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Who could be behind Door No. 2 for the Bucs?

Tom Brady is contemplating retirement, meaning Tampa Bay could be back in the quarterback market. What does it look like in 2022?
Colts quarterback Carson Wentz played very well against the Bucs this season.
Colts quarterback Carson Wentz played very well against the Bucs this season. [ DARRYL WEBB | Associated Press ]
Published Jan. 28|Updated Jan. 29

TAMPA — Two years ago, Clyde Christensen spent Super Bowl week doing reports on quarterbacks who might become available in free agency or through a trade.

“I’m sitting here writing a report on Tom Brady,” the Bucs quarterbacks coach said at the time. “Can you believe that?”

The video Christensen watched proved to be true. Brady had a lot of strength remaining in his right arm, enough to lift the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl 55.

But now the Bucs have to weather the storm caused by Brady’s indecision, and Christensen is going to get another assignment.

Related: Could Bucs promote from within if Tom Brady departs?

Team officials believe it’s no better than a 50-50 chance that Brady plays in 2022, his final year under contract with the Bucs.

What’s more, they’re giving him all the time and space he needs to make the best choice between football and family.

Coach Bruce Arians believes Brady is having too much fun playing the game to walk away from it now. He’s won 29 games (including postseason) over the past two seasons and finished 2021 as the NFL’s leader in passing yardage (5,316) and touchdowns (43).

Still, the Bucs will give Brady some space to heal up from the marathon that is the NFL season and see if he wants to continue to challenge himself at age 45.

Arians says he could be okay with backup Blaine Gabbert (who is a free agent) or second-year quarterback Kyle Trask. But he wants to take another look behind Door No. 2.

The Bucs have about $16.57 million of space under the $208.2 million salary cap, which ranks 18th in the NFL.

They could create more by restructuring contracts of some of the higher-paid players as they have done the past two years since Brady arrived. They also could release some players to save more money if those contracts are not guaranteed.

In the meantime, we’re going to get a start on those reports for Christensen. Here’s how the offseason quarterback market shakes down.

Aaron Rodgers, Packers

The Packers are unlikely to trade Aaron Rodgers to an NFC opponent like the Bucs.
The Packers are unlikely to trade Aaron Rodgers to an NFC opponent like the Bucs. [ JEFFREY PHELPS | AP ]

Rodgers fell short again this postseason despite the Packers owning the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage in the NFC. They lost to the 49ers at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers hasn’t committed to playing in 2022, much less playing in Green Bay. But he hasn’t ruled it out, either.

The Packers restructured Rodgers’ contract to make him more tradable this year, and they voided his deal in 2023 to make him a free agent.

But don’t expect Rodgers to wear pewter and red. The Packers likely aren’t trading him to an NFC opponent. Also, with Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett being hired by the Broncos, Rodgers could easily land in Denver if he doesn’t remain in Green Bay, who would get nothing for him a year from now.

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Russell Wilson, Seahawks

At 33, the Seahawks' Russell Wilson remains one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
At 33, the Seahawks' Russell Wilson remains one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. [ MATT ROURKE | AP ]

Wilson has a no-trade clause but last year okayed possible deals with the Giants, Saints, Broncos and Bears. Prior to his final game this season, Wilson said he hoped it wouldn’t be his final game in a Seahawks uniform. He’s only 33 and still one of the best QBs in the league. The Seahawks aren’t firing Pete Carroll. The guess is that Wilson will remain in Seattle. If he doesn’t, again, why would they trade him to an NFC team?

Deshaun Watson, Texans

Deshaun Watson has a string of civil suits pending from multiple women alleging sexual assault.
Deshaun Watson has a string of civil suits pending from multiple women alleging sexual assault. [ KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI | Associated Press (2020) ]

Talented but troubled. The Texans paid Watson almost $40 million not to play in 2021. He has a string of pending civil suits from multiple women alleging sexual assault. The NFL hasn’t suspended Watson — yet — but if you acquire him, you have to have the news conference to explain why you’re overlooking the off-field issues.

Jameis Winston, Saints

Jameis Winston's contract with the Saints voids the first day of the new league year in March.
Jameis Winston's contract with the Saints voids the first day of the new league year in March. [ DERICK HINGLE | AP ]

Got your attention? His contract voids the first day of the new league year in March. He’s still living in Oldsmar, rehabbing from a torn ACL. Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and Christensen said they would want another year to work with Winston. But it appears that Arians is done with the former FSU star.

Kirk Cousins, Vikings

Statistically, Kirk Cousins has been one of the better quarterbacks in the league for a number of years.
Statistically, Kirk Cousins has been one of the better quarterbacks in the league for a number of years. [ MARK LOMOGLIO | AP ]

You like that? Or maybe you don’t, but Cousins is in the final year of his contract. Statistically, he’s been one of the better quarterbacks in the league for a number of years. The Vikings will have a new coach and general manager who may want to start over. Teams like the 49ers, Panthers and others could be interested. The problem is that Cousins is guaranteed $35 million in 2022, and not many teams have a ton of salary-cap space.

Jalen Hurts, Eagles

Jalen Hurts had a horrific wild-card game against the Bucs.
Jalen Hurts had a horrific wild-card game against the Bucs. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said that Hurts has earned the right to be their starter in 2022. But he had a horrific wild-card game against the Bucs. Plus, second-round picks have less of a grace period. More importantly, the Eagles have three first-round picks and aren’t afraid to make big deals. They traded quarterback Carson Wentz to the Colts a year ago.

Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo's days are numbered in San Francisco as Trey Lance waits in the wings.
Jimmy Garoppolo's days are numbered in San Francisco as Trey Lance waits in the wings. [ JEFFREY PHELPS | AP ]

It seems weird that the 49ers are pinning their hopes in the NFC Championship Game on a quarterback they don’t really want long-term. But while Garoppolo is winning, his days are numbered in San Francisco as Trey Lance waits in the wings. Garoppolo’s $24.2 million base salary isn’t bad by today’s standards. You might be able to get to a Super Bowl with him, but can you win it?

Carson Wentz, Colts

Carson Wentz is guaranteed $15 million in 2022, and the Colts could save that money by trading him.
Carson Wentz is guaranteed $15 million in 2022, and the Colts could save that money by trading him. [ ROSS D. FRANKLIN | AP ]

The Colts fell short of the playoffs by losing the final regular-season game at Jacksonville. Jacksonville! Wentz was terrible in that game but fairly steady overall. He is guaranteed $15 million in 2022, and the Colts could save that money by trading him. Wentz played very well against the Bucs this season.

Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins

Fired Dolphins coach Brian Flores didn't seem to like Tua Tagovailoa’s arm or his makeup.
Fired Dolphins coach Brian Flores didn't seem to like Tua Tagovailoa’s arm or his makeup. [ JACK DEMPSEY | AP ]

It appears fired Dolphins coach Brian Flores wasn’t a big fan of his young quarterback from Alabama. He drove the talk about wanting to trade for Watson. He didn’t like Tagovailoa’s arm or his makeup. Maybe the Bucs would? Depends on whom the Dolphins hire as a head coach, but maybe Tagovailoa could be had in a trade.

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