Will Tampa Bay package picks to draft a franchise quarterback?

Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

With Tom Brady reportedly headed out of town, is Tampa Bay in trade talks to ensure the franchise’s future at the 2023 NFL Draft?

After what has been a successful yet strange three-year tenure in Tampa Bay, the greatest QB of all time appears poised to pack his bags. While it’s not official yet, it’s assumed around the league that TB12 won’t be back.

Brady, who turns 46 in August, could be calling the plays in San Diego, Las Vegas, or Miami next season. Or elsewhere… or maybe even retirement. It all depends on what sports tabloid you’ve read recently.

For the Bucs (8-9), an NFC South title was a bit of a consolation prize as they never appeared to be a championship contender at all during the 2022 campaign.

Let’s be honest: They barely squeaked into the postseason with Brady at the helm, so imagine where they would stand without him.

It might be time for Tampa Bay to pull the trigger on a trade. With some decent depth in the first round, they could target a quarterback that could play either right away, or take over at some point in 2023.

No matter the scenario, the franchise knows that life without Tom Brady probably started as soon as Dallas eliminated them in dominating fashion, 31-14. The whispers were already in the air, and that loss didn’t help matters.

The Bucs currently have the 19th selection in the first round and sit at number 50 in the second. They possess the 82nd pick and then don’t draft again until the fifth round. That’s not a lot to be working with, especially for a team that’s looking to fill a major need.

Any chance Tampa Bay has of moving into the high top ten would mean likely giving up their first pick this year and a second-rounder in either 2023 or 2024

That’s the price the swashbucklers would likely have to pay in order to get a shot at the draft’s top two QB prospects. And that might just be too much.

Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud are expected to go within the first five players taken, so Tampa Bay would have to give up something significant to get to them.

However, neither one of the pair really stands out as a ‘surefire star’. While they have tremendous skill, they don’t grade out to the level of super prospects, like former first overall picks, Andrew Luck (no. 1 in 2012) or Joe Burrow (2020). Nor does Will Levis of Kentucky, although some scouts project him as the most ‘NFL-ready’ of the three top prospects. One, two, or even all three may go on to become successful QBs in the pros, but the potential reward isn’t worth the risk for Tampa.

Instead, they may just swim into the trade waters lightly in order to solve their QB quandary.

Tampa Bay could be better off staying right around where they are – with very little trade movement whatsoever. Some simple navigation could net Tampa Bay an offensive leader with a tremendous upside like Florida’s Anthony Richardson or Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker.

Both will be available in the second round, and their SEC exploits would certainly have the fan base excited about their pro potential. They would also bring enough size and durability to weather the storm of a potential rebuild, which has been discussed by the Buccaneer faithful.

In any case, fans of the team will be glued to their TV screens come April

For a team that is only a few years removed from a Super Bowl title, that trophy almost feels like an anvil now. Tampa Bay has been steadily falling ever since they grabbed it. They’ve lost some important pieces, and Brady’s frustration has been evident.

It will be interesting to see if general manager Jason Licht is prepared to wager on a big splash in this year’s draft, or if he is content to sign a free agent as a short-term stopgap.

Either move would be a sign that they don’t have any belief (or desire) that Tom Brady will return.