Bucs a Landing Spot for Unexpected Quarterback

Tom Brady

Getty The Bucs could find the quarterback of the future after Tom Brady on Friday.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need more certainty at quarterback after Tom Brady retired in February, and a surprise signal caller could fit the bill.

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, who surprisingly fell through the first round of the NFL Draft, could land with the Bucs according to USA Today’s Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz. Levis entered the draft on Thursday, April 27, with No. 1 pick speculation, but his  toe injury, which sidelined him for two games in 2022, raised concern according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. The Bucs pick at No. 50 in the second round of the draft on Friday, April 28.

“The Buccaneers have repeatedly been linked to quarterbacks throughout the pre-draft process, as Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask don’t inspire a ton of confidence as sustainable starters,” Middlehurst-Schwartz wrote.

The Bucs notably took Trask at the end of the second round in 2021, and he sat for two seasons behind Brady. Trask only threw nine passes in Week 18 of the 2022 for a game that didn’t affect playoff seeding. Otherwise, Trask only played in six preseason games.

Mayfield signed with the Bucs as a beleaguered free agent — his fourth team in less than two years. The former No. 1 pick in 2018 slid to journeyman amid injury, a trade, and a release.

Levis is more of dual-threat than either Mayfield or Trask. The 6-foot-3, 222-pound former Kentucky star rushed for 376 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior in 2021. He didn’t keep that up in 2022, but he posted similar numbers prior at Penn State with 473 yards rushing and six touchdowns in 14 games between 2019 and 2022.

As a passer, Levis threw for 5,876 yards and 46 touchdowns versus 25 interceptions in his collegiate career. He completed 64.9% of his passes, and he posted a rating of 145.6.

Will Levis Has Downsides With Bucs

Despite Levis’ positives, Middlehurst-Schwartz sees some disadvantages for the Bucs. Middlehurst-Schwartz called the Bucs “the least likely” of Levis’ potential options.

“For one, pairing [Bucs head coach] Todd Bowles — a coach who is hypercautious with his offensive approach given his intolerance to turnovers — with a player who threw 23 interceptions in the last two years is a recipe for disaster,” Middlehurst-Schwartz wrote.

“More importantly, however, the Buccaneers have emphasized that they want their next quarterback to be a distributor rather than a world-beater,” Middlehurst-Schwartz added. “Levis’ playing style simply might be untenable here. And for a team that looks poised to select a quarterback early next year, this could be a waste of a Day 2 asset.”

Multiple teams could take Levis before he could land with the Bucs. Middlehurst-Schwartz named the six other teams as potential destinations for Levis, all picking before the Bucs.

Tampa Bay used its first round pick at No. 19 on Pittsburgh defensive end Calijah Kancey. The Bucs have remaining draft needs such as offensive line and defensive back to address besides quarterback.

Hendon Hooker Also a QB Option for Bucs

If the Bucs can’t grab Levis at No. 50, the team could go for Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, if he is still available. Hooker’s ACL tear from November 2022 hurt his draft stock, but he looked like one of the best quarterbacks in college football before the injury.

Hooker threw for 8,974 yards and 80 touchdowns versus 12 interceptions in his college career. He also rushed for 2,079 yards and 25 touchdowns between his time at Virginia Tech and Tennessee.