It became official Tuesday morning, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has officially retired. Around the league, people are acknowledging one of if not the greatest NFL career in the history of the league. This means that the Buccaneers have a massive hole on their roster, not only from a leadership standpoint but at the quarterback position. Brady threw for 5,316 yards and 43 touchdowns which both led the league. This Buccaneers’ offense will look vastly different next year.
It is up to general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians to figure out what the plan is going forward. One season removed from winning a Super Bowl the Buccaneers may feel some urgency to have a plan in place to stay competitive in 2022-23. Here are the five most realistic options for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at quarterback for next season and beyond.
Players who are already Buccaneers
This may not be the most exciting option and many may feel that it could be the worst. But the Buccaneers could easily go into next season with the three other quarterbacks that were on their roster last season. Besides Tom Brady, Tampa Bay had Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask, and Ryan Griffin on their roster (and practice squad) last season.
Blaine Gabbert, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay could resign veteran Blaine Gabbert to an incentivized deal similar to what other borderline backups like Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, and Jameis Winston have gotten over the past couple of years. The former first-round pick has been in Tampa Bay with Bruce Arians since 2019. Gabbert also played under Arians in Arizona in 2017. He may be enough to keep this team competitive in a weak division until second-year quarterback Kyle Trask could potentially take over.
Kyle Trask, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last year the Buccaneers surprisingly took a quarterback with their second-round pick. Tampa Bay took Florida quarterback Kyle Trask with the 64th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He was the sixth quarterback selected in that draft and the only one taken in the second round. Trask had a breakout season in his final year at Florida throwing for a school-record 48 touchdowns. He also threw for 4,283 yards and was a finalist for the Heisman. Trask gained a lot of national attention because he played on an offense with two future first-round picks at Florida in Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney.
The Buccaneers took a beating by the media when they took Trask because he was not a player who would contribute in his first season to help this team win a Super Bowl for the second straight year. However less than a year later this pick feels like a good choice because now they have a potential plan in place in the post-Tom Brady era. During the 2021 NFL Draft broadcast, NFL Network analysts asked Bruce Arians why he liked Kyle Trask and what he liked about him. Arians mentioned multiple times that he feels like Trask is the Buccaneers’ future at quarterback. It wouldn’t be shocking if Tampa Bay threw Trask ‘into the fire’ and rolled with him as their starting quarterback next season after not playing at all during the regular season this past year.
Ryan Griffin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (practice squad)
Another candidate to start for Tampa Bay next season is veteran Ryan Griffin. It would be an uphill climb for Griffin to win the starting job next season. He spent this past year on the practice squad for the Buccaneers. But the same was said for Trevor Siemian who won the starting quarterback job in Denver after Peyton Manning’s retirement. Griffin was been a part of the Buccaneers organization since 2015. So there is something about Griffin that the Buccaneers find appealing. If the Buccaneers find themselves in a situation where they don’t land a veteran and Trask isn’t ready, then Griffin is a candidate for the starting quarterback job.
Sign a bridge quarterback while Trask develops
Since the NFC South doesn’t have a clear favorite at this point, the Buccaneers may be conservative with how they invest at quarterback this offseason and feel they could still win the division. If Tampa Bay doesn’t want to make a major investment at quarterback they could bring in a bridge starter to compete with Trask and potentially be the team’s starter for the entire season. Tom Brady has shown that conservative quarterbacks could excel in Bruce Arians’ aggressive offense. Arians may want to bring in a free agent veteran capable of keeping the team in the playoff chase this year.
Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos
The best quarterback to fill this void would be Teddy Bridgewater. Over the last two seasons in Carolina and Denver, Bridgewater has proven that he is one of the 32 best quarterbacks in the NFL. However, it is unlikely that teams will win a game solely on Bridgewater’s performance that week. He is the best game manager and the best overall quarterback who will be on the market in free agency (at this point). The issue with Tampa Bay bringing in Bridgewater would be that he likely wants a multi-year deal with some level of commitment after playing for three different teams over the last three seasons. At this point, it is hard to imagine the Buccaneers making a major commitment to Bridgewater unless they have lost faith in Trask.
