TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Josh McCown is excited to have another opportunity to prove he’s a No. 1 quarterback.
The 34-year-old has been a backup for most of his career and will enter his 12th NFL season as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after signing a two-year, $10 million contract in free agency.
The move reunites him with new Bucs coach Lovie Smith, who is overhauling a team that finished 4-12 in 2013, missing the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
"I understand why people would say this is kind of surprising," McCown, who’s joining his eighth team since entering the league as a third-round draft pick in 2002, said Thursday.
"But in my family’s world, this is kind of par for the course to have something relatively unusual happen," he added. "I really feel like I played my best ball last year and look forward to building on that."
McCown, who turns 35 in July, started five games as a replacement for injured Chicago starter Jay Cutler last season, going 3-2 and finishing with 13 touchdown passes and one interception.
Because he hasn’t played a lot over a decade that includes stops with the Bears, Cardinals, Lions, Raiders, Dolphins, 49ers and Panthers, the Bucs are counting on his body being a lot fresher than most quarterbacks his age.
McCown played under Smith for two of the three seasons the quarterback spent in Chicago. Both are confident what he’s learned as a long-time backup will be beneficial in settling into a role ahead of second-year pro Mike Glennon, who started 13 games for Tampa Bay as a rookie.
"Josh is exactly what you’re looking for in a leader to get that 4-12 taste out of our mouths," Smith said.
McCown was joined at a news conference by new starting left tackle Anthony Collins, who agreed Thursday to a five-year, $30 million contract.
The 28-year-old Collins replaces Donald Penn, who was released. He’s the sixth player to join the Bucs through free agency as Smith and new general manager Jason Licht reshape the roster.
The team welcomed defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Alterraun Verner, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and tight end Brandon Myers on Wednesday.
"We talked a lot about defense (Wednesday), but (the NFL’s) about scoring points," Smith said. "The game is more about offense these days. We feel like we’ve made strides."
McCown started 13 games for the Cardinals in 2004, going 6-7 while throwing 11 TD passes and 10 interceptions. He was 2-7 in nine starts with the Raiders in 2007. Overall, he’s 16-22 in 38 career starts.
"The good thing is that I’ve gone through an offseason as a starter when I was in Arizona, so I understand what comes with all those things," McCown said.
Glennon was 4-9, taking over Tampa Bay’s offense after Josh Freeman struggled and subsequently was released.
The third-round draft pick threw for 19 touchdowns and just nine interceptions as a rookie, but also was sacked 40 times while failing to demonstrate he was the team’s clear-cut quarterback of the future.
The signing of Collins, a part-time starter the past six seasons with Cincinnati, upgrades a porous offensive line that needs to do a better job protecting the quarterback.
Like McCown, the 6-foot-7, 315-pound tackle is savoring the chance to show he can flourish as a full-time starter.
"I’m very ready," said Collins, who will step in for Penn, a 2011 Pro Bowl selection who had been scheduled to earn $7 million next season.
"Patience is a virtue," Collins added. "Now is my time."