The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could turn to a recent rival quarterback to back up Kyle Trask in 2023.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Andy Dalton will become a free agent in March, and Pro Football Network’s Ian Valentino suggests Dalton as a challenger to Trask. Dalton, 35, made three Pro Bowls in his nine-year tenure with the Cincinnati Bengals before he became a journeyman backup quarterback. He started 14 games with the Saints in 2022.
“Though young compared to [Tom] Brady, the 35-year-old Dalton is certainly at the tail end of his career,” Valentino wrote about Dalton. “He’s played for a different franchise in each of the last four seasons, producing just enough to justify being a high-end backup.”
Dalton likely won’t cost too much for the salary cap-strapped Bucs to sign. Spotrac projects Dalton at $6.8 million annually. The Bucs sit at $58.5 million over the salary cap, which makes the top-end free agent quarterbacks difficult to obtain. However, the Bucs could create options for starting quarterback with signing Dalton as Valentino sees it.
“It’s possible Dalton might actually beat out Trask if it’s an open competition,” Valentino wrote. “He had his best season statistically in 2022 with the New Orleans Saints in a run-heavy offense that limited his exposure to mistakes.”
Dalton completed a career-best 66.7% of his passes for the Saints, and he posted the second-best quarterback rating of his career, 95.2. His main passing numbers of 2,871 yards for 18 touchdowns versus nine interceptions were only enough for a 6-8 record in his starts. No team in the NFC South finished above .500 in 2022, so Dalton could lead the Bucs to the division title as the starter if needed.
“Tampa Bay may not want to take that risk if they’re truly set on giving Trask the opportunity to grow, especially since Dalton has a limited upside,” Valentino wrote.
Bucs Invested in Kyle Trask
In 2021, the Bucs invested a second-round draft pick in Trask and sat him for two years behind Brady and Blaine Gabbert.
Trask played in six preseason games but remained a healthy scratch for almost all of his first two regular seasons. He has 10 snaps of regular season experience from a Week 18 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in 2022.
Speculation abounded early on that the Bucs would go for a bigger-name veteran quarterback such as Derek Carr after Brady’s February 1 retirement. That all changed amid ESPN reporter Jeff Darlington’s report that Trask “is likely to be the guy” starting for the Bucs in 2023.
Darlington also reported that Bucs general manager Jason Licht believes Trask is “the best quarterback in the division” now. Dalton might get a chance to help prove if that’s true.
Andy Dalton Benefitted Another First-Year QB
Dalton could benefit Trask as a mentor, Valentino writes. Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields can attest to that after working with Dalton in 2021, Fields’ rookie season.
“Andy’s amazing. I mean, even this year, he was texting me after good games that I had and said, ‘I saw your game. Great job, bro.’ Just his family, his wife, his kids. They’re amazing,” Field said on Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take Podcast” as transcribed by Valentino. “Andy and Nick [Foles] they taught me a lot last year just with the life of being an NFL quarterback, and he kind of took me under his wing. I’m definitely very appreciative of that…”
Fields made strides from 2021 to 2022 with a higher completion percentage, more yards, more touchdowns, and a higher quarterback rating.