Andy Dalton, Chicago Bears
A quarterback who filled this exact role this past season was Andy Dalton. Last offseason the Chicago Bears signed Andy Dalton to a one-year deal to be their ‘QB1’. Being QB1 only lasted two games because rookie Justin Fields took over as the team’s starter in Week 3. It was not too long ago that Dalton was considered a without a doubt starting quarterback in the NFL. He played well during the 2020-21 season in Dallas filling in for Dak Prescott. This past season Dalton wasn’t given the largest leash. He lost his starting job because he suffered a knee injury in Week 2. Dalton could see the appeal of playing in a dynamic offense in Tampa with much better coaches, weapons, and offensive line play than he had in Chicago. Plus it may be easier to fend off Kyle Trask than it was to do Justin Fields.
Tyrod Taylor, Houston Texans
This past season veteran Tyrod Taylor did not receive enough appreciation for how well he played despite playing in a rough situation in Houston. Taylor once again showed that he is capable of being an NFL starting quarterback despite his reputation of being a backup. He could see more success in Tampa than he did in Houston This past year.
Jacoby Brissett, Miami Dolphins
Another sneaky veteran option for Tampa Bay to look at this offseason is Jacoby Brissett. In both Indianapolis and Miami, Brissett has been trusted as the starter over extended periods of time. He could be signed for a discount and the Buccaneers could play Brissett to begin the year before they transition over to Trask.
Bring back a familiar face
This offseason’s free-agent quarterbacks aren’t the best selection of players to trust for longer than a season. However, there are two quarterbacks on the market that have experience playing and starting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over a couple of seasons before they signed Tom Brady. They might feel bringing in a familiar player who has experience with this roster could result in less of a transition period and early season success that could result in a playoff birth.
Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
As soon as the Tom Brady retirement rumors started many pointed to the Buccaneers potentially bringing back Jameis Winston. For the past two years, Winston was a part of the division rival New Orleans Saints. He only started eight games during that span which were the first eight games of this season. However, Winston missed the second half of the season after suffering a torn ACL. It is unlikely that Winston will return to New Orleans after head coach Sean Payton retired earlier this offseason. Even if Payton was still with the team it was clear that he did not fit the mold of the player the Saints like at quarterback.
Tampa Bay took Winston with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. There were a lot of bumps throughout Winston’s tenure with the Buccaneers. But under head coach Bruce Arians, Winston played some of the best football in his career. During the 2019-20 season, Winston led the league in passing yards with 5,109 and was second in the league in touchdown passes with 33. However, Winston led the league with 30 interceptions.
It is common that quarterbacks throw the most interceptions in their career (to that point) in their first season under Bruce Arians. Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, and Carson Palmer are examples of quarterbacks who join Winston in that category. The only quarterback not to do so is Tom Brady. Tampa Bay could easily be a playoff team next season with Winston at quarterback if they cut his interceptions in half. It would be a challenge for the Buccaneers’ offensive staff to get the interceptions down. But it would be a challenge that could reward success to the Buccaneers in the first year in the post-Tom Brady era.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington Football Team
Another veteran quarterback with experience playing for the Buccaneers in recent years is Ryan Fitzpatrick. This past season Fitzpatrick didn’t finish the first game of the season for the Washington Football Team after suffering a hip injury. Despite not being given a fair opportunity to prove that he could be their starter this upcoming season it is likely that the team moves on from him. Tampa Bay could get the 39-year-old quarterback for a reasonable price this offseason if they wanted to sign him. Fitzpatrick was the hottest quarterback in the league in his first three games of the 2018-19 season in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers can hope that Fitzpatrick has some ‘Fitzmagic’ left in the tank to start the year before potentially bringing in Kyle Trask to start for them down the stretch.
Take a chance on a veteran starter
There is a great chance the Buccaneers get aggressive when it comes to replacing Tom Brady this offseason. This happens to potentially be a great season to trade for a quarterback in the offseason. There are a lot of capable veteran quarterbacks that could be on the move this offseason to new teams. Even if Tampa Bay doesn’t want to break the bank and unload a lot of their draft capital in a trade for a quarterback there are a couple of great options available.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
The Buccaneers have an opportunity to steal an idea from Bill Belichick this offseason. They could potentially replace Tom Brady with Jimmy Garoppolo. Back in 2014, the New England Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo with the 62nd pick in the second round to be the successor to Tom Brady. However, Brady continued to play at a high level over the duration of Garoppolo’s rookie contract. Patriots owner Robert Kraft made Bill Belichick trade Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers during the final season of his rookie deal. It worked out for New England because they won two more Super Bowls with Brady under center, including that season.
