The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have their work cut out for them this offseason. They need to address their quarterback position on the fly now that Tom Brady has retired, all while trying to keep their competitive window open. But while Brady said recently that he feels good about his decision to hang it up, Tampa Bay is leaving the door open for the future first-ballot Hall of Famer to make a return, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.
But hiding behind the shadow of a potential Brady return is an even more interesting rumor:
Buccaneers leaving door open for potential Tom Brady return, could explore trades for Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, from @TomPelissero and @RapSheet https://t.co/yuSGsJekHv pic.twitter.com/5cW76yWfpC
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) February 13, 2022
Although the Buccaneers are leaving the door open for a potential Brady return, it’s more likely that Tampa Bay will find their next starting quarterback on the trade market. The double-bylined report by Rapoport and Pelissero has the Buccaneers “doing extensive homework on Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson” and have them as “one of the multiple teams expected to explore a potential trade for Russell Wilson, though the Seahawks have given no indication they’ll deal him.”
Watson, 26, missed the entire 2021 season as the Houston Texans refused to play the one-time first-rounder while he faced ongoing civil litigation stemming from 22 different lawsuits filed last spring. Watson is still facing all 22 allegations in civil court. The NFL nor the Houston Police Department have neither completed their investigations into the matter. So, what’s changed, you ask?
Watson stands in the exact same place he was at the beginning of the 2021 NFL season, and any team that trades for him will have to deal with the potential fallout, both civilly and criminally, when these investigations and proceedings conclude. Watson has not been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, so whoever he plays for will have to continue to pay him to sit if they choose to sideline him for the duration of the proceedings. Watson comes with a $40 million cap hit in 2022, so if a team does trade for him this offseason, you better bet you behind they plan on him starting under center in Week 1 next season.
There’s was smoke in the fall around the notion that the Miami Dolphins would be willing to trade for Watson, but it’s reported that the Dolphins ultimately decided that they weren’t going to pay the steep asking price that Houston was seeking with Watson still facing a plethora of legal issues.
Would Bruce Arians and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers be willing to leverage significant draft capital on Watson before the legal proceedings conclude? I highly doubt it. Arians allegedly cut Antonio Brown mid-game this season, so I can’t see him inviting the circus that would follow Deshaun Watson to Tampa Bay. I’m also not sure that any ownership group will be willing to risk the potential blowback from lucrative endorsement contracts. Nike and Reliant Energy dropped Watson within weeks of the allegations surfacing, and I would imagine that similar companies would take issue with Watson playing every week for a team that they help bankroll.
While it seems like the Buccaneers are determined to push forward and stay competitive in their current winning window by finding a ready-to-play solution under center, Deshaun Watson doesn’t seem like the answer, unless his legal issues are resolved in a hurry; something that there’s been nothing to lead us to believe will be happening.