The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still clinging to hope that Tom Brady unretires. If the greatest quarterback in NFL history doesn’t return, though, the Buccaneers will reportedly join the mix of teams pursuing a blockbuster trade for either Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson.
Tampa Bay doesn’t have time for 2020 second-round pick Kyle Trask to develop. Bruce Arians turns 70 in October and is likely in the final years of his legendary coaching career. Furthermore, the Buccaneers roster is built to win immediately and Brady set much higher expectations for a level of quarterback play and consistency this franchise expects.
In a win-now window, there are only a few quarterbacks who could help the Buccaneers remain Super Bowl contenders. Aaron Rodgers is the best option, but the Green Bay Packers are optimistic he returns. So, that leaves two other high-end arm talents to pursue on the trade market.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that the Buccaneers are doing extensive homework on Deshaun Watson. Additionally, Tampa Bay is expected to be one of the teams exploring a potential Russell Wilson trade.
Both quarterbacks offer different complicating factors that Tampa Bay would need to work through. Notably, the difference in phrasing from NFL Network’s sources on Watson and Wilson also hints at how the organization will approach both options.
Why Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson pursuits both offer challenges for Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Watson is still facing 22 civil suits stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct and assault. Meanwhile, he is also going up against 10 criminal complaints and investigations by the FBI, NFL and Houston Police Department. While everything will be resolved this offseason, the conclusion will also likely end in a multi-game suspension.
The Buccaneers haven’t needed to think about Watson or the numerous allegations against him until now. But with Brady likely gone, the organization needs to conduct its own thorough examination on the information publicly available and through whatever it can discover calling around the league.
However, the Texans will be trading him in March. Knowing that he will move, even if it means trading three future first-round picks and additional young assets, is something Tampa Bay can bank on.
There are no off-field issues for Tampa Bay to be concerned about with Wilson. If he becomes available, he can be the face of a franchise for the next three seasons and would play at a high level. But he isn’t certain about leaving the Seattle Seahawks and the organization won’t answer trade inquiries from other teams unless Wilson demands a trade.
There’s another factor working against Tampa Bay. Other teams in the market for Wilson and Watson (Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers) can offer a top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and premium Day 2 selections. The Buccaneers’ draft picks will be at the end of each round, meaning Seattle or Houston will want even more compensation.
Fortunately, the Bucs don’t have to rush into a decision. They’ll do background work on every potential quarterback option available this offseason, buying time until Brady makes a final decision. If he sticks to retirement, then Tampa Bay can move to its backup plan.