Yardbarker NFL writers Michael Tunison and Chris Mueller address some of the hottest issues in the league. This week's topic: Which potential Tom Brady destination in 2020 would be most enjoyable to see?
Mueller: Titans cornerback Logan Ryan had barely crossed the goal line with a game-sealing pick-six Saturday night against the Patriots when sports betting websites began posting odds on where Tom Brady would play in 2020. Brady will have his pick of destinations should he decide to void his contract and finally test the free-agent waters. The least enticing option for 2020 for most of us would be Brady remaining in New England and making another run for a Super Bowl. Part of the reason is that it appears that the Patriots, as currently constructed, are the third-best team in the AFC, and maybe worse.
No, to really generate headlines and pique interest, he’ll have to go somewhere else. While the Chargers have been mentioned frequently, they don’t move the needle. Brady’s arrival in Los Angeles would get plenty of coverage and would be a true litmus test of his influence, given the near-total indifference shown the Bolts in Southern California, but after the initial burst of interest, it’s easy to imagine things fading.
Indianapolis has potential, particularly with the Deflategate angle and Brady’s historic dominance over that franchise, but that still isn’t the most interesting 2020 destination for him.
There’s one team I’d like to see Brady suit up for far more than any other: the Browns. Cleveland has the cap room, and if Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels ends up as the next Browns head coach, the situation will be tailor-made. Brady was frustrated with a lack of offensive talent in Foxborough? Enter Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
Beckham, you might recall, really wanted to play with Brady. Problem solved. The Browns desperately need leadership, accountability and a presence who commands respect. Brady’s competitiveness is legendary, as is his work ethic. He’d check all three boxes, and Cleveland’s days of being a circus sideshow would be over. Baker Mayfield would either have to sit the bench or be traded.
Scoff at the latter notion if you’d like, but Josh Rosen fetched a second-round pick for the Cardinals when they sent him to Miami, and he never set the rookie passing touchdown record. If Cleveland wanted to rid itself of Mayfield, it could find a taker; the Raiders, perhaps? Brady playing out his final few years surrounded by some of the best offensive talent in the sport, with two guaranteed games against Lamar Jackson on tap and the chance to resurrect the Browns, of all franchises?
Sign me up.
Tunison: Mitch Trubisky bounced back somewhat in the second half of the regular season, as the Bears realized his running threat was integral to his game. (He scored two rushing TDs and ran for 162 yards in the last nine games of the season.) Nevertheless, any number of analysts have suggested that the Bears need to add another quarterback to push him. How about the greatest of all time?
To be sure, Brady wouldn't sign with the Bears — or any team — with the idea that he would have to compete for the job. He would sign with the understanding that it was his team from the get-go. Of course the Bears would hand him the keys to the castle. Anything to have a bona fide superstar quarterback in a Chicago uniform for the first time.
Suppose Brady stays a year. Trubisky could study behind a Hall of Famer, undoubtedly gaining valuable insight. If Brady wants to stay more than one season, the Bears cut Mitch without thinking twice. Sure, it was a waste of some time and draft capital, but I doubt anyone would care. Bears fans would be beside themselves to finally have an all-time great throwing passes for their team.
We never got a Brady-Rodgers Super Bowl, but we'd get two regular-season showdowns per season. Really, the biggest obstacle I see is that Brady is a coastal guy. The Midwest doesn't seem so much the speed for him and wife Gisele Bundchen, but if it's only for a year or two, I'm sure they'd be fine with it. If he could deal with going to school at Michigan, Chicago is downright glamorous by comparison. And with a keen offensive mind in Matt Nagy on the sidelines, there would be plenty of innovative schemes to make sure he's given his best chance to thrive in his second NFL act.
Mueller: Since this discussion is about places we “want” to see Brady play, let me throw in a true wild card: Tampa Bay. The incongruity of the whole thing would be hilarious on its own — the league’s greatest player at its most glamorous position playing for a team whose uniforms look like something from the XFL drawing board.
Tampa’s status as an NFL dreg aside, the potential for fun is high. The Buccaneers were appointment viewing this season, mainly because Jameis Winston had an unprecedented season, becoming the first player ever to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. The absurdity of Winston’s performance masked a more interesting reality: The building blocks of a great offense already exist in Tampa, and all that is needed to bring the whole thing together in a potentially frightening package is a quarterback who doesn’t average nearly two interceptions per game.
Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are stars, and while the Bucs didn’t run the ball effectively, they still finished third in the league in scoring offense. Imagine what they could do with a precision passer like Brady working in harmony with head coach Bruce Arians. Tampa Bay has the cap space and a defense that struggles against the pass but also has serious teeth against the run; the Buccaneers gave up the fewest yards per carry in the league this year. Add Brady to that mix, and voila — bona fide contender.
The best argument against Brady playing for the Bucs is the fact that they’re the Bucs. But if he was frustrated by the lack of offensive help he had in New England, he’ll feel like he’s died and gone to heaven once he starts throwing to Evans and Godwin. Plus, Florida’s Gulf Coast isn’t half bad either.
Do it, Tom. You know you want to.
Tunison: In a spin on the old adage "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," the Pittsburgh Steelers, unable to best Tom Brady in any game of major consequence over the past 20 years, would bring him on as a 43-year-old starting quarterback, in the hopes of ascending that stairway to seven (Super Bowls).
While hilarious, this is an implausible scenario for several reasons. Ben Roethlisberger is returning from injury. He has hinted at the possibility of sudden retirement a number of times over the past few years, but no such suggestions have materialized since this injury. The Steelers also don't have the cap space necessary to make a play at Brady even if they wanted to, though Roethlisberger retiring would free up a $33 million cap hit for 2020. So if he were to hang it up sometime between now and the start of March, it's a solid maybe.
Getting past all that, however, there's still the matter that Pittsburgh fans absolutely loathe Tom Brady. I'm not sure most of them wouldn't stage an open revolt if the Steelers signed him, even if they did think he could give the team a better chance to win the Super Bowl next season.
But if you have contempt for the Steelers, and plenty do, I'm sure it would tickle you to watch Pittsburgh essentially wave the white flag by bringing on Brady and observe a bunch of yinzers hold their noses as their archnemesis commandeers their favorite team. This might be the scenario with the most pressure on Brady and the team that signs him. Steelers fans are already spoiled by success and expect big things every year, and such a move would only ratchet things up further. Were Brady to fall short, oh boy, that'd be something to behold.
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