How unusual decisions made Buccaneers' risky Brady move possible
Sam Robinson, Yardbarker 7 hrs ago
Suddenly centering a blueprint on a quarterbacks age-43 and age-44 seasons would not make sense for most teams. The Buccaneers being the one to try it, however, adds up after some curious choices led them to this point.
© Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports In 2019 with the Patriots, Tom Brady had his lowest completion percentage (60.8) since 2013. He'll have better skill-position weapons in Tampa Bay.
Tom Brady joining the franchise with the NFLs second-longest playoff drought doubles as a tremendous scenario for the league. An off-the-radar team will launch an unprecedented experiment.
Excepting the six-year period from 1997-2002, which featured Tony Dungy overseeing one of the NFLs best rebuilding projects and Jon Gruden pushing it past the finish line, the Bucs 44-season existence has not produced much success. This is the NFLs only active franchise with a winning percentage below .400, coming in well below the second-worst team at .387.
Tampa Bay also lacks much in the way of quarterback tradition. The team traded Steve Young after two seasons; several subsequent first-round picks did not pan out in Tampa. Super Bowl starter Brad Johnson may be the Buccaneers' most successful passer; his success lasted barely two seasons. The Bucs have never seen one of their QBs invited to more than one Pro Bowl. Brady's tenure will provide peak Bucs relevance. They will assuredly receive their first home Sunday Night Football game since 2008.
Rapoport: Contract details for Brady's new deal with Buccaneers
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Unusual decisions made this possible. Allowing Jameis Winston to become the first quarterback in the fifth-year option era (2011-present) to be a five-year starter on his rookie deal left the Bucs no short-term plan. Making Bruce Arians the oldest head coach ever hired, at 66, last year clouded Tampa Bays long-term future. Ownership giving GM Jason Licht a second contract extension - as the Bucs have gone 34-62 under his watch - may have doomed a rebuild anyway. Even the teams uniform choices in this span have proved puzzling.
But along the way, the Bucs drafted Pro Bowl wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. And Florida lacks a state income tax. Brady moving to Tampa presents unprecedented possibilities for an organization accustomed to its central figures sitting through production meetings with Foxs fourth- or fifth-string broadcast crews.
The Vikings acquiring Brett Favre just shy of his 40th birthday marks the closest modern facsimile to the Bucs maneuver, though the Chiefs 1993 trade for a 37-year-old Joe Montana resides in the ballpark. Both teams advanced to the conference championship round in Year 1 of those all-in endeavors. But with Brady turning 43 in August, this is miles beyond the usual road signs.
While the Giants trade for a 35-year-old Y.A. Tittle in 1961 led to three NFL Championship Game berths, the Broncos Peyton Manning move tops this transaction category. Denver coaxed four years out of Manning and saw him quickly re-establish his place atop the quarterback hierarchy. That time frame, however, allowed for multiple attempts at building an ideal roster. After the Broncos 2013 offensive superpower sputtered in Super Bowl XLVIII, Denver reloaded by signing several impact starters en route to Super Bowl 50. The Bucs will not have this luxury; Licht and Arians Brady blueprint must be rock-solid in 2020.
With Brady declining and already in uncharted territory, age-wise, the future Hall of Famer being an above-average quarterback in 2021 is far from certain. A team without a playoff appearance since 2007 and no postseason wins since Super Bowl XXXVII will be expected to surround Brady with a Super Bowl-caliber supporting cast.
Manning wooed free agents to Denver throughout his tenure, and Brady will have similar drawing power. The Buccaneers still hold $47 million-plus in cap space. Given their new reality, more spending will commence. Beyond a solid front-seven foundation, especially if the Bucs make good on their hope to re-sign Ndamukong Suh, avenues for additional improvement exist.
Pro Football Focus graded no Buccaneer safety higher than 60th at the position last season. The Bucs deployed DVOAs 27th-ranked rushing attack and probably will add a back to pair with Ronald Jones.
Perhaps most importantly, Football Outsiders slotted Tampa Bays offensive line 22nd in sack rate and 23rd in adjusted line yards in 2019. Bradys elite pocket mechanics will aid the Bucs pass protection, but the 21st-year veteran will need the kind of protection and run support he enjoyed for much of his Pats tenure. Successful slot receivers have also accompanied Brady throughout his career. The Bucs have an opening for a veteran No. 3 wideout.
The fit remains curious, with Arians perhaps the leagues foremost deep-passing enthusiast and Brady more of a mid-range artist. The Patriots also enjoyed nearly unmatched quarterback-offensive coordinator continuity; Brady worked with Josh McDaniels for 10 seasons. Tampa Bay's OC, ex-quarterback Byron Leftwich, was drafted three years after Brady. And with COVID-19 likely to eliminate the NFLs offseason, Brady will face greater challenges assimilating with new weaponry in Arians' system.
A plan this brazen rarely surfaces, however, and should be admired in a league obsessed with draft capital and first-round quarterbacks. However, the NFC remains the stronger conference. The Bucs will need a loaded roster to enter the Super Bowl conversation. Banking on Brady to rediscover his 2017 MVP form at an age when only one quarterback - Vinny Testaverde - has started more than one game will be dicey.
Still, Bradys decision will give the league another jolt - when it may need one amid the coronavirus-marred year. Brady and Drew Brees will face off twice; Aaron Rodgers will match up with Brady for only the third time. The schedule rotation will allow for another Brady-Patrick Mahomes clash.
With Arians turning 70 after Bradys two-year contract expires, the Bucs may have to start over in 2022. But rebooting after a re-invigoration on this level would be an acceptable future, even if Bradys final football act fails to deliver a seventh championship. The Bucs are back on the grid, and the unusual decisions that made this happen can now be appreciated.
Related slideshow: Joe Burrow = Tom Brady? 20 2020 NFL Draft prospect comps (Provided by Yardbarker)
1/21 SLIDES © USA TODAY Sports: John David Mercer | Winslow Townson 2020 NFL Draft prospects and their league comp
When I scouted in the NFL, I often compared draft prospects with current or former NFL players. It's a fun exercise, although not always fair. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the "Jim Brown reminds me of so-and-so" comp. No draft prospect is going to mirror that Hall of Famer's dazzlingly successful career. So, with that in mind, here are 20 notable draft prospects and the first NFL player who popped into my head as a comparison. Each prospect shares some characteristics with his NFL comp. The NFL Draft is scheduled April 23-25 in Las Vegas.
This is an interesting gambit by Tampa Bay.