On Monday, the Tampa Bay Storm announced that they exercised ten players’ rookie options for the 2017 season: quarterback Pete Thomas, defensive backs Qua Cox, Dallas Jackson and Trey Wolfe, defensive linemen Monte Lewis and Torrey Davis, offensive linemen John Brown, Justin McCray and J.J. Unga, and kicker Delbert Alvarado.
Among the most pertinent is Thomas, the third quarterback on the Storm’s roster. Thomas spent last season sharing time with Nathan Stanley for the LA KISS, completing 56.6% of his passes for 2,086 yards, 43 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Thomas saw the bulk of his action in the middle of the season, starting Weeks 8-13, and starting the final two regular season games.
Thomas, seen as more of a mobile quarterback (with fourteen carries for two touchdowns, enters a competition with veteran Randy Hippeard and Warren Smith, who spent time with the Spokane Shock.
Working from the inside out, the three offensive lineman sightings are just as key, as the Storm gave up nineteen sacks in the 2016 campaign, partially creating the quarterback carousel thanks to injuries and poor performance. Head coach Ron James will hope to get this unit working much more efficiently to improve upon a 2-14 season.
Here is an overall rundown of each player who had their option exercised:
- Cox (5’11”, 190 lbs., Jackson State) enters his second season with the Storm. Cox started in three games for the Storm during his rookie season (eight overall appearances), recording 19.0 tackles and a pass breakup. He began his professional career in 2014 when he signed with the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League when as an undrafted rookie free agent.
- Jackson (5’10”, 190 lbs.) joins the Storm for his first full season. Jackson saw limited action on the field after he joined the team in 2016. The Palmetto, FL, native played collegiately at Jacksonville University, earning All-Pioneer Football League honorable mention for his performance in his senior season. That year, he tallied 47.0 tackles, four tackles for loss, five interceptions, and three pass breakups.
- Wolfe (5’11”, 193 lbs.) enters his second season in the AFL and first with the Storm. Wolfe was Thomas’ teammate with the L.A. KISS in 2016, starting in his only appearance. The former Fort Valley State Wildcat began his professional career with as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Seattle Seahawks in 2014 before moving to the Washington Redskins‘ practice squad. He stayed with the Redskins through part of 2015.
- Lewis (6’4″, 265 lbs., Jacksonville State) enters his first season with the Storm and third in the AFL. The Abbeville, AL, native started six games for the Orlando Predators in 2016 (ten appearances overall), recording 7.0 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss and two blocked kicks. He began his professional career in 2012 with the Washington Redskins, and he also spent time with the Ottawa REDBLACKS of the Canadian Football League.
- Davis (6’3″, 320 lbs., Jacksonville State) enters his second season with the Storm. The former Armwood High School (Seffner, FL) standout appeared in one game with the Storm last season. The Seffner native began his collegiate career at the University of Florida before transferring to Jacksonville State.
- Brown (6’1″, 285 lbs., Valdosta State) begins his second season with the Storm. He started at fullback in eight games for the Storm in 2016 (nine appearances overall). The Lakeland, FL, native rushed 10 times for 21 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for eight yards.
- McCray (6’3″, 315 lbs.) enters his first season with the Storm after spending his rookie year with the Orlando Predators. The former UCF Knight started 14 games for Orlando, seeing action on the offensive line and at fullback. McCray rushed twice for four yards and caught four passes for 30 yards.
- Unga (6’6″, 320 lbs., Midwestern State) enters his first season with the Storm and second in the AFL. He started in three games on the offensive line with the KISS in 2016 (four overall appearances). Unga began his professional career in 2013 as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League, and also spent time with the Buffalo Bills.
- Alvarado (5’11”, 205 lbs.) enters his second season with the Storm. The Robinson H.S. (Tampa, FL) standout appeared in 10 games for the Storm in 2016, converting 49-of-55 extra point attempts. The Tampa native played four seasons at South Florida, converting 97.8% of his extra point attempts, the best percentage in school history.