The Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently have 23 players who would become unrestricted free agents on March 16 if no action is taken before the start of the 2022 league year. That list includes 10 players who started at least 10 games last season, such as Carlton Davis, Chris Godwin, Ryan Jensen and Jordan Whitehead.
Nine of the 10 players we chose to highlight in our Free Agent Focus series are among that group, and what happens with that group will dictate how the Buccaneers approach the outside free agent pool and the 2022 NFL Draft. The 10th is Blaine Gabbert, and while he has seen very limited action over three seasons in Tampa, his 2022 status suddenly became a more interesting issue when Tom Brady retired on the first day of this month.
Bruce Arians has confidence in Gabbert, dating back to their season together with the Arizona Cardinals, and has referred to the veteran quarterback as one of the most underrated players in the NFL. Gabbert hasn't started regularly in the NFL since the second half of the 2015 season with the San Francisco 49ers, but he has to at least be considered an option to succeed Brady in the Buccaneers' offense. As such, he is definitely a player to watch on that long list of Bucs with expiring contracts.
The Bucs won't be able to keep all 23 of those potential free agents, but they'll try. And so, in the weeks leading up to the start of the new league year, we are going to look at 10 key players who are currently poised to become unrestricted free agents in mid-March. This is the full schedule of our 2022 Free Agent Focus rundown:
February 15: TE Rob Gronkowski
February 17: G Alex Cappa
February 22: CB Carlton Davis
February 24: QB Blaine Gabbert
March 1: DL Ndamukong Suh
March 3: RB Leonard Fournette
March 8: DL Will Gholston
March 10: WR Chris Godwin
March 14: S Jordan Whitehead
March 15: C Ryan Jensen
This list is subject to change based on potential roster moves in the coming weeks. However, today we will focus on the player who has spent the past two seasons as the primary backup to the G.O.A.T.
Player: Blaine Gabbert
Age at the Start of the 2022 Season: 32
Experience: Entering 12th NFL season
How Acquired: Signed as a free agent in March of 2019 after being released by the Tennessee Titans
Previous Contract(s): Gabbert played the 2021 season on a one-year contract signed last May. That marked the third straight year that he had inked a one-year deal with the Buccaneers. Prior to that he had a two-year contract with Tennessee (released after the first season), a one-year deal with Bruce Arians' Arizona Cardinals in 2017, a two-year contract with San Francisco for the 2015-16 campaigns and his original four-year rookie pact with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who took him with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Rank in Pro Football Focus Top 100 NFL Free Agents for 2021*:* Not ranked.
2021 Performance: Gabbert saw very little playing time in 2021 because Brady enjoyed good health throughout the season and didn't miss any time due to injury. Gabbert ended up with 11 total pass attempts, completing seven of them for 67 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked once for a loss of 10.
Gabbert threw most of his 2021 passes in mop-up duty in the Bucs' blowouts of Miami and Chicago. He completed all three of his throws against the Dolphins for 41 yards and hit on two of three against the Bears for 15 yards. He got into five games, in several cases just to take care of the victory kneel-downs. That's clearly reflected in his 2021 rushing line: nine carries for negative seven yards.
Career Accomplishments: Gabbert was drafted 10th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011 after a stellar college career at Missouri. The St. Louis native saw exactly half of his 48 NFL starts in his first two seasons with the Jaguars, including 14 as a rookie. After three seasons, Jacksonville traded Gabbert to the 49ers in March of 2014 and subsequently drafted Blake Bortles about a month later.
After backing up Colin Kaepernick in his first season in San Francisco, Gabbert replaced the incumbent quarterback at midseason in 2015 and finished with a 3-5 record in eight starts. Head Coach Chip Kelly named Gabbert the 49ers starter over Kaepernick to start the 2016 as well but the two switched places again after Gabbert opened the first five games and the team got off to a 1-4 record.
Gabbert signed with Arians' Cardinals during the 2017 offseason and was initially listed as the third quarterback behind Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton. However, Palmer broke his arm in the seventh game of the season and Stanton suffered a knee injury a few weeks later, opening the door for Gabbert to start five games. He threw for 1,086 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions in this five contests as the Cardinals went 2-3.
Overall, Gabbert has played in 66 games with 48 starts and has thrown for 9,273 yards, 50 touchdowns and 47 interceptions. He has a career completion rate of 56.3% and a passer rating of 72.4.
Other Potential Free Agent Quarterbacks: Teddy Bridgewater (Denver), Jameis Winston (New Orleans), Marcus Mariota (Las Vegas), Andy Dalton (Chicago), Ryan Fitzpatrick (Washington), Jacoby Brissett (Miami), Tyrod Taylor (Houston), Mitchell Trubisky (Buffalo), Colt McCoy (Arizona), Geno Smith (Seattle), Cam Newton (Carolina), Joe Flacco (NYJ), Trevor Siemian (New Orleans), Brandon Allen (Cincinnati), Mike Glennon (NYG)
Top Quarterback Prospects in 2022 NFL Draft: Malik Willis (Liberty), Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Matt Corral (Ole Miss), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), Sam Howell (North Carolina), Brock Purdy (Iowa State), Carson Strong (Nevada), Bailey Zappe (Western Kentucky), Anthony Brown (Oregon), Skylar Thompson (Kansas State)