Now that Brady hung up his cleats, where will the Bucs turn at QB? Coach Bruce Arians, who's already said he'll be back in 2022, is focused on "reloading," not rebuilding, two years after his team won it all. That may or may not preclude 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask, who was inactive for his entire rookie season, from taking over under center. (Trask is the only other Bucs QB under contract through 2022). In all likelihood, Tampa Bay will get aggressive to stay in win-now mode.
Here are five big names Arians and Co. could target:
This is the only option in the same ballpark as Brady. And it's not entirely unfeasible, assuming Rodgers signs a new (two-year?) deal that reduces his massive 2022 salary-cap charge. While A-Rod has made it clear he's in good standing with Packers brass despite last offseason's feud, suggesting a return to Green Bay is still his most likely course of action, the reigning NFL MVP hasn't ruled out a relocation. A vacancy in Tampa Bay would easily be the most alluring, unless Rodgers truly believes in the Broncos' foundation under new coach and old friend Nathaniel Hackett. He'd get the Brady-esque move to sunny Florida, a team built to contend right now, plus a coach and general manager receptive to QB input. From the perspective of Arians and the Bucs, it'd be one last big swing to capitalize on the team's current window, going from one legendary signal-caller to another. Tampa Bay would remain a destination for vets looking to climb aboard their superstar-driven hunt for trophies.
2. Derek Carr
The Raiders' coaching search will likely dictate Carr's future in Las Vegas, and one hot candidate, longtime Patriots coordinator Josh McDaniels, could easily target an extension for the veteran. But Carr's current contract is extremely expendable, making him ripe for a potential trade-and-extend-elsewhere scenario. He's obviously no Rodgers, but he checks several key boxes: 1.) he virtually guarantees top-15 production at the position; 2.) he's clearly better than any of the free-agent rentals set to be available; and 3.) he'd come from the AFC, enabling the Raiders and their new regime to restart at QB without seeing him throughout the year. It wouldn't represent a Brady-level splash, but you could do a heck of a lot worse after saying farewell to TB12.
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This would take some serious financial gymnastics, as Tannehill is due a whopping $38.6 million on the second-to-last year of the $118M extension he signed with the Titans. But Tennessee has reason to at least shop the veteran, who's been top-10 material in the regular season but barely passable in the playoffs of late. Bucs QBs coach Clyde Christensen worked with Tannehill for the veteran's final two seasons with the Dolphins, however, and it's conceivable that Arians could lean more on Tampa Bay's ground game -- assuming Leonard Fournette is back -- to keep Tannehill comfortable. Like Carr, he doesn't necessarily jump off the page, but if Tampa Bay's chief priority is remaining in the playoff picture, he would help.
Could you imagine if Jimmy G replaced Brady in Tampa Bay rather than New England, as the Patriots once envisioned? No one knows exactly what lies ahead for Garoppolo, particularly in the scenario where he leads the 49ers back to the Super Bowl, making his second championship start in three years, all while rookie Trey Lance waits in the wings. But the 49ers could save a lot by bidding him farewell. From the Bucs' perspective, it'd be risky to bank on Garoppolo staying healthy, but if you paired him with Trask and/or a veteran backup, you're at least hovering above the mediocre free-agent QB class. At his best, by the way, Garoppolo is still capable of mild Brady flashes, making quick decisions and thriving on orchestrated quick throws.
5. Andrew Luck
Yes, it's absurd, but don't you dare dismiss the idea of Arians making the call. If Brady retires, this is a go-for-broke situation. Obviously, if Luck, 32, isn't ready to come out of his famously abrupt retirement for the Colts, he probably wouldn't do it for another team. Or would he? Arians was Indianapolis' offensive coordinator and interim head coach during Luck's rookie season, and Bucs QBs coach Clyde Christensen served as his position coach from 2012-2015, including his breakout 2014 campaign. Why not reunite for a one-year trial run, and regardless of the outcome, everyone can re-retire in Florida afterward? On one hand, there'd be tons of pressure; on the other, none at all. Crazier things have happened, like Tom Brady playing for the Buccaneers.