Bruce was lovable, but this is what’s best

Published: May 30th, 2008
By Bucs Beat | - St. Petersburg Times and tbt*

Bruce Gradkowski is an easy guy to like. He's affable and charming, the kind of guy who gets along with everyone -- even us beat writers.

As a result, the human in you hates to see a guy like that get dumped. But let's face the undeniable fact here: this was inevitable. Ironically, it might also be the best thing that could have happened to him.

Gradkowski was not going to make the final roster. That much I think we all agree on. With every recent exchange I've had with him, it felt like there was an 800-pound gorilla in the room. But the alternative to being cut now was enduring a brutal training camp with next to no playing time in the preseason, only to be out of a job just prior to the regular season.

That's a bad time to get cut. Hitting the market now at least gives him a better chance to land on his feet as teams continue to evaluate their quarterback lineups. I think someone might scoop him up at some point because he has played a lot more football than most quarterbacks with two years of experience. I don't expect he'll be anything more than a No. 3 quarterback, but a paycheck's a paycheck, right?

What an odd sequence of events his time in Tampa Bay was, too. He went from a starring role -- okay, fine, maybe it was just a starting role -- as a rookie to forgotten man a year later in 2007.

On a related note, a byproduct of the Gradkowski move is that we now have a little more clarity on the status of Chris Simms. As it stands, unless the Bucs can swing a trade for him -- and there's been nothing to suggest they can -- Simms looks bound to the Bucs at least through training camp. They seem unlikely to release him now that Gradkowski is gone. The plan was to take five quarterbacks to camp, and Simms is No. 5. Of course, I suppose he could opt to not show for camp, but then again, he doesn't really have a lot of leverage, though he has been boycotting offseason workouts to force the team's hand.

And, for the record, I'm going to go ahead and predict the Bucs will keep four quarterbacks on the active roster for a second straight season. I get the sense they like having Brian Griese around and I think he is absolutely the backup if Jeff Garcia goes down. At the same time, I don't get the sense they're ready to give up on Luke McCown, who has shown some real promise despite his tendency to make critical gaffes. And, finally, rookie Josh Johnson will get plenty of time to develop, so he figures to stick around for awhile.

Regarding the re-signing of Jerramy Stevens to a one-year contract, I don't have to rehash his past troubles nor do I think I need to take a firm position on the decision. You'll have to make up your own mind on that one. I will, however, say this: if he makes one wrong move, the Bucs have to sever their ties and cut (pun intended) their losses. To his credit, he has undergone a lot of alcohol counseling and stayed clean last season. Maybe the Bucs saw enough to believe he can do it again.

With that said, I'll just throw this out there: the Bucs, and Jon Gruden, in particular, loved what Stevens did last season. Still, they opted not to re-sign him until nearly June. And when they did, they announced it via a quick press release sent out after the end of business and long after the evening newscasts were on the air. Perhaps it had something to do with this.