Buccaneers Could Make Move for $3.5 Million Starting QB, Says Analyst

Tom Brady & Byron Leftwich

Getty Changes could loom on the horizon for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Geno Smith faces an uncertain future with the Seattle Seahawks, and where the quarterback plays in 2023 could depend on the free agency market. Another team that could be looking for a new quarterback is the Buccaneers as Tom Brady becomes a free agent in March. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell views the Bucs as a potential landing spot for Smith if Brady either retires or signs elsewhere.

“The Buccaneers have a veteran core on both sides of the ball, so I would be surprised if they went for a long-term project at quarterback,” Barnwell wrote on December 19, 2022. “I suspect they’ll make a serious effort to bring back Brady, but they’ll be in the running for one of the other veterans in the market if he retires or heads elsewhere. This would be the perfect landing spot for Derek Carr, although a more realistic option might be Geno Smith or Jacoby Brissett.”

Smith is having a career year throwing for 3,671 yards, 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 71.4% of his passes through the first 14 games in 2022. It has been a bit of a tale of two halves as Smith has thrown four interceptions in the last five games with Seattle losing four of their last five contests.

What Kind of Contract Can Smith Command in Free Agency?

The challenge for the Buccaneers is the team is projected to be more than $40 million over the cap next season. If Brady signs with another team, Tampa Bay will take a massive dead cap hit in 2023 which will likely take them out of the market for another expensive quarterback. It is hard to imagine the Bucs will offer Smith a more lucrative contract than the Seahawks. Smith signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with Seattle last offseason and is due for a sizable raise in 2023.

Smith’s market value is far from certain given there is little precedent for a veteran quarterback who has a resurgence after nearly a decade in the league. Spotrac projects Smith’s current market value as a three-year, $108.5 million contract, giving the quarterback an average annual salary of $36 million. This would far exceed what Tampa Bay could offer the veteran, but not everybody is convinced that Smith will see these type of numbers.

Barnwell believes Smith’s next contract could be something similar to what Case Keenum signed with the Broncos in 2018. This would put Smith in the two-year, $50 million range for his next deal.

“The closest comparable for a stunning breakout season after years of serving as a backup for Smith would be Case Keenum’s 2017 season with the Vikings,” Barnwell noted. “Adjusting for the rise in the salary cap over that time frame, Smith could be looking at a two-year deal approaching $50 million.”

The Seahawks Could Use the Franchise Tag on Smith Preventing the QB From Hitting Free Agency

The Seahawks and Buccaneers quarterback pathways differ in that Seattle has the opportunity to use the franchise tag on Smith which would prevent the veteran from hitting free agency for another season. Tampa Bay does not have this option for Brady who will not be in danger of being franchise tagged.

“The Seahawks could use the franchise tag to keep Smith on a one-year deal for $31.5 million, and that might be the most obvious path for a team without many other significant free agents this offseason,” Barnwell added.

The Bucs will likely need to have cheaper contingency plans if Brady either retires or bolts in free agency. Kyle Trask is slated to be the only quarterback on the roster in 2023 and has yet to take a snap during a regular-season game. As for the Seahawks, we can expect a long negotiation process with Smith, but smart money is on the veteran being back in Seattle for next season, even if the front office ultimately decides to use the franchise tag.