Proposed Trade Sends Buccaneers a Promising Dual-Threat Quarterback

Todd Bowles

Getty The Buccaneers are beginning a new era under head coach Todd Bowles.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans can breath easier now that Tom Brady is officially back with the team, but the franchise still faces uncertainty at the position beyond this season. Brady could continue to surprise and play in 2023, but his recent retirement scare indicates the legendary quarterback is close to hanging up his cleats.

Tampa Bay needs a plan for Brady’s successor, and neither Blaine Gabbert or Kyle Trask have done much to inspire confidence as a long-term solution. Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay offered an intriguing trade proposal that gives the Bucs another option to evaluate as a potential solution for the future. The Bucs land Colts quarterback Sam Ehlinger and likely would only need to give up a future late-round draft pick.

Indianapolis signed Nick Foles to fill the team’s backup role, and the Colts may only carry two quarterbacks on the active roster. The Colts traded for Matt Ryan this offseason to be their long-term solution in an attempt to stop the revolving door that has happened at the position in recent years.

“While Indianapolis would ideally put Ehlinger on the practice squad, there is a real chance a competing squad poaches the 23-year-old if that move is attempted,” Kay explained on August 22, 2022. “Rather than watch Ehlinger depart for zero compensation, the Colts may want to outright offer their second-year signal-caller to a team that would consider claiming him.

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team that could take on Ehlinger as a long-term project. The team felt the pain of losing Tom Brady earlier in the offseason to a brief retirement and should want to better position itself for life without the future Hall of Famer. Ehlinger may not be Brady’s heir, but having him learn from the greatest QB of all time—with a chance to supplant Blaine Gabbert as the backup eventually—could help him develop into a quality NFL starter one day.”

ALL the latest Bucs news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Bucs newsletter here!

Join Heavy on Bucs!

Tampa Bay Passed on Ehlinger in Favor of Trask in the 2021 NFL Draft

To be fair, the Buccaneers preferred Trask over Ehlinger during the 2021 NFL draft selecting the former Gators quarterback in the second round with the No. 64 overall pick. Ehlinger slipped all the way to the No. 218 overall selection in the sixth round but impressed enough to carve out a Colts roster spot. Trask has been unable to rise above third on the depth chart during his first two seasons with the Buccaneers.

The only challenge with this trade is the Bucs would likely have to carry a whopping four quarterbacks on the roster as Tampa Bay’s preference is for Gabbert to be Brady’s backup. Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen views the upcoming season as another “learning year” for Trask.

“Yeah, I think it’s more of a learning year, I don’t see him competing with [Blaine] Gabbert this year,” Christensen noted during a May 10 press conference. “Although, he could do it, just all the odds are stacked against you. You can’t rep everybody, you can’t get enough [reps]. It’s hard to get Gabbert enough reps, so we’ll prepare Gabbert as the No. 2. There’s always competition, right? There’s always someone looking for your job, but Gabbert will get [the reps].

“I don’t see that being an either-or, I see Gabbert being a backup, and Kyle being a developmental guy and we’ll rep ’em that way. And you know, if you jump off the screen and he outplays Brady, then he outplays Brady, and we’ll make some decisions, but when you go into it, you know the percentage chance of that happening isn’t very good. And we frankly can’t operate that way, you just don’t have enough reps to do that and get everyone prepared.”

Ehlinger Had an Impressive Career at Texas as a Dual-Threat QB

Ehlinger had a promising college career at Texas with his best season coming in 2019 when the quarterback threw for 3,663 yards, 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while completing 65.2% of his passes. The playmaker also added 663 rushing yards and seven touchdowns during his junior season. Heading into the 2021 draft, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler saw some similarities between Ehlinger and Jalen Hurts but viewed the former Longhorns signal-caller as more of a backup.

“As a passer, he has an adequate arm, but is often tardy with his decisions and needs to see things quicker if he is going to make plays through the air in the NFL,” Brugler wrote in his pre-draft guide. “Overall, Ehlinger is not an anticipation thrower and his pocket presence leaves a lot to be desired, but his competitive toughness and dual-threat ability give him a chance to be a backup in the right situation, similar in ways to Jalen Hurts’ evaluation in the 2020 NFL Draft.”