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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' grand plan for quarterback Kyle Trask has hit a snag | Whitley

Baker Mayfield, playing for the Rams, looks to pass against the Seahawks in January.
Baker Mayfield, playing for the Rams, looks to pass against the Seahawks in January.

With Tom Brady presumably retired for good, the Bucs unveiled the likely heir to their quarterback throne this week.

It wasn’t Kyle Trask.

It was Baker Mayfield, who’s been on four teams in the past nine months. That’s one more than the number of passes Trask has completed in the past two years with Tampa Bay.

If you know anything about Trask, this latest development is both expected and surprising.

Expected, because Trask has always been the underdog just waiting for a chance to shine. Surprising, because that chance was supposed to be now.

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At least if you subscribe to the Bucs' grand QB plan. Remember that?

Win a Super Bowl or two with Brady. Spend a second-round draft pick on Trask. Let him serve an apprenticeship under the GOAT for a couple of years.

When Brady rides off into the sunset, install Trask as the first ex-Gator to start at quarterback for Tampa Bay since Steve Spurrier in 1976.

"We’re very excited about Kyle," general manager Jason Licht said last month. "We’re very excited about him getting the opportunity to be the starter. We’d be very comfortable with that.”

Then free agency opened last week, and they signed the NFL’s leading vagabond?

“He's a young veteran with good upside who should thrive in our new offensive system,” Licht said of Mayfield.

Future not bright for Trask in Tampa Bay

You don’t have to work for Lipton to read these tea leaves.

Jan 8, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Trask (2) throws a pass against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 8, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Trask (2) throws a pass against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs can say they’re excited about the opportunity before Trask. As for him actually becoming the starter, that thought does not make them very comfortable.

To which longtime Trask observers would say, “Give him a chance, and you’ll get comfortable!”

That’s been the vibe around Gainesville for two years. Trask’s fans recall a guy who didn’t start a game after the 9th grade, then was thrust into that role after Feleipe Franks dislocated his ankle in the third game of the 2019 season.

They still marvel at how quickly Trask morphed into a Heisman candidate, tossing 43 touchdowns in the 2020 season. They thought his career arc would meld perfectly with Tampa Bay’s grand plan.

“Kyle has always been that kind of slow, steady developer,” ex-QB coach Clyde Christensen said last year. “And I think this follows in line with exactly that. I see it more as a learning year.”

It was okay to see Year 1 as that, which is why Tampa Bay signed journeyman Blaine Gabbert as Brady’s backup. When they brought Gabbert back in Year 2, it became apparent the plan wasn’t going all that grand.

Trask needs to move better in the pocket

The knock on Trask is he’s a cement-footed pocket passer stuck in an increasingly mobile QB world. He needs the protection offered by a great offensive line. Those are hard to come by, as Brady could attest after last year’s bruise-fest.

Trask’s “arm talent” is also suspect. That’s not an issue with Mayfield.

The concerns have been more his “cockiness talent” and inability to live up to the hype. He’s gone from Cleveland and being No. 1 draft pick in 2018 to losing his job to somebody named P.J. Walker last year in Carolina.

Mayfield’s bravado hasn’t been totally false. He led Cleveland to the playoffs in 2020 but had to play with a bad shoulder the next year.

Cleveland brought in Deshaun Watson and his team of massage therapists. Mayfield was shipped to Carolina right before training camp, then the Rams claimed him off waivers for the final month of the season.

At Monday’s introductory press conference, Mayfield presented himself as older, wiser and raring to go.

“I've grown a lot,” he said. “I appreciate all the things that have happened throughout my journey. It's helped me get here today.”

Mayfield low-risk deal for the Bucs

Mayfield signed a one-year deal for $4 million. It could increase to $8.5 million if he meets incentives. Either way, it’s a low-risk deal for Tampa Bay.

It also should make it easier for Trask. Unlike with Brady, the organization hasn’t sunk a ton of capital and prestige into one quarterback. In theory, Trask and Mayfield will compete for the job.

“Kyle and I are going to push each other no matter what else happens,” Mayfield said. “And I think we’re going to make the most of it.”

Mayfield’s proven he can be a good NFL quarterback. He’s proven he can be a bad NFL quarterback. All Trask has proven is he’s patient and can keep whatever secrets Brady might have told him about Giselle.

But the GOAT is gone, and Trask finally has a chance to show the world he's a viable replacement. If the Grand Plan is going to get back on track, now’s the time to do it.

David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Baker Mayfield signing shows Tampa Bay Bucs doubt Kyle Trask can start