After trading up to take Trey Lance one season ago it is clear that the San Francisco 49ers are ready to move off of Jimmy Garoppolo. This year he once again proved what people already knew about Garoppolo. He will win games for a team. Garoppolo won’t be the reason why you win, he will actually put you in closer games at times with questionable throws. But Garoppolo could win 10+ wins a season getting a team to a playoff birth. He is also capable of winning big games in the playoffs.
Out of the veteran players on the trade market, Garoppolo will give teams the ‘best bang for their buck’. He could likely be acquired for a second-round pick and possibly a Day 3 pick. Tampa Bay would likely extend Garoppolo if they acquired him solidifying him as their starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. It would be almost guaranteed that Garoppolo will have some moments that will infuriate Bruce Arians. However the Buccaneers would be adding a quarterback with multiple seasons with winning records, playoff success, and a Super Bowl appearance.
Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts
For the second year in a row, Carson Wentz could potentially be on the move. This past season Carson Wentz looked a lot more like how he did earlier in his career than he did during the 2020-21 season with the Philadelphia Eagles. Behind an excellent running game, Wentz was able to limit his turnovers and make plays to keep the Colts competitive in games.
Unfortunately for Indianapolis, Wentz confirmed the idea that he tends to try to do too much in big moments that result in his teams falling short in important games. Indianapolis dropped their last two games of the season and missed the playoffs because of it. That included their Week 18 loss to Jacksonville. Following the season both general manager Chris Ballard and owner Jim Irsay were quick to restain from giving Wentz a vote of confidence as their starter next season.
Since the Indianapolis Colts gave up a package that included their first-round pick in this year’s draft to acquire Wentz last offseason, the asking price should be relatively high. It wouldn’t be shocking for Indianapolis to ask for a late first-round pick in return for Wentz. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Colts settled for a second-round pick plus another Day 2 pick in return for Wentz either. For a player with his upside, it could be worth it for a team like Tampa Bay to meet those demands to land their quarterback.
The Buccaneers could see Carson Wentz as an upgraded version of Jameis Winston. Similar to Winston, Wentz is a bigger quarterback with a strong arm that can sometimes get himself into trouble. However, Wentz has shown spurts of being a superstar player that can take over a game and is a much better athlete than Winston. Bruce Arians has shown that he is willing to live with turnovers if it means that his quarterbacks will make big plays during the duration of a game. Wentz could be the perfect quarterback to play for Arians and keep this team in the playoff picture for the next couple of seasons.
Gardner Minshew, Philadelphia Eagles
A forgotten veteran quarterback who can likely be acquired this offseason is Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew. Before the first week of the season, the Jacksonville Jaguars traded Minshew to the Philadelphia Eagles for a conditional sixth-round pick after losing the team’s quarterback competition to Trevor Lawrence. Philadelphia got a huge bargain on a quarterback who has shown throughout his career the ability to be a capable starter despite being a sixth-round pick.
Jalen Hurts has been confirmed to be the team’s starter for next season making Minshew a luxury. Minshew played well for his two starts this past season. Philadelphia can likely flip Minshew to a desperate quarterback-needy team for a third-round pick. They can also trade him for a possible starter or major contributor similar to the Jacoby Brissett-Phillip Dorsett trade that occurred in 2017.
Minshew lacks the arm strength that Arians likes his quarterbacks to have. But he is a proven starting-caliber quarterback on the trade market that could be had for relatively cheap. He is more than capable of being a 17 game starter for an NFL team and the Buccaneers may ask that of Minshew if they acquired him.
Go all-in on an MVP caliber quarterback
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
There are two quarterbacks that will potentially be available on the trade market that is a perfect fit for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense and neither is Aaron Rodgers. It is easy to name Aaron Rodgers as a fit in Tampa Bay but it isn’t likely for a few reasons.
First of all, it doesn’t make sense financially. Rodgers has a $46.7 million cap hit for next season. It is unlikely Tampa Bay will want to take on that cap hit with so many valuable starters hitting free agency. Also, it is unlikely Green Bay would do Tampa Bay a solid by eating a majority of his cap hit this season because they need to retain valuable free agents as well this offseason.
The second reason is the Packers will not send Rodgers to a team they played in the NFC Championship just a season ago. The evidence of this was how Packers responded to the 49ers trade speculation prior to the 2021 NFL Draft. Green Bay also played San Francisco in the NFC Championship a year prior to that.
