As the quarterback market shrinks before the new NFL year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have to hit the streets for its next starter.
The Bucs began a major search for a quarterback after the Feb. 1 retirement of Tom Brady, and the options just dwindled amid other teams’ moves this week. Aaron Rodgers will stay in Green Bay and Seattle plans to trade Russell Wilson to Denver, which eliminates the ideal options for the Bucs. Indianapolis plans to trade Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders, which crosses off another option.
Tampa Bay could go for Wentz’ predecessor, Philip Rivers, as Brian Mazique and Paul Edsen discussed during Heavy’s “I’m Just Saying” podcast. Rivers, who retired in 2021, received comeback invitations from the Colts and the New Orleans Saints according The Sporting News and WNSP via AL.com respectively. He threw for 4,169 yards and 24 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions in 2020 and led the Colts to the playoffs.
“I like it honestly if you can’t pull off some sort of deal for one of the elite younger quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson,” Mazique said. “If you can’t pull off that sort of deal, then okay. I don’t think Rivers is going to get paid elite quarterback money. You might be able to get him in for between $14 and $16 million dollars for this season. That would be a pretty solid deal for a starting quarterback in the NFL.”
“This just makes sense to me and it would instill some confidence in your offense and some of your younger receivers,” Mazique added. “Maybe that even entices Rob Gronkowski to come back because he is a free agent. So I like the idea, but I’m not sure it would be my No. 1 option.”
Rivers made the list of quarterbacks the Bucs considered in 2020 before signing Brady. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has expressed high praise of Rivers before, too.
The longtime Los Angeles Chargers quarterback frequently threw for more than 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns annually in his 17-year career. He can make the deep throws that Bucs head coach Bruce Arians likes for his offense, and Rivers averaged 12 yards per completion for his career.
Being out of the league a year isn’t ideal, but Rivers stayed in shape during the 2021 season according to WNSP via AL.com. Rivers also has more to achieve, having never won a Super Bowl or going further than the AFC championship game.
“Rivers did have some flirtations with the Indianapolis Colts last year about potentially coming back but it never came to fruition. I get the intrigue he has all caliber numbers and is motivated by the missing Super Bowl ring, but he would be nothing more than a fallback option for me,” Esden said. “I think there are far more superior options out there and I’d swing for the fences on a top-level quarterback before I considered Rivers.”
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Bucs’ Remaining Options vs. Rivers
Watson, for instance, could give the Bucs a top-level signal caller but has lots of question marks with legal troubles and potential suspension. Other quarterbacks rumored for consideration by the Bucs include Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Jameis Winston.
“If you checked all of those doors and they all said no then sure I’d come back to Rivers and kick the tires but not a second before that,” Esden said.
The Bucs have also shown interest in making backup Blaine Gabbert the starter in 2022.
Rivers Kept the Door Open
Rivers kept the door open to a comeback ever since his retirement in 2021. It even remained the case as he coached high school football at St. Michael Catholic High School in Fairhope, Alabama, last year.
“I’m not quite there,” Rivers told the Los Angeles Times in August 2021. “I’m getting back there. I wouldn’t have made weight if I had to report last week, that’s for sure. But I am getting back into the lifting and running, and shoot, I occasionally throw a ball around out here in this heat. It’s not too hard to get a good lather going.”
“I’m just going to stay ready,” Rivers added. “I want to make sure I’m very clear: I’m not predicting I will play in December or January, for that matter. One, you’ve got to have somebody who wants you, and two, it’s got to be right.”
“But I have not completely ruled that out.”