Buccaneers QB Search Won't End With Kyle Trask And One Player Seems Likely Fit

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need an heir to Tom Brady -- or at least a starting quarterback for 2023 that doesn't stink -- but with their current salary cap and roster makeup the search may feel like a hunt for Jimmy Hoffa or Atlantis.


And so now the Buccaneers are trying to convince everyone they really, really, truly have hope and, indeed, confidence that Kyle Trask will be the answer in the coming season.

"Yeah, we’re very excited about Kyle," Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said Tuesday. "We’re very excited about him getting the opportunity to be the starter – we’d be very comfortable with that.

" excited – I’ve used that word already but I really am – for him to get a chance to be with the starters in the offseason, starters in training camp, starters in preseason, which he’s never done. He was a successful quarterback in the SEC – I mean, wildly successful. We took him in the second round for a reason. We didn’t take him in the second round just to be a third-string quarterback.

"Now, it has yet to be seen what he turns out to be, but we’re confident that it’s going to be very good."

Licht added Trask is "accurate, he’s smart, he works hard. He’s got all the traits that you’re looking for in a quarterback."

Buccaneers Like Idea Of Trask As Starter But ...

And that sounds very good in the abstract.

Team drafts a quarterback relatively high in 2021. Team promotes him to starter in 2023 to succeed the greatest quarterback of all time.

But the NFL isn't played in the abstract. So if that's the plan in Tampa, the Bucs are headed for some rough times next season.

Because all the struggles a first-time NFL starter typically endures would be coming next season. And the trouble of getting veteran wide receivers like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin accepting they're not getting the ball at times they're wide open because an inexperienced QB didn't see them are coming.

And a team that plays in a division lacking any real quarterback talent right now accepting it is joining that group with nothing more than a hope is coming.

I have trouble believing all of that is coming. I simply don't think that's all the Buccaneers have.

They have other options. They must have other options or some folks might find themselves out of jobs after 2023.

GM Jason Licht Must Find Another QB

The most likely option is Tampa Bay signs a veteran quarterback with starter experience. And then that quarterback and Trask compete in camp and the preseason for the right to start.

That way if Trask wins the job, he earned it. He gets locker room credibility for that.

And if the veteran wins the job, it's because coach Todd Bowles and new Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dave Canales think they have upgraded from the promising 24-year-old Trask who has been on the roster for a couple of years.

So that search for a veteran quarterback in Tampa will happen in free agency.

"We understand we lost the greatest of all time, but whoever we bring in here will have a chance to compete,," Bowles said. "Kyle will have a chance to compete, and we will see where that goes."

Tampa's salary cap situation, the worst in the NFL at the start of this week, is such that the team was some $55 million over the 224.8 million. That will obviously change because the Buccaneers will lighten the load on bloated contracts -- a process that has begun with the news the team is releasing running back Leonard Fournette and left tackle Donovan Smith.

Todd Bowles Believes Bucs Can Compete

So the cap situation will limit what the Bucs can do.

"We’re going to be smart about it," Bowles said. "We understand we’re over the cap coming into this. But we have a plan and we have a long-term plan that we’re going to go by. We don’t want to sacrifice one year for paying someone as opposed to sacrificing the future, but we’ll go out and we’ll be smart about it.

"If the guy has a long-term plan or can hang out and play with us, we’ll take a look at him. It’s also a desirable place because we do have talent around him and people may want to come and do one-year, prove-it deals. We’ll see what happens in the next two or three weeks and we’ll go forward, but we have a plan of what we want to do."

Here's the veteran quarterback plan: The Bucs want to sign a quarterback with starter experience who is willing to compete to be a starter again.

That veteran, who obviously has washed out with at least one other franchise, will have to understand he must prove himself. So a one-year deal at backup cost with incentives if he wins the starting job will have to be agreeable.

Baker Mayfield Seems A Fit For Bucs

And who fits that mold?

Baker Mayfield.

Jimmy Garoppolo expects to land a starting job and also expects a sizeable contract as part of that. So he's not it.

Carson Wentz and Marcus Mariota have shown themselves incapable of leading teams. Both are longshots. Sam Darnold? Maybe but read on ...

Mayfield has also been replaced in Cleveland and released by Carolina, but he has experience with veteran wide outs. He has had moments of clarity, even last year with the Los Angeles Rams when he completed 63.3 percent of his passes and threw 4 TDs and 2 interceptions after arriving from Carolina.

And then there's the fact Bowles liked Mayfield when the Jets he coached at the time were evaluating quarterbacks for the 2018 draft. The Jets picked Darnold that draft, but Bowles liked Mayfield better.

So perhaps that's the direction this goes as the Buccaneers try to strike a balance between cleaning up their cap situation while not giving up on the coming season.

"We were in a position in 2020 after we won the Super Bowl to be able to re-sign all of our players, which hadn’t been done, or hadn’t been done in a very long time," Licht said. "The goal is eventually to get back into a position like that, but in the short term, we still want to win and compete for this division – and we think we can.

"We just want to do it without sacrificing our long-term plans, our long-term goals, as well. I think we can find a way to do both at the same time."

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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Armando Salguero is a national award-winning columnist and is OutKick's Senior NFL Writer. He has covered the NFL since 1990 and is a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a voter for the Associated Press All-Pro Team and Awards. Salguero, selected a top 10 columnist by the APSE, has worked for the Miami Herald, Miami News, Palm Beach Post and ESPN as a national reporter. He has also hosted morning drive radio shows in South Florida.