The Bucs could pursue Cleveland Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who will become a free agent in 2023. Brissett made his case before the Bucs’ eyes with a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter followed by a game-winning drive in overtime to beat the Bucs 23-17.
Brissett has 2,608 yards passing, a 64.1 completion percentage, and 12 touchdowns versus six interceptions. He also brings mobility to the table, and he has 238 yards total and 5.1 yards per carry plus two touchdowns this season.
Deshaun Watson will take over the Browns’ starting quarterback job this week after his 11-game suspension due to off-field conduct. The Browns traded for Watson in the offseason and traded away Baker Mayfield.
Brissett, who learned under Brady in 2016 with the New England Patriots, got thrust into a full-time starting role with the Indianapolis Colts in 2019. That came about due to the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck, and Brissett went 7-8 as the Colts starter with 2,942 yards passing for 18 touchdowns versus six interceptions.
“Everybody looks at him as Tom Brady, and he doesn’t think he is Tom Brady,” Brissett told The Athletic’s Zac Jackson about his time with Brady. I know from the first day I met him he has been the same guy. Honestly, he held me to a higher standard than I probably held myself in the beginning of my career. Just so many things I can say about him. His competitive nature is what drives him.”
Brissett a Respected Leader in Cleveland
Cleveland signed Brissett as the temporary starter until Watson’s suspension concluded, and Brissett earned the respect of the Browns organization in that time. Brissett took a one-year deal worth $4.6 million, per Spotrac, and he could command a little more in free agency with a quarterback-needy team.
“It’s been huge having him as one of our leaders,” Browns offensive guard Joel Bitonio said via ClevelandBrowns.com. “He always talks about us and the team. Obviously, he never talks about himself, but I was thinking that we have to get one more because he’s played better than 3-7 or whatever our record was before tonight. He deserved a few more wins in there, so I’m glad we got him one more here.”
In come the Bucs in that scenario. If Brady retires or moves on as a free agent himself, the Bucs only have Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin, and Kyle Trask. Gabbert could also become a free agent, and hasn’t started regularly since 2015 where he started eight games for the San Francisco 49ers.
Meanwhile, Trask hasn’t played a regular season snap in two seasons. Griffin similarly has minimal NFL experience with just two game appearances in 2019 where he threw four passes.
Bucs Need a Bargain at QB
Tampa Bay may also need a bargain to sign a veteran starting quarterback if Brady leaves. The Bucs enter 2023 free agency with a horrific salary cap situation of $49.65 million over the salary cap, per Spotrac.
In addition, the Bucs have a bevy of free agents to re-sign or replace. That includes key offensive skill positions, defensive backs, and linebackers, and defensive linemen.
That doesn’t mean the Bucs will sink in rebuild mode because the team will retain numerous key players under contract. Likely returning players under contract include Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Shaquil Barrett, Devin White, Vita Vea, Carlton Davis III, and Shaq Mason.
With the rest of the NFC South Division mired in rebuild mode, the Bucs could benefit from a veteran quarterback next season to make another division title run. It could also buy the Bucs time to develop Trask and take another quarterback in the draft if the right fit comes along.