Are the Bucs really quarterback shopping from the Hall of Fame rack?

Rick Stroud | Tampa Bay must be prepared for any scenario if it moves on from Jameis Winston.
Tom Brady, left, could be changing teams. Philip Rivers, right, will be changing teams if he keeps playing. The Bucs are compiling scouting reports on both.
Tom Brady, left, could be changing teams. Philip Rivers, right, will be changing teams if he keeps playing. The Bucs are compiling scouting reports on both. [ STEVEN SENNE | AP ]
Published Feb. 1, 2020|Updated Feb. 1, 2020

MIAMI — It’s not every day a quarterback coach is asked to write a scouting report on these players:

Tom Brady, 42

Drew Brees, 41

Philip Rivers, 38

And yet that’s exactly what Bucs quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen was working on last week.

What do you say about some of these guys even after watching the tape?

Related: The one good reason for the Bucs to sign Tom Brady


Brady — Strong leader who has won six Super Bowls with lesser receiving talent with the Patriots.

Brees — Smallish QB who has mastered Sean Payton’s offense and overcame a devastating shoulder injury to become the NFL’s all-time passing leader and Super Bowl champion. Spearheaded the revitalization of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Rivers — Durable leader who has never missed a game in his career and sixth on the all-time passing list behind Brees, Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Dan Marino.

Is this Oz?

For a team that hasn’t reached the postseason in 12 years, is there a reason why the Bucs wouldn’t want one of these guys under center?

Well, yes. Two actually: How much longer will they play? How much gas is left in the tank?

It seems more likely with each passing day that Brees is going to retire. The Saints need to try to lock up his successor. Taysom Hill, who also is used as a running back, receiver, fullback, tight end and you name it, is a restricted free agent. They can likely retain him for one more year.

But Teddy Bridgewater, 27, is an unrestricted free agent and ready to take over as a starting quarterback.

Brees’ decision is one of the dominos that may have to fall before the quarterback market begins to move. The Saints will have a whopping $21.3 million salary-cap charge in 2020 for Brees before he potentially signs a new deal.

It’s going to be an interesting five weeks.

Related: How to win your Super Bowl party in 54 easy steps

The Bucs have not made a decision about Jameis Winston, but the most likely possibility remains a franchise tag of $27 million that they would have to designate by 4 p.m. March 3.

Tampa Bay has 19 unrestricted free agents, including defensive front starters Shaqulle Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh and Carl Nassib.

And none of those future Hall of Fame quarterbacks are going to play for free.

Longtime NFL senior writer Peter King said last week he believes the Bucs could be a “dark-horse” candidate.

“Any quarterback wants a head coach who is really smart, who loves to throw the ball, with a team that has enough offensive pieces and a chance to win,’’ King said. “All of that, to me, makes Tampa Bay highly intriguing, a very interesting dark-horse candidate.’’

It’s true any quarterback should look at the Bucs’ offensive talent and feel confident they can win some games.

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But for years, Tampa Bay has been used for leverage against other teams by coaches, players and opponents. The Packers were going to trade Brett Favre to Tampa Bay. They got a better deal from the Jets. Bill Parcells left the Bucs at the altar twice.

If Brady opts to leave the Patriots, and it seems more likely every day he will, the Chargers and Raiders would appear to be a more likely landing spot.

But the Bucs have to be prepared for any scenario.

Quarterback is a priority in the draft

The Bucs plan to select a quarterback in the 2020 NFL draft. That doesn’t mean they will take one with the 14th overall pick.

But whether Winston returns or not, they need to address the position. Ryan Griffin, 30, has attempted four passes in his NFL career. At the very least, the Bucs need a young player at the position to develop into a potential starter.

LSU’s Joe Burrow will go No. 1 to the Bengals. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa could go in the top five. Oregon’s Justin Herbert is a first-day pick, but he could slip to the middle of the first round.

But there also are quarterbacks such as Utah State’s Jordan Love, Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Washington’s Jacob Eason that are projected in rounds 2-4.

Missed opportunity

Tyrann Mathieu is a two-time Pro Bowl safety, the first time in 2015 under current Bucs head coach Bruce Arians in Arizona.
Tyrann Mathieu is a two-time Pro Bowl safety, the first time in 2015 under current Bucs head coach Bruce Arians in Arizona. [ BRYNN ANDERSON | AP ]

The Bucs could have used some experience and playmaking ability at safety. Tyrann Mathieu was a free agent last season. Bruce Arians took a chance and drafted the troubled former LSU star in Arizona. But the Bucs were strapped with a bad salary cap situation. Mathieu signed a three-year, $42 million deal with the Chiefs that included $26.8 million guaranteed.

Mathieu will play in Super Bowl 54 Sunday. He still credits Arians for his success in the NFL.

“He shot me straight,’’ Mathieu said. “He told me the rules. He made it very clear what I can do, what I can’t do. And then he put me around a lot of good people. Patrick Peterson, Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett. So I had the structure around me. He always checked up on me, encouraged me and I think ultimately, that helped me continue to push forward in life.’’

Could John Lynch have been the Bucs GM?

A few leftovers from my story on former Bucs Ring of Honor safety John Lynch and his work as the 49ers general manager:

* Question: If Lynch was bent on giving up a seven-figure job on the No. 2 NFL broadcast team at Fox, if he wanted to be the general manager of an NFL team, why didn’t he let the Bucs know about it?

Answer: Well, he wasn’t really bent on it.

“It kind of came out of nowhere,’’ Lynch said this week. “I really thought if it ever happened, it would be a couple of situations: It would be John Elway calling me. Because he had invited me in and we had talked about some things. John kept saying, 'John, you’ve got too good of a gig. You get paid a lot of money.’

“I always thought it would be the perfect thing. Maybe Tampa even. I never really delved into that. I had nothing against Tampa. Tampa was great to me. This thing just happened organically.’’

* About 10 members of San Francisco’s scouting and personnel department were having lunch Tuesday when Lynch and his former Bucs teammate Martin Mayhew, now the 49ers vice president of player personnel, started remembering the lean years before Tony Dungy took over in 1996.

During the 1993 draft, Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse called Lynch, a two-sport standout at Stanford who threw the first pitch for the Marlins organization, to make sure he wasn’t going to play baseball. Culverhouse noted he had already been burned by Bo Jackson.

Lynch gave Culverhouse his word. Draft me and I will play football.

“And you’ll give all your bonus money back if you don’t?’’ Culverhouse asked.

“I don’t remember saying anything about that,’’ Lynch said, laughing.

Special team, special story

If you haven’t read the profile on Chris Foerster, the former Miami Dolphins and Bucs offensive line coach who nearly lost his career and family over drug use, it’s an inspiring story of redemption. He will return to Hard Rock Stadium Sunday as a consultant with the 49ers.

This is Foerster’s first Super Bowl in an NFL coaching career that spans 38 years.

“This is a special team with really special players,’’ Foerster said. “If this is what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl, I can see why it’s so hard to do.’’

Contact Rick Stroud at Follow @NFLStroud