Seeking to bolster the quarterback position following a potential season-ending knee injury to backup Luke McCown, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday signed unrestricted free agent Jay Fiedler, who had visited last week with team officials, to a one-year contract.
Although he is still rehabilitating from December shoulder surgery and may not be able to throw at full velocity until training camp late next month, the Bucs are confident that Fiedler can contribute this year for them, especially if starter Chris Simms is injured.
The deal is worth $810,000. Fiedler had also been in negotiations with New York Giants officials.
"Every day I go out there and throw it feels a little bit
better," Fiedler told The Associated Press. "I'm throwing three, four times a week
right now, hoping to get to a point where I'm throwing it every day
pretty soon, working up the strength and getting the range of
Simms will enter training camp for the first time as the unchallenged starter. Fiedler, whose 60 career starts by far make him the most experienced quarterback on the roster, likely will vie with six-year veteran Tim Rattay for the top backup job.
Coach Jon Gruden announced last week that McCown, a third-year veteran, would undergo surgery to repair a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and that he will miss at least the start of the regular season. There is some suspicion, however, McCown could be sidlined the entire year. The loss of McCown left the Bucs with three backups behind Simms -- Rattay, Jared Allen and Bruce Gradkowski -- and Gruden indicated strongly the team might seek to sign another veteran quarterback before the start of training camp.
Fiedler, 34, met with team officials and visited with Gruden and quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett, while observing the final session of the Bucs' last three-day minicamp of the offseason. While it is somewhat difficult to fully evaluate Fiedler given where he is in his recovery, he is certainly the kind of knowledgeable and resourceful quarterback that Gruden likes to have on his roster.
The 10-year veteran noted during his visit with Tampa bay that he is only two or three weeks into his throwing program, but said doctors are confident he will be fully recovered by the start of training camp. If that is the case, he will provide the Bucs a nice insurance policy at quarterback.
Signed by the New York Jets last summer, as a backup to Chad Pennington, Fiedler appeared in only two games before injuring his right shoulder. He attempted to strengthen the shoulder through non-surgical means, but subsequently underwent an early December procedure. In his two appearances, he completed eight of 13 passes for 107 yards, with one touchdown pass and no interceptions.
The Jets released Fiedler in late February, in part for salary cap considerations.
In stints with Philadelphia (1994-97), Minnesota (1998), Jacksonville (1999), Miami (2000-2004) and the Jets (2005), Fiedler has appeared in 76 games and started in 60 of them. His best seasons came with the Dolphins, with whom he averaged 11.8 starts. He has completed 1,008 of 1,717 passes for 11,844 yards, with 69 touchdown passes, 66 interceptions and a 77.1 passer rating.
The Bucs also signed two-year veteran tight end Matt Kranchick, who was released earlier in the month by the New York Giants. Kranchick, 26, essentially replaces rookie T.J. Williams, a tight end selected in the sixth round this spring, who tore his right Achilles tendon last week. The Bucs will place Williams on injured reserve and he will miss his entire rookie season.
Kranchick has appeared in eight games with the Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers. The former Penn State star has one reception for six yards, but can play tight end and H-back and contribute on special teams.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Infromation from The Associated Press was used in this report.