Best QB Options for Bucs in Free Agency, NFL Draft as Tom Brady Retires

Adam WellsJanuary 29, 2022

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) watches the sideline during a NFL divisional playoff football game between the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, January 23, 2022 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Menendez)
AP Photo/Alex Menendez

After two seasons with Tom Brady, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to be in the market for a new starting quarterback in 2022 as Tom Brady officially announced his retirement Tuesday morning.

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Tom Brady officially retires. Among his posts… <a href="https://t.co/o9GqgRKsoO">pic.twitter.com/o9GqgRKsoO</a>

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington reported January 29 that Brady would retire from the NFL after 22 seasons.

Barring a trade for an established veteran, the easiest way for the Bucs to find a quarterback will be in the 2022 NFL draft. They currently project to have seven picks, including the 27th overall selection.

This isn't the best draft class to be looking for a potential franchise quarterback. B/R's NFL scouting department only has one quarterback with a first-round grade (Desmond Ridder at No. 17 overall).

Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett is the only other signal-caller ranked in the top 75 (No. 43).

B/R's Nate Tice wrote that Ridder "has a path toward being a Pro Bowl-caliber player at the position if he gets in the right situation and can continue to work on his consistency."

Liberty's Malik Willis came into this season as one of the quarterbacks who could soar up boards because of his diverse skill set. He didn't make the progress needed to elevate himself into the top tier of players in this draft class.

B/R's scouting department has Willis as the No. 4 quarterback, behind Ridder, Pickett and Matt Corral:

"Willis has some intriguing traits that will make him a fun developmental prospect, but he has a long way to go to become an every-week NFL starter. He flashes very good arm strength when he's throwing in rhythm, with a nice, catchable deep ball and the ability to drive intermediate throws into tight spaces.
"He wins using his legs instead of hanging in the pocket to progress through passing concepts. It is great that he has that ability, and it is a true plus trait. But he will need time and reps to become comfortable in an NFL offense versus complicated pro defenses."

The free-agent class doesn't look much better right now. Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota and Mitchell Trubisky are the top four free-agent quarterbacks, per Pro Football Focus.

Winston had his infamous 30-30 season for Tampa in 2019 before Brady signed with the team. He was playing well for the New Orleans Saints this season before a torn ACL put him on the shelf in Week 8. The 28-year-old threw for 1,170 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions in seven starts prior to the injury.

It would seem unlikely head coach Bruce Arians wants to reunite with Winston, but perhaps he saw something to work with during Winston's brief tenure with the Saints in 2022.

Bridgewater's checkdown-style of play doesn't really fit with Arians' history of having quarterbacks who can throw the ball deep.

Mariota has spent the past two seasons as Derek Carr's backup with the Las Vegas Raiders. Trubisky threw eight passes in 2021 as Josh Allen's backup for the Buffalo Bills.

The Buccaneers have one of the best situations for any quarterback, rookie or veteran, to walk into. Chris Godwin can become a free agent this offseason, but ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported the team has "high interest" in re-signing the 25-year-old.

If Godwin returns, the Bucs would have him and Mike Evans as their top two wide receivers. Tight end is a significant question mark with O.J. Howard set to hit free agency and Rob Gronkowski's future uncertain.

But the offensive line was the second-best unit in the NFL in 2021, per Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson.

A quarterback with an elite offensive line, two top-tier wide receivers and a great offensive head coach is already at an advantage over most players at the position.