Potential Tom Brady replacements this offseason
By: Jake Rajala
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady surprisingly found his exit from the 2022 playoffs during the divisional round weekend. Brady, who has enjoyed a more successful NFL career than any player in the history of the game, has the most polarizing offseason of his career leading up to this point.
It’s unclear if the GOAT will chase another Lombardi trophy next season or call it a career. Brady spoke on his podcast “Let’s Go” about his thoughts revolving around his family and his passion for playing football. Brady expressed to his co-host Jim Gray, “Playing football, I get so much joy from it. I love it. But not playing football, there’s a lot of joy in that for me now with my kids getting older seeing them develop and grow. So all these things need to be considered and will be”.
It does appear like there’s a strong likelihood that Brady hangs up the cleats at 44 years old. If TB12 steps away from football, it will leave a massive hole on at the Bucs QB spot. The NFL world witnessed the Buccaneers old offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich arrive on the Jacksonville Jaguars doorstep with a near-perfect chance of being the Jags next head coach. If Bruce Arians loses his offensive coordinator and QB, it could be an enormous obstacle for the 2021 NFC South winners to overcome.
With that said, who particularly will be asked to fill in the shoes of the potential 2021 MVP if he departs? The 2021 first round draft pick Kyle Trask could be the favorite, but he will surely welcome competition. Well, I’m going to outline several candidates excluding Trask that could attempt to obtain the Bucs starting gig in 2022.
- Trade for Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield
I don’t foresee the Buccaneers rebuilding if Brady shifts his career focus elsewhere. Assuming Arians stays in charge, I for sure wouldn’t anticipate the Super Bowl-winning HC to pull the plug on the operation. I’d love to see the Bucs make a trade for a talented, young QB that can fit into Bruce Arians throw it around the yard offense. The acquisition of the gutsy Baker Mayfield may be a wise pickup for Arians. Mayfield isn’t only a champion of confidence and trash-talking, but he has an arm that makes the passes consistently required from the Buccaneers offensive playbook. In the 2020 season, Mayfield showed off his arm strength with the longest pass in NFL history.
The Browns QB threw a modest 26 passing touchdowns in 2020 and 27 passing touchdowns as a rookie in 2018. Mayfield took a step back in 2021, but it didn’t help that they shipped out Odell Beckham Jr. late in the season. Whether or not OBJ was an ailment in the scheme, he won’t have any issues with needing to feed Mike Evans the ball more than necessary. Arians has shown that he isn’t scared to ignore or cut players that can be distractions, too.
The Bucs will more than likely not be able to obtain Russell Wilson, plus it may not be wise to send the house for such a profile. The Wilson sweepstakes aren’t the be-all and end-all prize, too. Baker is also several years younger than Wilson and more than a decade younger than a QB like Aaron Rodgers.
Arians knows that he has a talented roster surrounding the QB situation and that he has a leg up on the three opposing NFC South teams. Arians can keep the gas on the pedal and find NFC South dominance and Super Bowl potential with Mayfield with the keys to the black and red Lamborghini.
2. Trade for Philadelphia Eagles QB Gardner Minshew
A Buccaneers trade for Gardner Minshew may seem safe and they would cough up less compensation with a push for Minshew compared to Mayfield. Minshew doesn’t have the same juice that Mayfield outputs, but he has some positive tools and lots of fire in him.
The Eagles QB impressively broke all sorts of Jaguars records with 21 touchdowns, 3,271 passing yards, and only 6 interceptions in 14 games as a rookie. Nonetheless, Minshew fell ill to the Jaguars prize of a first overall selection. The draft pick of Trevor Lawrence sent the quality and young Minshew packing from Florida.
Minshew doesn’t have a ceiling like Josh Allen or Mayfield clearly, but he can make a few splash plays and commit very few turnovers for a team. Minshew does also have injury issues that aren’t sexy for a player that isn’t quite proven. He wouldn’t be the perfect fit for Arians, nor would he appear to be a long-term fit. Still, Minshew could compete with Kyle Trask for the starting gig in 2022 and 2023.
3. Teddy Bridgewater – Denver Broncos
The free-agent pickings at QB for Tampa Bay are honestly slim in 2022. Jameis Winston will remain in New Orleans or sign with any team other than his ex-Buccaneers squad. The soon-to-be FA Marcus Mariota will be a diamond in the rough, but he doesn’t fit the Buccaneers scheme. I’d expect Mariota to go to the Packers, Jets, or a team that has a friendly scheme for him. The focus from BA (Bruce Arians) could switch to the crafty Teddy Bridgewater.
Arians witnessed Bridgewater’s efficiency and arm talent when Teddy B filled in for Drew Brees in 2019. The former Saints QB went 5-0 for Sean Payton and it clearly left a big impression on spectators and the NFC South. Matt Rhule gave Bridgewater an opportunity in 2020, but Bridgewater flamed out of Carolina and its Christian McCaffrey-less offense. McCaffrey was of course injured for much of the 2020 season.
