For the third year in a row, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one of the most coveted quarterback situations in the entire NFL, thanks to the presence of Tom Brady.
That’s not likely to be the case next season, as Brady’s contract will be up after the 2022 campaign, and all signs continue to point to this being the GOAT’s last hurrah.
This leaves the Bucs with a massive question mark at the game’s most important position heading into 2023.
Who could be the answer?
Here are their best options:
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We’ll start with the least likely dream scenario. Yes, Jackson is technically set to become a free agent after this season, but the Ravens can place the franchise tag on the former league MVP for the next two years. They’d obviously be wise to do so, considering Jackson’s ridiculous success and rare skill set.
If, however, they’d prefer to entertain trade offers from other teams instead of using the tag or giving Jackson a huge contract extension, the Bucs would be wise to see what it would take.
Yes, Tampa Bay would have to do some serious work with their awful salary cap situation to make a new contract for Jackson work, and it would cost multiple first-round picks and more. But if all of those planets aligned, this would be a grand slam for the Bucs.
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Another unlikely scenario, but since Smith is on a one-year deal, he’ll have the opportunity to see what he’s worth on the open market after his impressive resurgence this season in Seattle.
It’s obviously much more likely that the Seahawks keep him with a well-deserved extension (and a healthy raise), but if he somehow hits free agency, it’s hard to imagine a better destination for Smith than Tampa Bay, considering the talent the Bucs will still have on offense next season.
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A more realistic option if the Bucs want to go the veteran route in free agency, Brissett has quietly put together a solid 2022 campaign as the Browns’ placeholder during Deshaun Watson’s 11-game suspension.
He just led Cleveland to a comeback win in overtime against the Bucs, proving he can make clutch plays with the game on the line.
He might not have a sky-high ceiling, but he might be Tampa Bay’s most economical option if they don’t want to stay in-house.
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Jimmy G’s name was floated for the Bucs last offseason, before Brady decided to return for another year. Instead, Garoppolo went back to the 49ers as the veteran backup to Trey Lance, but was thrust back into the starting job after Lance suffered a season-ending injury.
Garoppolo has been his usual game-managing self ever since, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a 49ers team that leans heavily on their defense and a vast array of dynamic offensive weapons. He knows how to distribute the ball and take advantage of the talent around him.
He’d have plenty of talent around him in Tampa Bay, but his skill set would b an odd fit in the Bucs’ current vertical-heavy passing game. He won’t be cheap, either, especially if he leads the 49ers on another deep playoff run.
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Let’s face it, the Bucs’ salary cap situation for next year looks horrific, so they’re going to have to save money wherever they can. Trask still has two more years left on his cheap, second-round rookie contract, making him Tampa Bay’s cheapest solution here.
It’s hard to know what Trask is capable of at this point, considering he’s been a healthy scratch for all but one game of his entire Bucs career up to this point. But he’s had plenty of time to learn the offense, and soak up knowledge from the best to ever play the position.
This might be a last-resort situation if the Bucs just can’t afford anything better. Or maybe, they’ll at least want to see what they have in their 2021 second-round pick.
(AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
If the Bucs want to go with familiarity, but they’re still not ready to hand the job to Trask, Gabbert would give them a veteran with tons of experience in this offense.
He’d want a raise if he’s going to be the starter, but he’d likely come cheaper than any of Tampa Bay’s other veteran options in free agency.
It looked like Gabbert and Trask were going to be Tampa Bay’s fallback plan this year anyway if Brady had stayed retired. Next year, that might be a reality.
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It still feels like a longshot that Brady plays another year of football, but if he does, would he really prefer to go somewhere else and start all over? Another new offense to learn, more new teammates to build chemistry with?
If Brady wants to keep playing, Tampa Bay still makes the most sense. It would still be a challenge from a salary cap standpoint, but the Bucs have made that side of things work up to this point, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they figured out a way to keep kicking the can down the road.
Plenty has gone wrong for the Bucs this season, particularly on offense, but Brady’s play hasn’t been anywhere near the top of their list of problems. Sure he’s missed a few reads and made some bad throws here and there, but he’s still the GOAT. If he wants to play another year, the Bucs should be just as eager as they’ve always been to let him do it in Tampa Bay.
Rookie Draft Pick
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Considering the fact that Trask couldn’t even beat out Gabbert for the backup job this year, it’s possible the Bucs have some buyer’s remorse, and wouldn’t be sold on him being their starter heading into his third NFL season with no regular-season experience.
If the Bucs like their potential options better in the first round of the 2023 draft, they could easily go that route instead of hoping Trask can be “the guy.”
If they end up picking somewhere near the back half of the first round, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, Washington State’s Cameron Ward, and Florida’s Anthony Richardson could all be on their short list of options.
Best of the Rest
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Here are some other veteran options the Bucs might target in free agency, should their other plans fall through: