been well chronicled, and team sources have indicanted to me for months that Byron Leftwich has been the front-runner to land the starting gig for Week 1.

No one talks much about second-year QB Josh Johnson, but had Jon Gruden stayed as head coach, it’s Johnson who would have been the favorite to be the starter, sources said, and he remains highly regarded by the organization. Johnson was sharp in the preseason opener, and flashed his elite athleticism on a 43-yard touchdown dash on a busted play.

If nothing else, the kid has the ability to create a stir in The Wildcat, and he is well-versed in the West Coast offense from his time at Division I-AA San Diego. The Bucs are no longer running a West Coast system, but Johnson has the arm strength to thrive in a vertical offense as well, scouts say, and some in the organization believe he is already better than many No. 2 quarterbacks in the league.

The investment in Freeman shows he is the future, but Johnson could be a nice asset, too. If the Bucs released him, and kept McCown (in large part because of his contract), well, that wouldn’t make good football sense to me (Johnsn would get scooped up). Johnson would also be better primed at this point to be a No. 2 quarterback early in the season, as Freeman is still learning. Johnson is someone who could step in with few practice reps and replace the starter if he was injured or pulled.

Long-term, the Bucs could have two quality youngsters to work with at quarterback, but only one has received any real attention to this point. Johnson is someone I’m definitely going to keep an eye on in the upcoming preseason games.

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