Bridgewater struggled in CAR, but clearly showed improvement in a Denver Broncos uniform. The Broncos QB threw 18 passing touchdowns, 3,052 passing yards, and had a modest 7-7 record. Bridgewater is clearly improving his all-around skillset at 29 years old.
It would be ideal if Bridgewater took a prove-it deal and a trip to Tampa may be very tempting. Bridgewater could be added to compete for the starting gig regardless of a rookie QB or veteran excluding Mayfield.
4. Nick Foles – Chicago Bears
The addition of Nick Foles wouldn’t be sexy, but it could be a nice value pickup. If the Bucs add Foles, I believe it would be best if they make sure they have confidence in Trask to potentially start. Nonetheless, Foles has some gifts and playoff experience.
Foles isn’t completely washed up or a journeyman at this point in his career. He had some 4th quarter magic with the Bears last season and it wasn’t terribly long ago when he won the Super Bowl with Philly (2018).
The Bucs tower over the teams in the NFC South and it should be expected that they can reach the playoffs with a modest QB performance out of Foles in the regular season. The Saints, Falcons, and Panthers will all have serious question marks at their QB situation. Foles can take care of the football and hit the talented WRs down the field routinely. He will still have a superb and intact defense to complement him. Furthermore, they may be able to capture more playoff gold and victory in tight game situations if they magic from Nick Foles.
5. Tyrod Taylor – Houston Texans
Tyrod does check a couple of boxes. He is a quality backup QB and he can make production happen via his legs. Still, Taylor isn’t the most attractive fit for Arians’s offense. With some tweaking, Arians could then meet Taylor halfway.
Taylor showed out with the Bills Mafia in 2017, where he led them to a winning record. He also was supposed to be the starter in Los Angeles, until a medical job on him went haywire and he experienced an unfortunate injury. Taylor could make plays with his legs and big arm while taking care of the football and letting the defense be an elite unit.
Taylor is 32 years old, which is just a year older than the talented dual-threat Taysom Hill. Taylor could be an effective rotational QB like Hill if the Bucs opt to ride with a different veteran QB or Trask.
6. Joe Flacco – New York Jets
The Jets QB Joe Flacco also referred to as “Joe Cool”, hasn’t found superb success since winning a Super Bowl, recording insane playoff victories, and winning Super Bowl MVP. Flacco is also 0-5 over the past two seasons, so it’s clear that the football gods haven’t treated Flacco nicely.
Flacco is clearly on his last legs as an NFL player, but he has been hanging in there over the past few seasons. Flacco, who stands at 6’6, could be a quality QB2 behind Trask and someone that could big plays.
Flacco isn’t a starting QB, but he could be a nice fit as a QB2 and mentor to Trask. Although, he really could be a better version of Chad Henne (Chiefs backup QB).
7. Trade for Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr
I would be utterly surprised if the Raiders shop Derek Carr, so he falls at seven on this list. Yet, if Carr is on the used car lot, it would be a dream match for Arians to notch the talented AFC QB. Carr could really see his ability come to fruition if he’s in the Bucs offense.
Carr threw for a career-high 4,804 yards in 2021 and that number would look a lot different if his weaponry went from Desean Jackson and Bryan Edwards to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Carr is a free agent in 2023, so there’s some uncertainty on whether or not he will be a part of the Raiders long-term plans, but his 2021 season should silence that question for at least another season. Still, BA could make an unexpected mega-deal for a QB that fits his long-term vision the best and it might be Carr.
Jameis Winston – New Orleans Saints
Jameis Winston would be the ultimate wild-card signing for Arians. It may seem that Winston could hold a grudge against the Bucs, but he did show a lot of maturity for choosing to go to the Saints as a backup QB. He may decide to throw away any beef with the Bucs and accept that a great fit is in place. It’s worth noting that he will have a better roster on his side. The QB that once threw for the most passing yards and passing touchdowns went to New Orleans to fix his turnover issues. He could make a return to TB as the new and improved former Buccaneers first overall pick.
Trade for Denver Broncos QB Drew Lock
The Buccaneers could see a low-risk high reward asset in Drew Lock. The young Broncos QB, who was outplayed by Teddy Bridgewater, was once seen as a QB with a plethora of potential in 2019, where he shined in limited game time. He went 4-1 while throwing 7 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. I’d fully expect Minshew to be the QB that’s sought out if a QB that isn’t overly talented is lobbied for. Lock is a QB that could be capable of taking the starting gig away from Kyle Trask, nonetheless.
Trade for Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan
The Atlanta Falcons could begin to rebuild, so they may view pardoning the very expensive Matt Ryan. The Falcons veteran QB isn’t the Matty Ice we once knew, but he is far from washed up. The 36-year-old QB threw for 4,400+ yards in 2020 and 2021. Ryan witnessed his old long-time buddy Julio Jones leave prior to the 2021 season and then his new WR1 Calvin Ridley unexpectedly retired early in the season. The combination of Ryan playing in the same division as the Bucs (NFC South) and price tag could make a trade very unlikely, but the Falcons might be desperate and BA could then take advantage of it.