Tom Brady’s imminent deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the biggest news of the NFL offseason. The sight of Brady in anything other than a Patriots jersey will be jarring, but a pairing with elite Bucs receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin is highly intriguing. So is the connection with Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians, who has a history of working with great quarterbacks.
Brady’s presence in Tampa will have a huge effect on the NFL, with ripple effects on his new division, conference, teammates, ex-teammates and just about everyone else in his orbit. Here are 20 ways Brady’s move south will change the NFL in 2020:
Your fantasy team is going to look different
Brady's arm might not be what it used to be for deep throws, but many of his problems in 2019 were connected to a lack of dynamic receiving weapons. Evans (1,157) and Godwin (1,333) both topped 1,000 yards last season, and are versatile, physically dominant targets. Brady might not have been a good fantasy option in 2019, but expect that to change this season.
AB to TB?
It’s no secret that Brady hit it off with Antonio Brown during AB's one-game career in New England. Brady reportedly was unhappy when the Patriots cut Brown. The NFL still hasn’t made a decision on Brown’s future as far as a suspension, but if he is reinstated, might Tampa Bay try to load up at wide receiver and simply outscore every team on its schedule? Would Brady be able to keep three elite receivers happy? It would be a spectacular drama to behold, making Bucs games must-see TV for the first time since .... well, the first time ever.
The Saints have a new rival in the NFC South
Tampa Bay tied for second in the division last season, but no team was even close to New Orleans’ level. That should change with Brady around. Drew Brees just re-upped for two more seasons, and Teddy Bridgewater is now in Carolina, so the path back to the playoffs in the Big Easy looks a bit more tenuous than it did a few days ago.
Trouble brewing in New England
What exactly is Bill Belichick going to do now? In their 20-year pairing in New England, Brady was the starter at the start of every season except his 2000 rookie year. Brady inarguably turned many likely losses into wins during his tenure. Even if Belichick lands one of the available free-agent quarterbacks on the market, chances are that that player won’t be as good as Brady. New England eating a $13.5 million dead cap hit for Brady won’t make rebuilding the roster any easier.
Brees and Brady: Games for the ages
Two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history will play twice a season. Combined, they have won seven Super Bowls (Brady six, Brees one), thrown for 151,987 yards (Brees 77,416, Brady 74,571) and tossed 1,088 touchdowns (Brees 547, Brady 541). This is a massive win for the league and its fans. Combined age of the QBs when the season starts: 84 (Brees 41, Brady 43)
The NFC looks even more brutal
Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, New Orleans, Green Bay and now Tampa Bay all look like they’re going to be serious contenders in 2020. Arizona got wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in a lopsided trade from Houston, and is clearly a team on the rise. The Rams barely missed the playoffs despite having a down year. Something has to give, even with an extra playoff team being added to the field. Teams that aren’t stacked are going to find it very hard to break into that group.
What happens to Jameis Winston?
The man Brady is replacing has all the physical talent in the world; no one would dispute that Winston can fit the ball into any window imaginable. In some ways, he was the perfect quarterback for Arians’ deep-passing system. He also could be a nightmare. Winston threw 30 interceptions in 2019, and it’s hard to get a read on what other teams think about him. The Chargers were looked at as a co-finalist for Brady’s services. Might they take Winston as a consolation prize?
Could Dalton move on?
Dalton isn’t quite as big as Brady, but he does get the ball out of his hand quickly and decisively, though his resume has a major flaw; he has had talented teams with the Bengals (yes, really) yet never won a playoff game in Cincinnati. He’s a veteran, and a traditional pocket passer, albeit with a bit more mobility than Brady, but would Belichick really look at him as a worthy successor? The number of available veterans dwindles by the day.
Cam in Tinseltown?
Cam Newton is done in Carolina, with the Panthers having committed to Teddy Bridgewater while granting Newton permission to seek a trade. The divorce between the 2015 MVP and the franchise that drafted him looks like it will only get uglier, and chances are, the price to acquire Newton won’t be prohibitively high. The Chargers still need a quarterback, and have some weapons. Would Newton, whose personality and community work make him a popular, larger-than-life figure, be the right choice to breathe life into an irrelevant franchise?
The Patriots wouldn’t tank, would they?
