Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady elevated a talented roster into a Super Bowl champion and one of the elite NFL teams for two seasons. With the future Hall of Famer retired, it’s time for the Buccaneers to find a new quarterback.
The franchise entered the offseason knowing some losses were coming with several impact starters hitting the open market. But with Brady walking off into the sunset, that loss dwarfs everything else.
Finding Brady’s replacement will be a challenge. Tampa Bay isn’t in a great spot with the 2022 salary cap and there are needs opening up on the roster. But a great coaching staff, offensive line and two great weapons make it the perfect landing spot for many passers.
Let’s examine five potential quarterback options for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Teddy Bridgewater, free agent
Bruce Arians already said that Tampa Bay will look into signing a quarterback if Brady retired. It’s the most logical outcome considering trading for a signal-caller would deplete this team of valuable draft picks. However, the top 2022 NFL free agents at the position are led by Mitchell Trubisky, Cam Newton, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston.
As Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times points out, the Buccaneers did an extensive evaluation on Bridgewater in the 2020 offseason. Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen played a big part in that and with the 2022 free-agent QB class weak, Bridgewater would hold an edge.
Tampa Bay could do a lot worse than Bridgewater. He’s a limited passer, often unwilling to throw 20-plus yards downfield, but there are starting-caliber qualities. According to Pro Football Focus, Bridgewater finished with the fifth-highest QB rating (107.8) on short throws and the second-highest QB rating (111.7) on passes behind the line of scrimmage. Keep in mind, 17.7% of Brady’s throws went behind the LOS and 42.6% were within 10 yards in 2021.
It’s an obvious downgrade, but this pairing could benefit both sides. Bridgewater would play behind an elite offensive line with Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans able to make plays for him. Arians would also know how to scheme up an offense to fit Bridgewater’s strengths. The steady play without a high turnover rate would be all Tampa Bay needs to win the NFC South.
Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders quarterback
If the Bucs are open to making a quarterback trade, there are great options available. But there’s also a problem for Tampa Bay. Barring an overwhelming offer made by general manager Jason Licht, the Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers) and Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson) likely won’t trade their star to a top NFC team.
Enter Derek Carr. The Las Vegas Raiders seem open to trading him every offseason and that’s even more likely with a new regime coming in. While there are plenty of fans down on the 30-year-old quarterback, he could thrive with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Carr finished 2021 with an 84.1 QB rating throwing deep, behind Brady (97.9), but he posted a higher passer rating on intermedia throws (113.5 vs. 96.1) and right behind him in a clean pocket (109.1 vs 106.7). The latter is important because Tampa Bay’s offensive line (124 pressures allowed) is significantly better than the Raiders (214 pressures allowed).
An opportunity to play in Arians’ scheme with elite weapons around could mark Carr a darkhorse NFL MVP candidate next year. As for the Bucs, if their roster stays healthy, they would at least have a shot to win the NFC.
Marcus Mariota, free agent
As we mentioned, signing a quarterback is far likelier for Tampa Bay than a trade. The options aren’t great, but there are some intriguing gambles Arians could make. Marcus Mariota is one of the most intriguing options, especially since he should be an affordable sign.
We haven’t seen an extended look at Mariota since the 2019 season, when he started six games for the Tennessee Titans. The organization made the right call benching him in favor of Ryan Tannehill, but there is still some talent that could be unlocked here.
- Marcus Maritoa stats (2016-’19): 63.1% completion rate, 57-34 TD-INT ratio, 203.7 pass ypg, 89.1 QB rating
Mariota posted a 123.3 QB rating in 2019 on intermediate throws, but he struggled on passes behind the first-down marker (36th in QB rating). But it’s also important to note he finished with the fifth-highest QB rating on play-action (127.6). The offensive weapons and pass protection in Tampa Bay, paired with a strong rushing attack, could help him be a steady option for Tampa Bay if necessary. At the very least, he offers more than Blaine Gabbert.
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
There could be a buy-low opportunity for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s evident the Browns don’t feel nearly as confident in Baker Mayfield as before. If the front office is going to explore options to upgrade this offseason, they’ll need draft picks. A deal with Tampa Bay could work.
Mayfield’s inconsistency in 2021 can’t really be blamed on the offensive line. But it’s also fair to say that Brady’s weapons (Godwin, Evans, Gronkowski and Antonio Brown) would push every Browns’ pass-catcher to the bench. The numbers also prove Mayfield can throw to any level of the field, if he’s healthy and makes the correct reads.
A new environment could be exactly what he needs to turn things around. The Buccaneers have proven they are a fantastic landing spot for quarterbacks and a trade to Tampa Bay would be the best-case scenario for Mayfield. If things work out, he’ll receive the franchise tag in 2023. If not, the Bucs would have ample cap space for a 2023 free-agent crop that includes Carr, Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers trade for Jimmy Garoppolo
This makes sense to an extent. Garoppolo held his season-ending press conference with the 49ers following their loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game. In said presser, the quarterback expressed confidence that San Francisco’s brass will work with his camp to find a trade partner. With San Francisco set to go with Trey Lance next season, a trade is inevitable.
With the Bucs still in win-now mode, adding a veteran on the cheap would make sense. We’re likely looking at two second-round picks or something similar heading to the 49ers in a trade. Despite his limited game, Garoppolo boasts a career 37-16 record as a starter, playoff included.