Would the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trade the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft to salary cap-strapped New Orleans for quarterback Drew Brees? That’s he latest rumor – albeit unfounded – involving the Bucs in their quest to land a franchise quarterback, according to the New Orleans Sun Times.
The Saints are too snug with the salary cap in 2015 and beyond, especially with Brees’ salary cap hit of $26.4 million this year and $27.4 million in 2016, which is the final year of his contract. The Bucs have the cap room to absorb Brees’ $18.75 million base salary and $250,000 workout bonus, but would they even want to? And would it make sense for the Saints to take a $33.55 million salary cap hit this year – due to guaranteed salary and signing bonus acceleration – to be without Brees in 2015?
While many, including PewterReport.com, forecast the Bucs to draft Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with the first overall pick, the fact that the Saints could offer up an aging Brees and two first-round picks – number 13 and 31 overall (acquired from Seattle) – is undoubtedly intriguing. But let’s examine this hypothetical trade scenario more closely to see if it would make sense for Tampa Bay.
Brees, a future Hall of Famer who turned 36 last year, is still playing at a high level, evidenced by a QB rating of 97 last year while passing for 4,952 yards with 33 touchdowns. But how many great years does he have left – perhaps two?
If Tampa Bay had a Super Bowl-ready defense, like the team had in 2001 when it acquired aging veteran Brad Johnson in free agency, it would be easy to consider pulling the trigger on this transaction if the Bucs and Saints were indeed having serious discussions about this supposed trade rumor. But the Bucs defense boasted just one Pro Bowler last year in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, and one alternate in linebacker Lavonte David.
That’s a far cry from the Pro Bowl-laden defense Tampa Bay had during its Super Bowl run in 2002. During that season, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, defensive end Simeon Rice, linebackers Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles and strong safety John Lynch made the Pro Bowl for the Buccaneers.
If Brees were two years younger at 34, the Bucs should give more consideration to this opportunity. But to trade away the chance to have a franchise quarterback like Winston for a decade for a possible three-year window of opportunity with Brees is too great a risk.
It’s easy to look at Winston’s past transgressions and say there are too many risks associated with that young quarterback that hasn’t played a down in the NFL yet. But when passing up the opportunity to draft such a dynamic player as the former Heisman Trophy winner and national champion, one has to look at the possible upside of a player like Winston, too.
Would the Bucs want to give a division rival the top player in the 2015 NFL Draft?
Would Tampa Bay want to face Winston twice a year for the next 10-12 years?
Would Jason Licht and Lovie Smith want to hand Sean Payton the quarterback he really wants – Winston – and take the quarterback he apparently doesn’t care about losing in this scenario, which would be Brees?
Payton met with Winston at the NFL Scouting Combine, and if the rumors are true about the Saints’ desire to move up in the draft to get him, it would be logical to conclude that Payton was smitten with Winston. Payton is a passing game guru that knows the quarterback position as well as anyone in the NFL. If he desperately wants Winston, that should give the Bucs a big clue about just how good Winston is.
If Brees and the Saints played in a different division it would be one thing, but the fact that New Orleans is an NFL South rival is the primary reason a trade for the aging Pro Bowl quarterback should be sacked by Tampa Bay. The Bucs would be wise to dismiss any notion of trading away the player a division rival might covet the most.
Some are calling Winston the second-best quarterback prospect behind Andrew Luck to come out in the draft over the past 10 years. Keep in mind that Indianapolis jettisoned their Hall of Fame quarterback in Peyton Manning for a young franchise quarterback in Luck just three years ago. The Saints would wisely want to do the same thing.
Licht and Smith should stick to their original plan and draft such a transformational franchise quarterback like Winston, and give the Saints something to be concerned about twice a year for the next decade.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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