TAMPA, Fla. – If Josh Freeman isn't Tampa Bay's long-term solution at quarterback, the Buccaneers are hoping they've found an alternative.
The team selected North Carolina State's Mike Glennon in the third round of the NFL draft Friday night, saying he was too good a fit for their offense to ignore even though Freeman became the franchise's first 4,000-yard passer while also setting a club record by throwing for 27 touchdowns last season.
General manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano reiterated Freeman is the starter, while also noting Glennon was highly productive in college has the size — 6-foot-6, 220 pounds — and arm strength they like in a quarterback.
"If something happens to Josh Freeman, we want to be able to keep the season rolling," Dominik said.
With Freeman entering the final year of the contract he signed as the 17th pick of the 2009 draft, the Bucs eventually will have to make a decision on whether to give him a new deal. The 25-year-old led the team to 10 wins and narrowly missed the playoffs in his second full season as a starter in 2010, however his career has been marked by inconsistency.
Schiano has said he'd like to increase competition at every position on the team, including quarterback. Veteran Dan Orlovsky currently in Freeman's backup, and the hope is Glennon will be able to learn the system and develop without having the pressure that comes with being a high draft pick expected to come in and start right away.
Glennon, who played behind Russell Wilson for three years at North Carolina State, completed over 58 percent of his passes for 4,031 yards, 31 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for the Wolfpack as a senior. He was the third quarterback selected in the draft behind first-rounder E.J. Manuel and second-rounder Geno Smith.
"It comes as somewhat of a surprise, but I'm excited to go down there and play football," Glennon said, adding he hadn't had much contact with Tampa Bay since the NFL combine.
Schiano recruited Glennon coming out of high school when the coach was at Rutgers and the quarterback was the state of Virginia's player of the year, so they've been familiar with each other for years.
Wilson, who transferred to Wisconsin, led the Seattle Seahawks to the playoffs as a rookie in 2012. Glennon plans to speak with him about what Wilson did to make a successful transition to the NFL.
"I think there's a lot of talent in this class," Glennon said of this year's crop of quarterback prospects, which was not highly rated by draft experts. "Hopefully, 10 years from now, we'll look back said say this class was a little under-rated."
The selection of Glennon with the 73rd overall pick came after the Bucs used their second-round pick to seek more help on defense.
When Johnthan Banks learned Tampa Bay had acquired the top cornerback in football in the days leading up to the draft, he figured there was no way he'd wind up being selected by the Bucs.
Much to the former Mississippi State star's delight, he's going to get a chance to learn from Darrell Revis as part of the Bucs' effort to rebuild the worst pass defense in the league.
"It's a dream come true," 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner said by telephone after becoming the 11th pick of the second round, No. 43 overall. "I can't wait to get there."
The Bucs did not have a pick in Thursday's opening round after trading the 13th overall pick to the New York Jets in exchange for Revis, a three-time All-Pro who's the centerpiece of what Dominik and Schiano are doing to shore up a secondary that came within 38 yards of setting a NFL record for passing yards allowed last season.
In addition to obtaining Revis and drafting Banks, who had 16 career interceptions in college, the Bucs added All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson to their defensive backfield through free agency in March.
"We've improved our size, physicality and ball skills," Dominik said of the collective moves this offseason.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Banks was a captain at Mississippi State, where he tied the school record for interceptions and routinely was assigned to cover opponents' No. 1 receiver.
"He was the guy who made their defense go, period," Schiano said. "He's a strong, rangy guy. ... We're happy to have him."
Despite not having a first-round pick for the first time in 10 years, Dominik entered Friday night feeling the Bucs had done more to help the team by acquiring Revis than they could ever have hoped to by holding onto the 13th pick of the first round and using it try to upgrade a defense that contributed to a late-season collapse in 2012.
The Bucs lost five of six down the stretch to finish 7-9.
Revis is a proven star who's generally regarded as the game's best player at his position. The Bucs signed him to a new six-year, $96 million contract and are counting on the seventh-year pro to be a mentor for Banks, who despite winning the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back wasn't the first player from his college secondary selected in the draft.
Mississippi State cornerback Darius Slay was taken earlier in the second round, No. 36 overall, by the Detroit Lions.
But Banks wasn't complaining.
Tampa Bay had been one of his preferred destinations since spending time with members of coaching staff and scouting departments at the Senior Bowl in January.
"It's a blessing I got drafted. There are a lot of kids still sitting home waiting and hoping to be picked," the 23-year-old native of Maben, Miss., said.
"God works in mysterious ways. ... Revis is the best and I get a chance to play next to him. I'm going to try to learn everything I can from him," Banks added. "I play with passion. I give it everything I've got. ... That's what I'm coming there to do."