Kyle Trask Is Bucs’ Starting QB – For Now

Kyle Trask is the Bucs’ starting quarterback – for now.

And by default.

Trask, the former second-round pick who is entering his third year, is currently the only quarterback under contract in Tampa Bay. But there will be the others.

Facing a daunting salary cap situation this year with the team already $56 million over the cap, trading for Aaron Rodgers is out of the question. So is signing an upper-echelon QB like Derek Carr.

Partly due to Tom Brady, who retired from football for good this offseason, the Bucs will be looking for a bargain veteran to come in and compete with Trask for the right to start. Brady has a dead cap hit of $35 million this season that the Bucs have to absorb in order to get their cap situation to be much more manageable in 2024.

“We’ve got to be smart,” Bucs head coach Todd Bowles said. “It’s still an attractive place to play because we’ve got players around [the quarterback]. They’re not coming to the cupboard bare. At the same time, we’ve got to understand that it takes all guys to win ball games, not just one guy even though we had the greatest player to ever play the ball game. We still have to play team football to win, and that’s what it’s all about. That’s why it’s a team sport.”

A Veteran QB Will Be Added To Compete With Kyle Trask

Bucs general manager Jason Licht used the word “value” when talking about finding free agents. Perhaps a one-year prove-it deal for a veteran journeyman like Jacoby Brissett, Baker Mayfield or Taylor Heinicke is in the cards.

Bucs QB Kyle Trask

Bucs QB Kyle Trask – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“I’ll just say that – I think in free agency this year, we’ve got some challenges ahead of us that we have to plan for to get under the cap,” Licht said. “But we’re going to be looking for value. And that goes for all positions for the most part.”

So, while the Bucs are eager to see what Trask can do without being buried on the depth chart behind the greatest quarterback of all time and experienced veteran Blaine Gabbert, Bowles isn’t going to anoint him as the starter just because of his draft status.

“I didn’t say he could be No. 1 yet – I just said he can compete,” Bowles said. “I said he can compete. I see the work ethic, I see the toughness, I see the willingness to get better every day. It’s hard to get reps when you have a guy like Tom Brady in front of you that’s playing all the time. So, he’ll have an opportunity to compete to become No. 1. That’s all you can ask for in this league. You don’t give anybody anything.

“So, we’ll bring in some competition obviously, but at the same time, I like his work ethic, I like his determination. He’s one of those guys, when the cameras are off, he’s working. And that’s what you can appreciate about him. That’s the best I can tell you.”

Bucs Not Publicly Ruling Out Blaine Gabbert, Or Draft Pick To Challenge Kyle Trask

As for Gabbert, neither Bowles nor Licht publicly ruled out a return to Tampa Bay for the 33-year old veteran.

“No, he’s not out of the picture,” Bowles said. “We have a bunch of free agents we’ve got to try and deal with, and there’ll be a pecking order we’ll go through. But I think very highly of Blaine.”

Bucs QBs Kyle Trask and Blaine Gabbert

Bucs QBs Kyle Trask and Blaine Gabbert – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But after seeing Gabbert in practice for the past four seasons, Tampa Bay might want to move on to a newer and perhaps better option.

Licht also said that drafting another quarterback to compete with Trask could be on the table. Just because the Bucs spent a second-rounder on Trask in 2021 won’t preclude the team from drafting another young signal-caller to add to the competition.

“Yes, it’s always a possibility,” Licht said. “The evaluations aren’t done yet. The tape is done, the season’s done for these guys, but now you got the Combine, you got the visits, you got the workouts, all these things. There are several quarterbacks that we like in this draft, just like most drafts. It’s definitely a possibility.”

Tampa Bay likely won’t be able to get one of the top four quarterbacks in this year’s draft – Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson – without trading up from the No. 19 pick. But drafting Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker in the second round or Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell, Houston’s Clayton Tune or Georgia’s Stetson Bennett on Day 3 could be in play.

The Bucs face a daunting challenge replacing Brady, especially with an unproven player like Trask, a rookie or a journeyman quarterback. Bowles said that the entire team will have to play better around the quarterback in 2023 than it did in 2022, which was Brady’s final season.

“When you play team football, the less a quarterback has to do,” Bowles said. “We have to become a better complete team and play team football and not put everything on the quarterback. Obviously, it’s a polarizing position, but at the same time, it’s going to take everybody to win ball games. So, as long as we make it about that, the quarterback – as long as he doesn’t give the ball away – we should be fine.”

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