Key Factor: This is the ideal tier, as it’s a blend of the wild card option but focuses more on the bridge veteran Tampa Bay will likely be seeking. Someone who can start and make the team competitive but can also help Kyle Trask develop. Jimmy G sort of fits into this tier, but he’ll likely be too expensive for what the Bucs can probably get somewhere else with a potentially better quarterback.
4. Blaine Gabbert
Good ol’ Blaine Gabbert. He’s been cashing checks with the Bucs for years and won a Super Bowl, but now the bill might have come due. He’s a free agent, so there’s no pressure to come back but if Gabbert wants one more shot at starting before his career is over his best option might be to return to Tampa Bay. It’s a win-win across the board, as Trask has a familiar face in the quarterback room, Gabbert can help him learn Canales’ offense while he does the same, and he can return to the role of regular starter for the first time since his second year in the NFL.
He’s also potentially the cheapest option on the market, which unfortunately goes a much longer way than it should.
3. Drew Lock
Talk about a guy who’s stock has shot way up for no reason other than association. Lock was the butt of jokes when the Broncos traded him as part of the Russell Wilson deal, and while he wasn’t the Seahawks quarterback who made everyone eat their words, he may still get the last laugh.
It’s not unfair to say Lock’s best path forward in the NFL is as a seasoned veteran backup. His career aligns much more with the Chase Daniels of the world than it does the Derek Carr’s, but that’s not a bad thing. Lock can come to Tampa Bay and develop his veteran leadership skills by helping install Dave Canales’ new offense. He’d have a natural opportunity to impress by tutoring Kyle Trask, and show growth as a leader by stepping up in the locker room. He’d also get a legit crack at winning the starting job, and reviving his career and reputation on about every level. It makes a ton of sense and is perhaps the most unassuming option with an extremely high upside for all involved.
2. Taylor Heinicke
Heinicke was, from all we’ve heard about him, a beloved locker room leader in Washington who Ron Rivera has championed since their days together in Carolina. He seems like a natural fit to help install Bowles’ no-frills, low-fuss approach and can reset the balance a bit as the Bucs chart a new course for the future.
How much of a veteran leader is he in terms of being a bridge to Kyle Trask? That’s the big question the Bucs need to ask, as Heinicke doesn’t come without his flaws. There’s a reason the Commanders didn’t make the playoffs these last two seasons and Hienicke wasn’t enough of a difference-maker to change their fortune. He did, however, almost upset the Bucs during their Super Bowl run in the 2020 NFC Wild Card, and he’s been able to parlay that success into continuing to bounce back as a starter in Washington. He’s not someone to invest a future in, but Heinicke is a lot better than he might be getting credit for.
1. Jacoby Brissett
Let’s not stand on ceremony: Jacoby Brissett is the ideal fit for the Buccaneers this offseason.
If we’re talking about Taylor Heincike as someone who can help bring a no-fuss attitude to the Bucs locker room, Brissett is the flag bearer in that parade. There’s a picture of him next to ‘workman-like’ and can help bring that culture back to Tampa Bay. Every stop he’s been on in his career he’s been nothing but a hard worker who doesn’t complain and gets the job done. Critics will point to his win-loss record but that argument falls apart when zooming out even a little bit to see what the teams around him have looked like.
Not only could he come in and teach a rookie the ropes and set the Bucs up for future success, but he can help the franchise get back to what it was moving toward with Brady in terms of setting up a culture in Tampa Bay that changes things for the better. He’d bring a workmanlike attitude and won’t make a lot of mistakes — two things that could combine to help a rookie learn for the future and help the team compete right now.