Highly Unlikely Longshots
Key Factor: This is otherwise known as the pipedream tier. It would be stunning if the Bucs landed any of these guys, but each would be a top-tier choice if the team had the means to seriously make something happen.
13. Lamar Jackson
There are pipe dreams and then there’s the Bucs somehow landing Lamar Jackson. It’s an option until it’s not, but it’s a theoretical option more than a tangible one. There’s a serious chance Lamar has played his last game with the Ravens, but the Buccaneers are already in a salary cap bind as it is and would be deeper down the well if it made a move for Jackson. Not only would it cost a ton in draft capital, thus rendering the idea of building around Lamar almost moot, but his massive cap hit would create even bigger problems for the Bucs. If there’s a way to make it work with a sustainable future intact, then Jason Licht would be foolish to not consider it, but making an impactful but less messy move like trading for Justin Fields makes more sense if this is the route the Bucs want to go.
12. Aaron Rodgers
This is the polar opposite of what the Tom Brady situation was back in 2020. Where there were some questions about whether Brady still had it, he didn’t have nearly as much baggage as Rodgers would carry with him. Not only is Rodgers going to be expensive, if not in trade value than the contract he has, but there’s a chance he’s just not good anymore. Folks had the same thing to say about Brady when he came to Tampa, but Rodgers looked off last year and washed in a way that Brady didn’t look in his final season with the Patriots.
Obviously, Rodgers is better than anything else the Bucs will likely end up with and we’ve seen quarterbacks have tremendous bounce-back seasons with new teams recently. It sounds crazy to say but there’s a legitimate question of if a team is getting Tom Brady or Matthew Stafford, or if it’s getting what the Broncos got in Russell Wilson.
11. Derek Carr
This might be the one that hurts the most because in any other offseason Carr is a potentially perfect fit to the point where he ends up in Tampa Bay. There’s a $55 million cap issue strapped around any plans the Bucs have this offseason, though, and it’s the biggest thing standing in the way of getting Carr in pewter.
A far outside chance still exists that the money can work, but it’s unclear if bending that much breaks anything down the road. That’s what the Bucs need to consider, as they’ve been great about being smart with where they offset costs and how far down the road the salary cap can gets kicked. Unfortunately, kicking the can down the road to afford the Tom Brady era has resulted in a union with Carr not being an option.
If The Money Works…
Key Factor: The Bucs need to figure out how to get back under the salary cap, which they’re roughly $55 million away from entering the offseason. That’s something keeping them from being serious contenders for anyone in the Highly Unlikely Longshots tier and could complicate things overall. But if the money works — and that if is carrying a heavy load — these guys could end up being targets.
10. Jimmy Garoppolo
This might be an unpopular opinion, but there’s a legitimate debate to have about putting Jimmy G in the ‘Avoid At All Costs’ tier. Are we sure he’s good? That’s not a question any team wants to ask as it’s handing someone a check, let alone one like Garoppolo is going to get. He won’t be the highest-paid quarterback signed this offseason, but he won’t come cheap and a lot of that inflated value has to do with the system he’s coming out of.
Even with Kyle Shanahan pulling the puppet strings, Garoppolo was average at best. He’s often injured, can take a team to a Super Bowl but can’t be the difference maker that wins one, and there’s nothing to say he won’t simply beat Trask for the job and forget him rather than tutor him.
If Garoppolo was so great, why would the 49ers rather trade three first-round picks for Trey Lance than make Jimmy G their guy?
9. Geno Smith
The argument for Geno Smith is the polar opposite of what it is regarding Jimmy Garoppolo. Smith has experienced peaks and valleys his whole career — mostly valleys, if we’re being honest — and has come out of it on the otherside. He’s the Comeback Player of the Year after reviving his career and is the type of quarterback who can come in and help the Bucs compete right away while also being an extremely valuable teaching resource for Trask on almost every single level imaginable.
Everything is perfect — including his quarterback coach in Seattle being the Bucs new offensive coordinator — except the money. The Seahawks aren’t planning a decade-long future with Geno, but every reason the Bucs would want him is the reason for Seattle to bring him back. He’s going to help them compete now, having already taken them to the playoffs, and can be a bridge for whoever is drafted as the quarterback of the future.
If the money works, which the Seahawks might ensure it doesn’t, Smith is a perfect fit for Tampa Bay. As perfect as it seems, though, it’s unlikely to shake out in the Bucs favor.