The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have a tougher go at winning a third-straight NFC South crown this fall.
Rival New Orleans will sign quarterback Derek Carr for a four-year contract worth $150 million according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport. The Bucs once looked like an option for Carr, the former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback, but the Bucs’ opted to clean house instead amid $58.5 million over the salary cap.
The Saints notably have a poor salary cap situation, too, but will keep pushing off the cap issues for a later date. New Orleans sits at $21 million over the salary cap, so cuts and restructures remain for the Saints.
Tampa Bay swept the Saints last season and won the NFC South division title for a second-consecutive year, but the Bucs did it with an 8-9 record. The Bucs will cut running back Leonard Fournette, tight end Cameron Brate, and offensive tackle Donovan Smith as the beginning of the franchise’s efforts to get under the salary cap. The team also plans to eat all of retired quarterback Tom Brady‘s dead cap hit of $35.1 million this year.
Brady’s retirement left the Bucs in need of a veteran quarterback with only third-year quarterback Kyle Trask on the roster. The Bucs opted to choose Trask as the potential starter according to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, but the team will sign a veteran to give the former Florida star competition in camp.
Bucs Once Had Momentum With Carr
Carr arguably could have helped the Bucs keep the championship window open after Brady, but it would have prolonged serious salary cap issues.
Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson reported the “buzz” surrounding the Bucs and Carr during the Senior Bowl, but that dissipated as Carr visited New Orleans instead with the Raiders’ permission. The Raiders parted ways with Carr because of his massive contract — a three-year, $121.5 million deal that included a $40 million cap hit this year.
The Saints become instant contenders for the division crown with Carr under center. New Orleans lacked a stable quarterback situation after the retirement of Drew Brees in 2021 as Taysom Hill, Andy Dalton, and Jameis Winston didn’t fill the void. A four-time Pro Bowler Carr has a career record of 63-79 with 35,222 yards passing for 217 touchdowns and 99 interceptions.
New Orleans already has playmakers with the likes of wide receivers Michael Thomas and Chris Olave. The Saints also have a strong defense, which finished fifth overall for total yards allowed in 2022.
Bucs Could Wave White Flag on 2023
The Carr acquisition doesn’t mean the Bucs can’t go after another higher-quality free agent quarterback such as Jimmy Garoppolo or Geno Smith. However, the salary cap constraints, planned cuts, and investment in Trask point to what former Bucs guard Ian Beckles described as a coming implosion.
“I don’t even want to call it a rebuilding year. It’s almost like we gotta throw a bomb on this darn thing,” Beckles said on “In The Trenches“ podcast.
“8-10 last year on a downward slope. I’m going to say this: can’t nobody out there listening or watching me today tell me that our offense is going to be better next year,” Beckles added. “It’s not going to be. And nobody out there can tell me that our defense is going to be better next year. Why? Not because I say it. Because personnel-wise, we’re not going to be better.”
The Bucs’ NFC South outlook at least didn’t get better on Monday.