Tom Brady is hanging up the cleats and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers find themselves in a difficult situation. They've gone all-in over the last two seasons in an effort to maximize however long Brady had left-- and it worked out rather well to the tune of one championship and two playoff runs. The chickens have come to roost, though, and with Brady gone the Bucs now have to deal with an aging roster that is built to win now but very expensive and bereft of a quarterback.
The Bucs could hit the reset button and accept that the lengths they went to win a championship with Brady will set them back several years as they go through a roster churn in an effort to find the next group of players who could formulate the foundation of a contender. But that is not likely. Bruce Arians is nearly 70 and has no time for that. Guys like Mike Evans, Lavonte David, and Devin White are still in their primes. It is far more probable Tampa Bay attempts to reload on the fly-- a process that will begin with finding a new QB.
Over the weekend, The Big Lead listed a few replacements that are all realistic in their own ways. But if the Bucs want to be aggressive, they'll be scrounging the trade market in an effort to find as good a successor to Brady as possible to compete next year. Here are three big swings they could take to do just that.
Garoppolo was mentioned in the previous Brady replacements article, and that was before he threw a terrible interception to end the Niners' season. His fate is sealed in San Francisco-- he will be traded this offseason unless Trey Lance is further behind the eight-ball than any of us could guess right now. Jimmy G is the perfect target for the Bucs. He is good enough to win games with the kind of talent Tampa has at their disposal. His base salary for the 2022 season is high but with only one year left on the deal it can be easily manipulated to make his cap hit far less than its current number of $26 million. He is acquirable for a reasonable price; the Niners would probably ship him off for a second-rounder at most. Garoppolo was always meant to be Brady's successor in some capacity, and he would fit well into Tampa's plans.
This is a scenario floated by the Get Up panel this morning and it is quite a wild one. We still don't know if Rodgers wants out of Green Bay, but in the scenario he does, he definitely wants to go someplace that can compete immediately. Tampa Bay certainly qualifies in that regard. But the Packers will be very hard-pressed to trade Rodgers within the conference, much less to the team that sent them packing last year. On that same line of thinking, would Rodgers even want to join up with the guys who took away one of his dwindling chances at a Super Bowl title?
This is not a "Kevin Durant joins Golden State" redux. Rodgers isn't a free agent and the Bucs don't have the money to blow him away regardless. But if Rodgers makes it clear that he will only play for Tampa Bay and the Bucs are willing to give the Packers basically whatever they want in a trade, there is a universe in which it happens.
A Cousins trade would be nearly as difficult to pull off as a Rodgers trade simply because of Cousins' contract. He's owed $35 million next season with a preposterous cap hit of $45 million. Teams have moved QBs with numbers like that before (read: Carson Wentz) but it requires some cap trickery that both sides are willing to participate in. All that acknowledged, Cousins would be a good fit in Tampa Bay. His lack of aggressiveness is his one biggest weakness that could be fixed under Bruce Arians, king of the no-risk-it no-biscuit offensive strategy. For all the flak Cousins catches, he is, at worst, a league-average QB and a far better bet to keep the Bucs respectable than an in-house option like Kyle Trask or even Jimmy G.
The Vikings just cleaned out their franchise and are probably looking for a fresh start to some degree. Dumping Cousins would be the logical move if new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah wants to undergo a complete reset. If that happens, the Bucs should be on the phone. Trading a first-rounder for Cousins and extending his contract by a year to alleviate cap concerns may not be a championship move but certainly puts the Bucs in the driver's seat for a second consecutive division title given how much of a mess the rest of the NFC South is. And once you're in the playoffs, anything can happen.