I'm Throwing Another Name Into the QB Derby Hat: Tampa Bay's Josh Johnson

TAMPA FL - JULY 31: Quarterback Josh Johnson #11 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hands the ball off to Carnell Williams #24 during Training Camp at One Buccaneer Place on July 31 2010 in Tampa Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

For the purpose of being all-inclusive in coverage of players the Seahawks could/should have some interest in, I wanted to talk for a minute about Tampa Bay QB Josh Johnson. Without working on any inside knowledge or information, but rather simply looking at the type of player he is and what John Schneider and Pete Carroll are trying to build, or rather what they've told us they're looking for in a quarterback, he actually makes a little sense on paper.

He's young, athletic (24 years old, 6'3", 215, ran the 40 in 4.44 at the Combine), has a good arm, and could come at a relatively cheap price. Josh Freeman is securely entrenched as the team's franchise QB and isn't in any danger of losing that title. 2011 is the final year of Johnson's rookie contract, and it's unlikely he'll try and stay on as a career backup behind Freeman without testing the waters to find a place as a starting QB. Buccaneers' management will surely know this and if they're smart they'd try and move him now and get something in return. It's basically the same situation as Kevin Kolb and the Eagles, but Johnson would come at a significantly lower cost. 

There were rumors circulating that JIm Harbaugh would try to reunite with his old San Diego signal caller when he took over with the 49ers but now that they drafted Colin Kaepernick it seems more likely they'll stick with Alex Smith as a stop-gap and work Kaep in a year or two down the line. With that option likely off the table, Johnson's asking price probably just went down. Though it's hard to say really what the Bucs would ask for him, I'd venture it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to move him for a 4th or 5th round pick. If that were the case, would he be worth it?

Well, he hasn't gotten a ton of chances to prove his worth at the NFL level - 4 total starts with pretty underwhelming results; I went back and watched some game replays from 2009 and it's a bit of what you'd expect. Young QB mistakes intermixed with really intriguing impressive plays. He's good in the pocket movement wise - he looks to have Mike Vick type shiftiness in the pocket and escapes pressure easily. His arm looks strong and his accuracy is there. One thing I noticed was a ridiculous amount of drops made by the Buccaneers receivers. You see flashes of brilliance among the typical mistakes and head-scratching decisions you'd expect from a young quarterback surrounded by a young team. 

For a young guy though, he makes some surprisingly veteran plays. This pass he threads over the linebacker in the only spot he could place is, it a good example. He looks calm but he's also aggressive and can put the ball on a dime 35 yards downfield like this touchdown pass. He keeps his eyes up and keeps plays alive when forced out the pocket. He can scramble.

Apart from limited NFL action, his jaw dropping college numbers and pre-draft analyses make you pretty excited at his theoretical prospect as a mobile, strong armed and smart quarterback that can manage your offense, distribute the football, and keep the chains moving. By all accounts he's a fiery and vocal leader. Johnson passed for 43 touchdowns his senior year at San Diego to just 1 interception. That in itself, although at a lower level of competition against less complex of defenses, is ridiculous and impressive and tells you that he can take care of the ball. Relying on his pre-draft scouting reports you have to wonder if he'd have some success if given a little opportunity in the right situation. Now, to take with a huge grain of salt considering he is still a backup and in three seasons hasn't found the field much, here's what NFL.com's Combine page had to say about his strengths coming out of college (lengthiest list ever) - whoever wrote this is absolutely smitten with him:

