Scenario 3: Acquire a mid-tier starting QB to try and compete next season
Possible Veteran Options: Baker Mayfield, Taylor Heinicke, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater
If the second option is the most ideal for fans, then this one is the most ideal for the coaching staff. To put it plainly, nobody inside One Buc Place is approaching the 2023 season with a loser mentality; everybody wants to compete.
It’s the secondary market or bust for the Bucs, but that’s not a bad thing. Jimmy G and Jacoby Brissett fall into this category but there are other budget purchases Tampa Bay can make while still being serious about contending in 2023.
Baker Mayfield has been kicked around as an option, especially if Todd Monken is hired as offensive coordinator. Sam Darnold showed flashes last year while helping the Panthers compete, and Teddy Bridgewater was an option in 2020 before the Bucs signed Tom Brady.
Taylor Hienicke is perhaps the most intriguing option nobody is talking about, though. He’s been nothing but a grit-and-grind guy for Ron Rivera in Washington and has proven to be a worthy starter capable of showing up in big moments (See: upsetting the Eagles last year, and almost upsetting the Bucs in the 2020 Wild Card).
He definitely has his flaws and isn’t someone Tampa Bay would be investing in as the franchise quarterback of the future. Heinicke doesn’t appear to be enough of a veteran teacher to be considered a bridge quarterback for a rookie the Bucs draft this year, but he is someone who can come in and do a lot of the things Todd Bowles needs his starter next year to do.
Heinicke is a beloved locker room leader, can help install Bowles’ workman-like culture, and can reset the balance a bit as the Bucs chart a new course for the future. He won’t be the reason Tampa Bay wins many games but he probably won’t be the reason it loses many, either. If things go south, then the Bucs are simply back to where they started but with a higher draft pick and the ability to say that the team tried to win and didn’t tank away the season.