Bill Belichick wants to win his breakup with Brady. Sinking to the bottom of the standings more or less on purpose wouldn’t be a wise way to do that. However, if a terrible season afforded the Patriots the chance to select Trevor Lawrence, it would be a clear sign that Belichick is playing the long game, and has his sights set on Don Shula’s all-time wins record of 328 (Belichick has 273). If it came to pass, and Lawrence was the real deal, it might jump-start another dynasty in Foxborough. Is there too much organizational pride to do it?
AFC East up for grabs
A division that was very literally monopolized by New England (17 of the past 19 division titles) suddenly looks wide open. The Bills made the playoffs last season, the Jets' Sam Darnold figures to be healthy in 2020, and the Dolphins are angling for Tua Tagovailoa and building their defense in the Belichick mold, with major strength at cornerback. Will one of those teams finally step up and seize the division from New England?
O.J. Howard’s stock rising
His higher-profile pass-catching teammates steal the headlines, but Howard has first-round pedigree at tight end. He had 11 touchdown catches in his first two seasons, but just one in 2019. Brady has a history of making beautiful music with his tight ends, from Rob Gronkowski to Aaron Hernandez to Benjamin Watson. Will Howard, who had only 459 yards receiving and 34 catches in 2019, be next in line?
A hidden benefit for the Bucs
Tampa Bay’s defense was 29th in the league in points allowed in 2019, but it was first against the run. How, then, could it be so poor overall? Shoddy pass defense was one reason, but Winston’s unfathomably high turnover total routinely left them defending short fields, or simply handed points directly to the opposition. Winston had 30 interceptions last season. Brady has 29 over the past four. Better ball security should be a boon for the beleaguered Bucs’ defense.
Gamblers, take note
Las Vegas thinks that Brady will have a big impact on the Gulf coast. As of Wednesday night, Tampa Bay had the third-best odds to win the NFC, at 8/1, and the fifth best to win the Super Bowl, at 18/1, per BetOnline.ag. If you got in on the Bucs when they weren’t a lock to get Brady, congratulations; no other bettors are getting as much value as you.
Will Bruce Arians adapt his offense?
Tampa Bay’s passing scheme is all about deep shots downfield. Winston averaged a career-high 8.2 yards per attempt in 2019, and Arians is known for his love of the deep passing game. That requires some mobility from the quarterback and a rocket arm. At this stage of the game, Brady doesn’t have either one. If the Tampa Bay experiment is going to work, Arians must tailor what the Buccaneers do to fit what Brady does best, which means more underneath and intermediate throws.
Stidham getting a shot?
There is one way above all else that Belichick can prove that he was the true architect of the Patriots’ success this century, and that is to load up his defense with whichever players are left on the open market, trot Stidham out as his quarterback, and try to win the division that way. If only he had had prior success turning the reins over to a second-year quarterback from a traditional college football powerhouse who was picked on Day 3 of the draft …
Ryan’s revenge tour
Brees won’t be the only big-name quarterback in the division gunning for Brady. Atlanta's Matt Ryan has some unfinished business (remember Super Bowl LI?) with Brady. In the NFC South, Brady won't have cream-puff signal-callers to go against, like he did for much of his time in the AFC East. If he’s still able to win big, it will add that much more to his legacy.
Josh McDaniels on the hot seat
McDaniels has flaked on the Colts’ head coaching job, crashed and burned with the Broncos, and has only had enormous success when working with Brady. The fact that Brady likes him and respects him means he knows what he’s doing, but how much of his reputation is owed to Brady’s greatness? We’re about to find out, and given McDaniels’ history, it’s hard to imagine many are rooting for him.
Subtle pressure on Jimmy G.
Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers were one quarter away from winning the Super Bowl, until Patrick Mahomes did Patrick Mahomes things, and the Chiefs won going away. The Niners have already given Garoppolo a big vote of confidence. How, you ask? They apparently turned down Brady, whose first choice was San Francisco.
The AFC is Patrick Mahomes’ world now
Squint and you could see a scenario where Brady and the Patriots worked out their differences, and he came back to the team for a few more runs at a title, perhaps dominated the AFC East, secured the only bye in the AFC playoffs, and managed to stave off the Chiefs a few more times. That isn’t going to happen now, and it stands to reason that Mahomes and Kansas City are going to run roughshod over the conference, even though the Chiefs must pay him market-setting money in the very near future.
BONUS: Players love Tampa Bay
Since word surfaced that Tom Brady is expected to land in Tampa, an unexpected high number of players have reached out to the Buccaneers to let them know they want to join the former Patriots’ QB there, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 19, 2020