TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed quarterback Byron Leftwich as a free agent.

Leftwich, heading into his seventh NFL season, was a backup for the Steelers last year and threw for two touchdowns as Ben Roethlisberger’s fill-in.

He spent four seasons as the starter in Jacksonville, which selected Leftwich in the first round (seventh overall) in the 2003 draft out of Marshall.

He became Jacksonville’s starter, replacing Mark Brunell, after four games when Brunell hurt his elbow.

Leftwich threw for 2,819 yards, 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions and the team went 5-11.

But the Jaguars improved to 9-7 the next year and 12-4 in 2005, making the playoffs for the first time in six years. Leftwich missed the final five games that season with a broken ankle.

He was cut by the Jaguars in favor of David Garrard in 2007 and joined the Falcons, but was not re-signed by Atlanta after making two starts, and headed to the Steelers last August after backup quarterback Charlie Batch was lost for the season.

Tampa Bay did not re-sign last year’s starter, Jeff Garcia, who now is with Oakland, but did sign Luke McCown to a three-year deal earlier this year.

All-Pro LB Harrison, Steelers reach new deal

PITTSBURGH – James Harrison isn’t one of the NFL’s biggest bargains any longer.

The Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker reached terms Monday on a $51.75 million, six-year contract that will make him the second highest-paid player in franchise history.

The contract set to be announced Tuesday will pay the NFL Defensive Player of the Year a guaranteed $20 million – more than any other player in team history except Ben Roethlisberger. The quarterback signed a $102 million, eight-year contract last year that will pay him a guaranteed $36 million.

Harrison broke into the Steelers lineup in 2007 and had 81/2 sacks. He had a Steelers-record 16 sacks in 15 games last season, and his 100-yard interception return for a TD – the longest scoring play in Super Bowl history – helped the Steelers beat Arizona 27-23 for their second NFL championship in four seasons.

Harrison, cut four times earlier in his career, cashed in after being an NFL starter only two seasons. The 30-year-old Harrison was about to enter the final season of a $5.5 million, four-year contract he signed as a backup in 2006. He would have made $1.4 million this season.

Chiefs sign free agent LB Zach Thomas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City has signed free agent linebacker Zach Thomas in an effort to fix one of the weakest positions on a team that went 2-14 last year.

Earlier this season, the Chiefs acquired Mike Vrabel in a deal that also brought quarterback Matt Cassel from New England.

Thomas, 5-foot-11 and 242 pounds, has 182 starts during a 13-year career, mostly with the Miami Dolphins.

He has made the Pro Bowl seven times, but not since 2006. He played last year with Dallas and was an unrestricted free agent.

The Chiefs also waived wide receiver Will Franklin on Monday. Franklin made one start last year and appeared in 13 games.


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