Bucs Backup QB Competition Heats up with Latest Signing

Blaine Gabbert

Getty Tampa Bay re-signed Blaine Gabbert to back up Tom Brady again.

Tampa Bay will keep its original potential Tom Brady heir apparent in the roster for 2021.

The Buccaneers re-signed backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert for a one-year contract paying up to $2.5 million according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler via ESPN’s Jenna Laine. Gabbert served as the primary backup for Brady in 2020 and saw limited action as Brady started every game.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht said earlier in the offseason that Gabbert, 31, could potentially take over for Brady, who will turn 44 in August, when he retires someday. There’s also speculation of recent draft pick Kyle Trask filling Brady’s shoes someday. The Bucs also have Ryan Griffin back, which means the Bucs have a three-way competition for the backup quarterback spots. The team carried three quarterbacks on the roster overall in 2020.

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Bucs See Potential in Gabbert

Despite drafting Trask, the Bucs like the potential in Gabbert, too.

“First of all, I love his energy,” Licht said per Pewter Report’s Taylor Jenkins in February. “I’ve really gotten close to Blaine this year just being on the sidelines. He’s a really smart guy but he is one guy, my scouts and I talk about this a lot, he’s just one guy that I love to watch throw every day in practice because he has got a cannon.”

Gabbert put that “cannon” on display in relief of Brady against the Detroit Lions in December 2020 when he completed 60 percent of his passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns during the Bucs’ 47-7. The backup threw a few other passes during the season and finished with a 56.3 completion percentage.

In 60 career games played, Gabbert has a 56.2 career passing percentage with 9,206 yards, 50 touchdowns, and 47 interceptions. He has 48 career starts and a record of 13-35, mainly from losing seasons in Jacksonville where he began his career.

“He’s very accurate with his throws as well and he can just really whistle them in, in tight windows,” Licht said per Jenkins. “If he had been forced to play, he played in the Detroit game, but if he had been forced to play more, I think that he would have really opened a lot of people’s eyes about how talented he is, especially being in the same system for a couple of years.”

Rocky Road to Tampa

Jacksonville saw that talent and took Gabbert 10th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, and he started 24 games for the Jaguars in his first two seasons. He didn’t become the franchise quarterback though, and the Jaguars traded him to San Francisco in 2014.

Gabbert remained a backup for most of his time in San Francisco, but the 49ers gave him the starting job ahead of Colin Kaepernick in 2016 according to Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper. It didn’t last with a couple of benchings in favor of Kaepernick and then former Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder per NBC Sports Bay Area.

Gabbert left in 2017 to join the Arizona Cardinals, coached by Bruce Arians at the time. The veteran played a backup role but picked up five starts amid injuries to fellow quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton per NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman.

Injuries opened the door for Gabbert again in 2018 after signing with the Tennessee Titans. He started three games in place of injured starter Marcus Mariota.

Tennessee released Gabbert after the season, and the Bucs signed him in 2019. He didn’t play in 2019 behind former Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston because of a dislocated shoulder per  Buccaneers.com’s Scott Smith. The Bucs signed him again before the 2020 season.

Gabbert hasn’t spent more than three seasons with any team in his career. Time will tell if Gabbert has found a longer-term fit in Tampa.

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