Bucs Minus Brady

How will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers move forward after Tom Brady’s retirement?


Tom Brady lifts the Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV.

Arya Deshmukh

After weeks of speculation about quarterback Tom Brady’s decision on his retirement, the seven-time Super Bowl champion has finally decided to hang up the cleats after 22 seasons in the league. 

While most of the media coverage is focused on Tom Brady’s legacy, and rightfully so as he is likely the greatest player of all time, the more puzzling questions are those about the future of the team he left, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Although Tom Brady had a great statistical season in 2021, having completed 67.5 percent of his passes, thrown for over 5300 yards and for 43 touchdowns, and having lead the Buccaneers to their first NFC South title since the 2007 season, he was certainly not the same Tom Brady by the end of the season. 

The reason why Brady was so successful with the Buccaneers was because of his deep ball accuracy, which overall was still above average. However, by the end of the season, Brady consistently missed the few deep shots he took and usually checked it down to his talented receiving core. As Tampa Bay’s receiving core succumbed to injury down the stretch, it was no surprise that the Buccaneers’ offense struggled. From this perspective, Brady’s timely retirement may have secured his legacy, leaving on top rather than while he was visibly struggling. 

Regardless, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will now have to look for a quarterback along with dealing with trying to bring back their own free agents. Brady’s retirement will actually cost the Buccaneers $8 million in cap space in 2022 and $24 million in 2023 due to the extension Brady signed with the team after winning the Super Bowl last season. 

With only around $21 million dollars in remaining cap space after factoring in Brady’s cap hit, it will be even more difficult to retain players such as wide receiver Chris Godwin, edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, center Ryan Jensen, interior defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Leonard Fournette, and cornerback Carlton Davis. 

However, the much more pressing issue is who the Buccaneers will have at quarterback for 2022. General manager Jason Licht has expressed his desire to maintain the Bucs’ competitiveness even after Brady’s retirement, which indicates that rookie quarterback Kyle Trask will not be starting next season. However, this does not rule out the possibility of them drafting one of the rookie quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, as the 27th overall pick seems like good value to draft one of these quarterbacks in a quarterback draft class that does not look to be as promising as those in previous years. More realistically, Tampa Bay could sign a bridge quarterback such as Las Vegas’ Marcus Mariota, New Orleans’ Jameis Winston, and Denver’s Teddy Bridgewater. 

Drafting a quarterback would seem to indicate that the Buccaneers will not go all-in with their diminishing window, meaning that they will also have to replace many of the aging veterans on this team sooner rather than later. 

However, if the Buccaneers do want to make one last run at a title, which will require them to kick their salary cap woes further down the road, the team will likely look to acquire one of the more established quarterbacks on the trade market. 

Some of the quarterbacks who could be available include the Las Vegas’ Derek Carr, Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins, Houston’s Deshaun Watson, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, or Seattle’s Russell Wilson. 

Acquiring any of these players would likely require the use of high draft capital, especially if the Buccaneers expect these quarterbacks’ current teams to retain salary in a trade. Out of these options, the ones that make the most sense are Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins. Both could fit well in head coach Bruce Arians’ vertical passing offense, especially given the quality of Tampa Bay’s receivers room. Las Vegas and Minnesota would likely be more willing to deal their quarterbacks, as new regimes are taking over both organizations. With either of these two quarterbacks, chasing success in 2022 could become a reality for the Bucs. 

While a lot is unknown regarding the status of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, what is clear is that they are now firmly in the quarterback sweepstakes. Licht and Arians will have to do an exceptional job to make up for the loss of the greatest player of all time.