Tom Brady hasn’t taken his first snap for the Bucs, but it is fair to wonder about their quarterback in waiting.
Brady, who turns 43 on Aug. 3, is only signed for two seasons and could stretch that to three since he has expressed an interest in playing until he is at least 45. That’s why it was surprising the Bucs did not draft Brady’s apprentice, someone to clean the brushes for the NFL’s quarterbacking da Vinci.
The Bucs did, however, sign an undrafted free agent who needs no wait training.
San Diego’s Reid Sinnett didn’t start in high school until his senior year. When he went to Division I-AA San Diego, he was stuck behind two-time conference offensive player of the year Anthony Lawrence. But as a fifth-year senior, Sinnett finally got the nod, passing for 3,528 yards, 32 touchdowns with 10 interceptions while running for six scores.
That was good enough to lead the Toreros to a 9-3 record and the postseason.
When the draft was winding down, Sinnett knew he would have a choice to make about which team to sign with as an undrafted free agent.
“My agent called me and said, ‘Tampa is not going to draft a quarterback, do you want to entertain other offers?’ I said, ‘Uh, no,'" Sinnett recalled Friday. “He said, ‘It sounds good. I don’t see the point in talking to anybody else.’ I said, ‘Me either. Let’s do it.'"
Sinnett grew up a Colts fan in Johnson, Iowa, rooting for Peyton Manning. “That was the guy who got me into football," he said.
During the draft process, it was one of the reasons he instantly hit it off with Bucs quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen, who coached Manning in Indianapolis.
Now Sinnett is a teammate of Brady’s, Manning’s long-time rival. At 6-foot-3, 228 pounds, Sinnett is an inch shorter but roughly the same size as Brady. He also plays mostly from the pocket, with a good arm and exceptional preparation as his biggest strengths.
“I can’t wait to sit in a meeting and listen to (Brady) and Coach Christensen and Coach (Bruce) Arians just talk about football because there’s so many things I can learn," Sinnett said. “That was the best thing about this situation for me, it was that no matter what, I’m going to get to learn from some of the best minds in football. I’m going to find a role on the team, but even if my role is to sit in the meetings and listen to those guys, that’s exciting in itself."
The Bucs will use Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin to back up Brady. Sinnett could battle Griffin for the No. 3 job as a developmental quarterback, but he is almost guaranteed to earn a spot on the practice squad after the Bucs gave him a $10,000 signing bonus and $142,000 in guaranteed salary, about a year’s compensation on that reserve unit.
Sinnett decided to stick it out at San Diego when he probably could have transferred closer his hometown and played at Drake, the Toreros’ conference rival. His grades were good enough for him to be recruited by Harvard, Yale and Penn.
But he used those years at San Diego competing, as well as doing film study, with Lawrence. When his chance came, he was prepared. In his first game against Cal-Poly, he passed for 416 yards and four touchdowns — the first one to himself. Tipped at the line of scrimmage, the deflection went back to Sinnett and he ran 30 yards for the score.
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“Honestly, that’s been my favorite part about sitting in offices and going over game plans and trying to be a part of it as much as I could, even when I was a freshman and a sophomore," Sinnett said. “I was trying to prepare like I was the starter, and I don’t think that’s a mentality that I have that’s going to change."
Next year, perhaps?
Assuming the Bucs have a winning record under Tom Brady, they won’t be selecting high enough in the 2021 NFL draft to take Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields. There are other intriguing prospects that could await Tampa Bay:
Jamie Newman, Georgia
The fifth-year senior transferred from Wake Forest and will get some good coaching from Todd Monken, the Bucs former offensive coordinator who has the same job with the Bulldogs.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Mond will have another season in the pro-style offense under Jimbo Fisher and has a strong arm that needs to be a little more accurate.
K.J. Costello, Mississippi State
A transfer from Stanford where he played in 29 games the past three seasons, Costello could air it out under Mike Leach with the Bulldogs.
Brock Purdy, Iowa State
Another year with coach Matt Campbell should help Purdy, who has 43 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in two seasons with the Cyclones.
NFL free agency
It’s another avenue for the Bucs, although not many veterans are willing to spend a year on the bench for a chance to inherit the starting job from Brady.
Jacoby Brissett, Colts
The one-time Florida Gator (before transferring to N.C. State) knows all about backing up Brady and is the No. 2 behind Phillip Rivers in Indy.
Mitch Trubisky, Bears
Looking for a project? This former first-round pick may get blown out of the Windy City.
Derek Carr, Raiders
Not a free agent in 2021. Not yet. But if he lost his starting job to Marcus Mariota, the Raiders may consider dealing him with one more year left on his contract. Would have to wait for him to be released, a la Cam Newton, since Carr has a $19 million salary. Would he take an apprenticeship like Jameis Winston did with Drew Brees and the Saints? Not likely, but intriguing.
But for now, the developmental job belongs to Sinnett, who is ready to learn behind Brady.
“Just to say that out loud: I’m on a team that’s going to try and win the Super Bowl," Sinnett said.