-Quick, mobile scrambler with above average balance and body control to make all the throws when on the move.
-Possesses that second gear needed to elude when rushing past the line of scrimmage and the vision to locate the cutback lanes.
-Very smooth in his retreat from center to his throwing point, demonstrating the slide-and-adjust agility to step up in the pocket or roll out to avoid pressure.
-Shows very good knee bend and the ability to weave through traffic, making a good effort to provide ball security before heading up field.
-Capable of handling the mental aspect of the game, as he makes all of the required reads and checks to excel in a pass-oriented offense.
-Won't hesitate to square his shoulders and drive his legs to gain tough yardage up the middle rather than passively head to the sidelines to avoid any contact.
-Doesn't force the ball into traffic and can keep defenses honest with his long-range arm strength or ability to weave in and out of traffic as a ball carrier.
-With his body control, agility and hip flexibility, he is quick driving back from center, doing a nice job of setting his feet in either 3-step or 5-step drops.
-Gets to his throwing point fluidly and has the balance to make all the throws on the run.
-Nimble and agile rolling out of the pocket and has the balance to step up and avoid pocket pressure.
-While patient waiting for the plays to develop, he is not the type who will hold on to the ball too long and then try to force the action to make the play, as he knows when he needs to throw the ball away.
-Demonstrates the compact delivery and throwing motion, along with the wrist flick, to get the ball out cleanly and quickly.
-He has a compact motion, holding the ball chest-high to execute a fluid three-quarter release.
-Seems more comfortable airing the ball out, rather than playing dink-and-dunk with a short-area passing game (accuracy is a bit off on screens, wheel routes).
-Effective at throwing ropes 40 yards downfield with ease.
-Accurate throwing from the pocket and has the balance to also make those throws on the move.
-Consistent setting his feet and shows good mechanics delivering the ball on time.
-Likes to air the ball out more than stay underneath, as he knows how to get the ball to his targets in stride rather than have them wait or come back for it.
-Keeps his cool under pressure and knows that when all else fails, he has the feet to step up and avoid the pocket pressure.
-Stands tough under duress and shows confidence in his ability to execute the play.
-Patient waiting for plays to develop and does a very good job with ball security.
-Vocal on the field, demonstrating a little bit of Brett Favre with his bravado.
-Capable of getting big yardage with his feet and is a dangerous threat running with the ball.
-As a ballcarrier, he shows good strength and body lean to gain additional yardage after the initial hit and is conscious of protecting the ball and shielding it from the defenders.
-Builds to top acceleration nicely and is alert to coverages (won't run into spots too often).
-Knows how to get the ball to his deep targets over their outside shoulder without the receiver having to adjust.

Taken as a whole, I start scratching my chin and wondering what this Josh Johnson guy's deal is. We've debated it endlessly here, but what type of QB does Pete Carroll really want? 

Pete Carroll recently said "We've always liked a quarterback that could move. We've always liked the ability to move, because it fits with our running game and the style of complementary throwing game that we like to match up with it. The movement quarterback - we don't need to have a guy that's a pure runner. We're not talking about that. But a guy that has the ability to move and get out of the pocket and give us the variety of sets where we want to get that quarterback to slow down the pass rush and stuff. That's always been part of it. It hasn't always been what we've had, but that's always been something we've looked for in the ideal."

So, ideally, his QB can move around a bit. They don't want a pure "running QB" but really who does? Seneca Wallace was traded away for a reason and he's never threatened at being a starting caliber QB in this league. What Pete has said is still pretty vague so you can't really take much out of that. What you can do is look at some other quarterbacks they've had interest in: If Colin Kaepernick was truly high on the Seahawks draft board as rumors indicated pre-draft, it would seem logical that they'd have interest in another player of similar skillset. Both Kaepernick and Johnson put up ridiculous numbers at a small schools and against lower level opponents. Both are very good runners with good arm strength. Both are projects. Both played in spread offenses. While Kaepernick is taller, Johnson is quicker. I don't know, I'm reaching here but it's something I've been noodling for a little while so I thought I'd bring it up.

Now, according to the scouting reports on Johnson that I have read, he's extremely mobile, can throw on the run with accuracy, is a vocal leader, and possesses a strong arm to make the vertical passing game relevant again. He was the MVP of the 2008 East-West Shrine game while passing for 78 yards and a TD and rushing for 91 yards against top-level college competition at the time. He was unanimously labeled as a raw, developmental prospect, but one with a high ceiling and the intangibles you look for in a QB. I've talked a little bit about his mixed bag performance in the NFL thus far and you see things you like and some things that make you doubt him.

His downsides would be that he lacks bulk, may not be able to effectively read a defense at the NFL level (though from what I've watched he seems to have a potential to), and is a tad inaccurate in the short range on screens and dump offs. He has limited action at the NFL level thus far, but has shown glimpses of his potential and his body of work is too small to write him completely off. In reality, it's probable he's not a part of the Seahawks' plans but I would be remiss to completely ignore a player like him. To me he represents a better value than a Matt Flynn and is in every way superior to Tarvaris Jackson. If Jackson really is on the Seahawks' radar it lends a little credence to my argument that Johnson could fit. If he doesn't pan out at QB? Throw him out there as a receiver and tell him to make some plays. 

Oh yeah, and Josh Johnson is Marshawn Lynch's cousin. They host a football camp in Oakland together every summer. I wonder if Marshawn is hitting up Petey on his celly-cell, campaigning for the trade.

Since we've talked about pretty much every other QB in the league ending up in Seattle, why not Josh Johnson?

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