The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will look quite different when the 2023 season kicks off. They enter the offseason well over the cap and have already lost quarterback Tom Brady. More roster moves are coming, as the Buccaneers are $56 million in the red.
Brady’s retirement leaves a massive hole on this veteran roster. With 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask as the only other quarterback on the roster, the team is starting to plant seeds that he’ll be their guy in 2023. Trask has attempted only nine passes over the past two seasons.
Despite this, new offensive coordinator Dave Canales communicated his belief in Trask’s ability to play “point guard” in the team’s talented offense during his introductory press conference:
“I really liked him [Trask] coming out (of college),” Canales said Wednesday, via team transcript. “If you look at some of the skill position players he had there, Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney, who had the big return in the Super Bowl, Dameon Pierce. He was able to distribute, and the thing we’re going to help Kyle continue to build on here is to just be a point guard. Point guards don’t have to be the one that scores all the points. You just distribute. Play on time, get the ball out of your hands. Life’s better that way when you do that.”
The Buccaneers continued to publicly back Trask this week. NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington conveyed that Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht feels “Trask is the best quarterback in the division” (H/T to BroBible’s Dov Kleiman).
Though I don’t see it with Trask, he’ll have his shot to earn the starting job in 2023. With veteran backup Blaine Gabbert set to hit free agency, the Buccaneers can either chase someone to start over Trask or a lesser option who can push him but not be clearly better.
We have four quarterbacks the team should consider bringing in on a cheap deal to help Trask develop into more than just a stopgap for this season.
Free Agent QBs Who Can Help Buccaneers QB Kyle Trask
Drew Lock, Seattle Seahawks
Canales joined the Buccaneers after 13 seasons in Seattle. The last of which, of course, he spent coaching Drew Lock. Lock appeared to be headed toward winning the Seahawks’ starting job before an ill-timed bout with COVID during training camp. Geno Smith was able to run away with the opportunity with a shocking outbreak season.
Lock is now a free agent and could land on his third team in as many seasons. Just 26 years old, Lock has a cannon for an arm and is athletic enough to get outside of the pocket. But he never mastered his accuracy (59.3% completion rate) or his decision-making (25 touchdowns to 20 interceptions in 24 games).
Since this is Canales’ first time calling plays, adding a familiar face to the mix might be a good idea. Maybe Lock was set to shine before Smith removed any doubt of who was better. If nothing else, he’s a scratch-off lottery ticket who can push Trask to really fight for his starting job.
Andy Dalton, New Orleans Saints
The Buccaneers could replace the NFL’s oldest quarterback in Brady with someone 10 years younger in Andy Dalton. Though young compared to Brady, the 35-year-old Dalton is certainly at the tail end of his career. He’s played for a different franchise in each of the last four seasons, producing just enough to justify being a high-end backup.
Adding some wisdom to challenge but also help Trask would be wise. Dalton already filled the mentor role during his one-year in Chicago when Justin Fields was a rookie. Fields lauded Dalton’s professionalism on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take Podcast, saying:
“Andy’s amazing. I mean, even this year, he was texting me after good games that I had and said, ‘I saw your game. Great job, bro.’ Just his family, his wife, his kids. They’re amazing. Andy and Nick [Foles] they taught me a lot last year just with the life of being an NFL quarterback, and he kind of took me under his wing. I’m definitely very appreciative of that…”
It’s possible Dalton might actually beat out Trask if it’s an open competition. He had his best season statistically in 2022 with the New Orleans Saints in a run-heavy offense that limited his exposure to mistakes. Tampa Bay may not want to take that risk if they’re truly set on giving Trask the opportunity to grow, especially since Dalton has a limited upside.
Taylor Heinicke, Washington Commanders
Having someone who understands their role as a backup is important. When the Washington Commanders traded for Carson Wentz, Taylor Heinicke embraced that he would likely not be the starter in 2022. Though he earned nine starts after Wentz was injured and benched, Heinicke also admitted that being a backup is “one of the best jobs in America.”
Heinicke isn’t good enough to be a season-long starter on a decent offense, but he can execute the basics and be a bit of a spark plug if need be. He’s posted a 12-12-1 record as a starter and completed 63.9% of passes for 5,745 yards, 34 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions in his career.
Turning 30 as free agency opens, the Buccaneers could use that professionalism and support for Trask in their locker room. His presence would also ensure the team doesn’t completely fall apart. Tampa Bay needs to consider this, though, as they could lose out on a top 2024 QB if they win too many games, and Trask is not the long-term answer.
Gardner Minshew, Philadelphia Eagles
Known for his splendid mustache and lovable personality, Gardner Minshew was a bit of a forgetting gem of a backup QB until he started two games in 2022. Minshew burst onto the NFL scene as a seventh-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He started 12 games as a rookie, throwing for 3,271 yards, 21 touchdowns, and only six interceptions.
Minshew’s statistical output continued to be impressive in 2020 before the Jacksonville Jaguars benched him as they tanked for Trevor Lawrence. He was later traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played in only nine games over two seasons behind Jalen Hurts. In total, Minshew has completed 62.8% of his passes and boasted almost three times as many TD passes as interceptions.
However, a closer look at Minshew’s game shows he’s not nearly as impactful as those numbers may indicate. His offenses produced 24+ points in only 13 of 28 games where he played a significant role. Seven were losses, and Minshew benefitted from bloated stat lines that came when his team was trailing by a significant margin.
That’s perfectly acceptable for a backup QB instead of a starter, though. Minshew is a high-functioning backup who is more athletic and accurate than Trask. Giving Canales a different style of passer to work with can help bring the best out of them both.