Finally, Aaron Rodgers will not likely end up in Tampa Bay because he definitely doesn’t want to play there. Initially, people may think Rodgers would want to join the loaded roster that sent him home in the playoffs and won the Super Bowl about a year ago. But would Rodgers really want to be the successor to Tom Brady who defeated him twice a season ago during the regular season and NFC Championship? Immediate success in Tampa Bay will not help Rodgers’ legacy because the team had won it all before he got there. Also, he would run the risk of failing to win in Tampa Bay which would do more harm to his legacy than winning in Tampa Bay would.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
The elite quarterback that would be a perfect fit in Tampa Bay is Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. After finishing the season 7-10 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2017, it appeared that major changes could occur in Seattle. However, Seattle plans on not making a major change at head coach or at quarterback. This could lead to drama in Seattle this offseason because of the tension that is growing between Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll.
It seems every year that Wilson is growing more frustrated with Pete Carroll’s coaching philosophy and the lack of success that has come with it in recent years. Seattles’ defense is nowhere near the elite unit it was during the Legion of Boom era and has put Wilson in a position where he has to carry the team to wins throughout the season. When this occurs Wilson tends to get tired and slow down around the halfway point. By the end of the season, Wilson is out of the MVP race completely and the Seahawks go 0-1 in the playoffs. This past year was the exception where Seattle missed the playoffs entirely.
The Seahawks got a good glimpse of how their team looks without Wilson on the field when he suffered a broken finger early in the season. It was safe to say that a Seahawks team without Wilson was one of the worst teams in the league on a consistent basis. This should have been extremely eye-opening to Pete Carroll, Seattles’ executives, and Russell Wilson. However, no major changes have been made to put Wilson and the team in a better position to succeed. If nothing happens it is likely that Wilson demands a trade out of Seattle
For the second time in three years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can take advantage of a deteriorating relationship between an old-fashioned head coach and star quarterback who have won a Super Bowl together. The price for Wilson on the trade market will not be cheap. If Matthew Stafford was traded for two first-round picks and a starting quarterback then Wilson’s price should start at three first-round picks. Tampa Bay could offer Seattle their next three first-round picks, 2021 first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, and 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask. They should do everything in their power to not give up Devin White or Tristan Wirfs in the deal. If Wilson demands a trade it is hard to imagine Seattle saying no to that deal.
Going from Seattle to Tampa Bay would be a dream for Russell Wilson. He would be leaving a conservative run-first coach in Pete Carroll to a pass-happy offensively aggressive coach in Bruce Arians. The ‘Let Russ Cook’ movement would finally end because that is all Bruce Arians would let him do. Arians’ offense is one of the most pass-heavy in the league. Finally, Wilson could be a legitimate MVP candidate that isn’t forced to play conservative football when the weather gets cold. Wilson would join a retooled recent Super Bowl champion that should easily make the playoffs in 2022-23 and beyond.
A dangerous weapon at quarterback in Wilson in an offense in Tampa that prides itself on being explosive with dynamic plays downfield in the passing game could be dangerous for the rest of the league. Wilson could unlock his true potential behind a better offensive line and with weapons about as talented as he had in Seattle. Tampa Bay would once again emerge as the favorite to win the NFC next season.
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
The biggest quarterback wildcard this offseason is Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. The former Pro Bowl quarterback sat out the entire 2021-22 season due to the combination of off-the-field issues and the refusal to play for the Houston Texans. After the off-the-field allegations were made against Watson the Texans made it clear they are ready to move off him and go in another direction at quarterback.
Many would shake their head at the Buccaneers adding Watson to their roster because of the Antonio Brown drama they just had to deal with. However by bringing in Antonio Brown in the first place it is clear that this organization could overlook a controversial past to give a player a second chance allowing that player to help them win.
There is so much that needs to be figured out with Watson off the field before he lands with a team. But if that gets figured out Watson should be among the if not the highest prioritized quarterback in the league this offseason by quarterback-needy teams. It is easy to forget that before this past season Watson was without a doubt a top-10 quarterback talent in the league that could carry an offense.
Watson could likely be had cheaper than Russell Wilson. It would likely cost a team similar to what the Los Angeles Rams traded for Matthew Stafford to acquire Watson. The Buccaneers may want to add a younger quarterback than Wilson in Watson that will not cost as much to acquire.
He would absolutely thrive in Bruce Arians’ offense and be one of the top-tier quarterbacks in the NFC. Tampa Bay would almost be guaranteed a playoff birth with Watson as their starter. Depending on how this roster would be constructed next season with Watson as the quarterback the Buccaneers could very well be Super Bowl contenders.