Bucs Have Answer for $121 Million Quarterback: Analyst

Bruce Arians

Getty Bruce Arians, the senior advisor to the Buccaneers general manager, could play a role in the team landing veteran quarterback again.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offer the same key benefit for free agent Derek Carr that the team did for Tom Brady three years ago.

“If you think about it, you need to have a top defense,” NFL Network’s David Carr, Derek’s brother, said on “NFL Total Access” on February 15 after the quarterback’s February 14 release from the Las Vegas Raiders. “You need a top-15 defense. That’s something he’s never had before.”

“That’s something even Tom Brady looked for when he left New England,” David added. “Where can I get a defense that’s going to get me the football back and stop other teams?”

Brady, who retired February 1,  joined the Bucs as a free agent in 2020 after the team finished first in rushing defense but 30th in passing defense in 2019. Before Brady, the Bucs committed more than 30 turnovers, which hindered the defense in 2019. The 2022 Bucs finished 10th against the pass and 15th against the run. That defensive unit got strained by an inept Bucs offense that produced 18.4 points per game.

Tampa Bay will need to shore up pending free agents on defense or make some tweaks to improve on 2022. Derek could find a defense that more resembles the Bucs defenses of 2020 and 2021 if that’s the case.

“In conversations I’ve had with Derek, he’s talking about specific teams that need to be stopped,” David said. “So, when we’re looking at defenses, can those specific teams be stopped other teams that may or may not have been in the playoffs?”

Bucs Can Fit Bill on Offense

David also highlighted Derek’s priorities on offense, which the Bucs could match despite a down season in 2022.

“Then you need a good offensive line,” David said. “Are you going to be able to run  the football, if you need to, against a favorable box?”

Tampa Bay actually finished higher in the Pro Football Focus offensive line rankings, ninth, than the Raiders, 10th. The Bucs have quality blockers in Ryan Jensen, Tristan Wirfs, and Shaq Mason. How the Bucs handle Donovan Smith, Aaron Stinnie, Robert Hainsey, and Luke Goedeke could determine if the offensive line takes steps forward or backward in 2023.

As for running back, it’s worth noting the Bucs had the best pass-blocking efficiency in the league, per Pro Football Focus, which also meant the unit didn’t fare well on run blocking to finish ninth in the overall rankings. Improved offensive line play could help running back Leonard Fournette get back on track and Rachaad White improve on his rookie year. Or, the Bucs could cut Fournette and make a change at running back for 2023.

Last Question Answered for the Bucs

With the Bucs hire of new offensive coordinator David Canales on Wednesday, Derek will know who the play caller his if he choses the Bucs.

“And then, at last, a play caller,” David said about criteria for Derek. “And then does that vibe with what I want to do? And is that play call confident enough in his ability and my ability to allow me to do that?”

Canales coached quarterbacks for the Seattle Seahawks last season, and he helped quarterback Geno Smith produce a career year. If Canales can work with Derek’s approach, the former Raiders quarterback could make big strides in Tampa.

“He wants to get to the line, decipher what the defense is doing, get in the appropriate play,” David said of Derek. “And that skill wasn’t utilized in Las Vegas under [head coach] Josh McDaniels, and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that, and Derek and Josh, they had a good conversation today, and parted ways. Josh is going to go do his thing — he’ll find a quarterback that fits his system, and Derek will go  find a system that fits his style.”

“You’re only going to have three or four teams that fit that bill,” David noted.

Suitors for Derek, besides the Bucs, have included the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, and New York Jets.