Less than a year after signing with them, Tom Brady helped lift the Buccaneers from mediocrity to NFL champions. Now that Brady has officially retired, Tampa Bay once again finds itself in the market for someone to fill the sports’ most importation position.
It’s incredibly far-fetched to think the Buccaneers’ next quarterback will have the same impact Brady had. The Buccaneers surely know that, but doesn’t mean that Tampa won’t try to find the best available person to succeed the seven-time Super Bowl champion, who in just three seasons added to his long list of career goals by becoming the best quarterback in Buccaneers history.
Blaine Gabbert and 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask are the two remaining quarterbacks on the Buccaneers’ roster. Gabbert, 33, is a journeyman who was good enough to beat out Trask for No. 2 on the depth chart last year. While Gabbert is a solid player, the fact that Trask wasn’t able to supplant him on the depth chart is not a promising sign.
Gabbert is set to be a free agent, but given his likely affordability and Todd Bowles’ glittering praise of him, it seems highly likely that the Buccaneers will re-sign him. Trask will likely be back, too, given he has two years left on his rookie contract.
With two quarterbacks already in tow, Tampa Bay will probably acquire two other quarterbacks. The team could sign a “camp arm” and someone who will compete to be the starting quarterback. But the more likely scenario is Tampa Bay drafting a quarterback and signing a veteran to compete for the starting job.
The Buccaneers have a blueprint for how to replace a Hall of Fame quarterback should they choose to mimic what the Steelers did last year in finding Ben Roethlisberger’s successor. While it wasn’t without some speed bumps, Pittsburgh did ultimately find Roethlisberger’s successor in 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett while also finding a more than capable backup in free agent signee Mitch Trubisky.
Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater and Jimmy Garoppolo headline the list of possible options in free agency. Acquiring one of the above players would give the Buccaneers a proven veteran who at the least would provide competition for Gabbert and Trask. Like Trubisky did for the Steelers, a veteran quarterback could also serve as a temporary placeholder.
As far as the 2023 NFL Draft is concerned, Tampa Bay is expected to use the 19th overall pick on a position other than quarterback — three of CBS Sports’ draft experts have it using a pick on a safety. Don’t expect the Buccaneers to take a quarterback in the first round unless Florida’s Anthony Richardson falls to them.
This takes us to Day 2 of the draft, which is where the Buccaneers — owners of the 50th and 82nd overall picks — will likely add a fourth quarterback into the mix. The issue, however, is there is only one quarterback who is currently slated to be a Day 2 pick: Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker.
Hooker, who finished fifth in this past year’s Heisman Trophy voting, is currently tabbed as CBS Sports’ 71st-best draft prospect, which means the Buccaneers selecting him with the 50th pick would technically be a reach. It’s a reach, however, the Buccaneers will likely make to ensure getting the best quarterback, who will likely still be available at that point in the draft.
There’s another, more splashy route the Buccaneers could go: acquiring Derek Carr, who was just added to the AFC’s Pro Bowl squad despite being benched during what was his final year with the Raiders. In theory, Carr and the Buccaneers are the perfect marriage. They need a quarterback, and Carr is surely motivated to show he is still a high-level quarterback who can help a team win a championship.
In Carr, the Buccaneers would get a still relatively young 31-year-old player who has shown he is capable of leading a team to the playoffs. There are a few roadblocks here: Carr is still under contract and, given that he will be the top available quarterback, there will likely be competition to acquire his services. The Buccaneers’ best bet here is Carr getting waived and choosing to become Brady’s successor. Carr doesn’t seem like one to back down from a challenge, so the prospect of this happening isn’t out of the question.
Brady’s retirement officially marks the end of a short albeit glorious era in Buccaneers history. But while Brady is gone, the franchise still has a solid roster that includes players who helped it climb to the mountaintop just two years ago. There’s work to be done, but the Buccaneers can get back to being a title contender again, especially if they handle their new quarterback situation the right way.