The Buccaneers are leaving the door open for Tom Brady in case the legendary quarterback changes his mind on retirement, and sources say they would do whatever is necessary for him to return -- a possibility Brady himself isn't completely ruling out.
Should he remain retired, the Bucs have shifted their focus to other veteran QBs who could be available via trade. Sources say they're doing extensive homework on Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and are one of multiple teams expected to explore a potential trade for Russell Wilson, though the Seahawks have given no indication they'll deal him.
Brady, 44, announced his retirement on Feb. 1, but said Monday on his SiriusXM podcast that he would "never say never" on the possibility of playing again. While people close to Brady consider the chances of that happening to be remote, the Bucs have made clear to Brady they'd be willing to do what it takes, as they have since they originally recruited him to Tampa two years ago.
The Bucs paid Brady over $44 million in 2021 as part of a contract that was renegotiated after their Super Bowl win last February. He's on the books for about $10.4 million in 2022, but that was always a placeholder that would be redone once Brady committed for another year.
Barring a Brady comeback, the Bucs' options include: veteran backup Blaine Gabbert, who is set to become a free agent in March; last year's second-round draft pick, Kyle Trask, who they're high on; signing a vet in free agency, such as Tampa's former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston; or swinging big in the trade market. Considering the Bucs are built to win now and hit it big with their last big swing on Brady, aggressively pursuing another big-name QB would make sense.
Watson, 26, didn't play last season amidst a trade request and more than 20 allegations of sexual misconduct that are currently the subject of civil lawsuits, a police investigation and an NFL probe. Watson has denied wrongdoing. The three-time Pro Bowl selection has made clear he won't play for the Texans again, and sources say Houston continues to target a trade before the league year begins on March 16.
Wilson, 33, reiterated in a SiriusXM interview on Friday that his "hope and goal is to be back (in Seattle) and keep winning there" and his relationship is closer than ever with Pete Carroll, who speaks with Wilson regularly. However, that won't stop teams from inquiring, as they did a year ago.
Both Watson and Wilson have no-trade clauses and would need to sign off on any deal.
Other teams that figure to be in the mix with QB trades include the Broncos, Panthers, Saints and Commanders.