With the draft a few days away—and several teams reportedly in contact with the Bucs to discuss possible trades—I’ve been pondering the best possible scenarios for such a switch. I’ve narrowed it down to two somewhat plausible options:
1. Trade down with Eagles; they get 1st pick, Bucs get vet QB Sam Bradford and extra picks
2. Trade with Chargers; they get 1st overall pick, Bucs get vet QB Phillips Rivers and possibly extra pick
My guess is that both of these scenarios have been floated by Licht, if only for the purposes of discussion. If so, it’s my firm opinion that—provided enough value in the form of extra picks—the Bucs would be nuts not to jump on such an offer. Let’s examine each briefly:
1. Trade with Eagles for Bradford and picks
Chip Kelly is a smart dude. So smart, in fact, that his seemingly strange decision to shuttle Nick Foles and acquire Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez makes much more sense now in insight. First, because the Eagles were clearly not sold on Foles being able to do all of the things Kelly wants his QB to do, including consistent accuracy. Bradford, however, is known as a very accurate guy when he’d protected. More important, Bradford played in a spread-option scheme at Oklahoma which makes him a more natural fit in Kelly’s offense. Question is, did Kelly acquire Bradford to run his show, or to use as a possible bargaining chip to move up in the draft to get his real target, Oregon QB Marcus Mariota? The latter scenario is not as far-fetched as it might sound. Kelly has coveted Mariota openly, and he knew he did not have the firepower to move up without offering value to a team like Tennessee or Tampa Bay in the form of a talented pocket passer. If he cannot not swing a deal he has upgraded his QB spot with Bradford, regardless. If a team like the Bucs is open to a trade involving Bradford Kelly could acquire the QB he really wanted all along (Mariota). Again, smart.
From the Bucs perspective, a trade for Bradford and picks would be very intriguing. They are contemplating using the first overall pick to acquire Winston, yet Bradford offers better value. First, because Bradford was a first overall pick himself with a higher overall grade than Winston as a prospect, and also because, unlike Winston, Bradford has proven that he belongs as a pro starter. Yes, his injuries are a concern and he has not exactly lit the league on fire yet, but he did earn an Offensive Rookie of the Year award for a solid first 2010 season and his numbers when healthy have been very good. Bradford is also a great kid and locker room presence with zero character concerns—a legit “face of the franchise” type. If the Eagles can sweeten the deal enough with extra picks—and Kelly actually offers Bradford in trade—the Bucs would be foolish to decline.
2. Trade with Chargers for Rivers
Unsubstantiated rumors have been swirling for some time that the Chargers might want to go in a different direction at QB. Rivers has been a fantastic player for them but has never won a title and can be a controversial guy with his fiery manner and tendency to yip at opponents. Rivers has also held off in signing a contract due to concerns about the club possibly moving to Los Angeles. Could a trade with the Bucs for Rivers be a possibility? I doubt it. In my opinion the Chargers would be nuts to let go of one of the league’s premier talents at the position for a big gamble in Winston or Mariota…and they know it. Rivers is only 33 and relatively healthy, and still statistically a top 10 player at his position. However, with Rivers not 100% happy in San Diego there is an outside chance of such a trade. The sticking pint would be value; that is, I can’t see San Diego’s GM being willing to ffer much more beyond Rivers for the chance to move up, and the Bucs would almost certainly demand additional value in the form of picks.
Could this deal happen? Again, very doubtful. If a trade was orchestrated, odds are it would be between the Titans and Chargers, not the Titans and the Bucs, since the Titans seem much more focused on Mariota than Winston. Teams trading away franchise-caliber QBs, in this age of potent passing offenses, is also about as rare as a polka-dotted unicorn. But if by some chance Rivers is floated out as a trade chip to acquire the first pick, the Bucs would be nuts not to try and make it happen. Add a super-talented vet, invest heavily in picks along the O-line and voilà—you’re a just-add-water contender in 2015.
Like I say, both are long-shot scenarios, with the Bradford-to-Tampa version the most likely of the two. If the Bucs can’t swing a deal to trade down for extra picks and a vet QB, I still strongly advocate them using the first pick on a defensive star like Florida DE Fowler or USC DT Williams, then acquiring a QB or two later down in the draft to compete with Glennon. Like many Buc fans I do not trust Winston’s suspect behavior or tendency toward untimely picks, so I’d much rather see my Bucs play the percentages by going with less-hyped, high-character additions while making the bolstering of their offensive and defensive lines the top draft priority.