Seeing Tom Brady in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform will take some getting used to. Luckily for NFL fans, we've got nothing but time to imagine what this wild pairing will look like come the regular season. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday that the Bucs have an agreement in principle with Brady that will pay him roughly $30 million per year.
Certainly, Brady has done plenty of visualizing late afternoons in Florida and likes what he sees. In Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, he will throw to perhaps the most talented wide receiver duo in football. In O.J. Howard, he has a do-it-all tight end who can do a passable Gronk imitation. In coach Bruce Arians, Brady has a proven quarterback whisperer who has helped Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer at various stages of their careers. Brady also gets a coach who is the opposite of Bill Belichick in temperament and attitude. Brady will feel the love he wasn't getting in cold Foxborough. He can also say whatever he wants in press conferences, although something tells me he'll remain as careful in front of the mic as he is on the field.
Brady's decision-making must have attracted Arians above all else. Not only does Brady bring immediate credibility and competitiveness, he's loath to give the ball away or make mistakes. That stands in diametric opposition to Jameis Winston, the solo member of the 30 TD-30 INT club. The Bucs defense, meanwhile, finished fifth in takeaways and fifth in overall efficiency, according to Football Outsiders, with plenty of young talent. There's every reason to believe the Bucs are a playoff contender, even if it's hard to imagine Brady going all the way to a 10th Super Bowl, this time with a different organization.
Then again, it wasn't that long ago that imagining Brady in Pewter would have been the stuff of fantasy.
Here are some of the other big winners and losers from Tuesday's news:
Philip Rivers: The only way to make the Colts a better landing spot for Rivers would be to move them to San Diego. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah spoke on the phone with Rivers, who is apparently swinging his bolo tie around in anticipation of playing indoors for his old coach Frank Reich and behind a fantastic offensive line. Rivers is moving his entire family to Indianapolis and hopes to continue the Colts' excellent tradition at quarterback for more than the one year he's signed to play there. The short commitment makes it clear this move is all about winning now, just like the trade for DeForest Buckner on Monday. I still believe Rivers can play at a high level, but if it doesn't happen with the Colts, it wouldn't happen anywhere.
Teddy Bridgewater: Nearly four years after Bridgewater's devastating knee injury, he should have an opportunity to run his own team again. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that Bridgewater agreed to a three-year, $63 million deal with the Panthers. While the structure will be important to learn, the money indicates that Bridgewater could be viewed as a mid-level or bridge starter who might wind up competing against a rookie quarterback. It's still a fantastic fit for him.
Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady coached Bridgewater during their time together with the Saints in 2018. Teddy's quick decision-making and game-manager approach should work well in Brady and coach Matt Rhule's anticipated spread offense. I've always thought of Bridgewater as Alex Smith 2.0 with a little extra upside, and Carolina gives him his best chance yet to have a Smith-like mid-career renaissance.
Harmony in New Orleans: While the Patriots, Chargers, Panthers and Giants have said goodbye to their longtime quarterbacks this offseason, the Saints quietly agreed to a new deal with Drew Brees on Tuesday without a hint of the drama that came with some of his previous contract negotiations. After a decade in which Brees rightfully got top dollar for his exploits, the 41-year-old took a hometown discount on a two-year, $50 million contract, per Rapoport. There are a lot of dumb takes out there, but the dumbest I saw on Tuesday came from some Saints fans who thought Brees was overpaid in a market where Ryan Tannehill will earn nearly $30 million per season. That is a block-worthy opinion.
The Saints also made a key move on Monday night, keeping underrated defensive tackle David Onyemata in the fold with a three-year deal worth $27 million, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis still has work to do, but I don't see an NFC roster that is a safer bet to make that seven-team playoff tournament in 2021.
The Raiders linebacker group:Raiders GM Mike Mayock noted last month at the NFL Scouting Combine that their entire defense needed help, a statement that was especially true at linebacker. Consider one problem solved. Mayock made Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski a Day 1 priority after the rangy middle linebacker made play after play as a fill-in starter last season. The Chris Wesseling favorite will team with one of my favorite players in this entire free agent class, former Rams linebacker Cory Littleton. Off-ball linebackers who can cover remain one of the few undervalued resources in the NFL and Littleton is one of the best in football on all four downs, including special teams. Considering how slow and underwhelming the Raiders linebackers were last year, Littleton's three-year, $36 million deal could prove to be a steal.
Patriots fans wanting a happy ending:Tom Brady is leaving. For some Patriots fans, letting this happen is an unforgivable sin by the organization. But I see it coming as close to sticking the landing of a clean goodbye as any ending that didn't include Brady retiring after winning his sixth Super Bowl.
There wasn't a dramatic benching or injury. There wasn't backbiting on the way out or an embarrassing level of play. Brady's own father said five years ago "it will end badly," but Brady's ugly ending was piloting the team to a 12-4 record, just one year after winning a Super Bowl and making three consecutive Super Bowls (for the first time) at ages 39-41.
On Tuesday, Bill Belichick called Brady a privilege to coach.
"Tom and I will always have a great relationship built on love, admiration, respect and appreciation," Belichick stated. "... Sometimes in life, it takes some time to pass before truly appreciating something or someone but that has not been the case with Tom. He is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time."
Brady effusively thanked Belichick and fans for his time in New England with the header "FOREVER A PATRIOT."
I'm repeating these statements not to dismiss the reasons that ultimately led to this divorce. Brady clearly grew tired of waiting for the love and commitment he wasn't getting from Belichick. But it could have been so much uglier in so many ways. Brady appeared ready to move on, as did Belichick with a soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback who already scuttled previous succession plans with his superlative play.
To want more from the Brady-Belichick partnership feels greedy, especially by fans so blessed by the Football Gods. It gets to what the purpose of sports fandom is at its core. What hole are we looking to sports to fill in our lives? If six titles, nine Super Bowl appearances and 16 AFC East titles is not enough, then nothing ever will be.
Patriots fans -- and NFL fans hoping to witness history -- got a front-row seat to the greatest player-coach run in the league's 100 years. Seeing Brady wear a different uniform for one or two seasons isn't going to change that.
Hope for an amicable split in Carolina:Cam Newton didn't want to go out like this. On a day headlined by Tom Bradyannouncing his departure from New England and choosing his next destination, the timing and finality of Newton's messy exit from Carolina somehow felt like the bigger surprise.
While Brady and Bill Belichick traded sentimental statements about their time together, Newton jumped into the comments of the Panthers' Instagram page to voice his displeasure about how they framed his departure. It wasn't his choice. Learning that Newton was "allowed to seek a trade" was a lot less shocking than the wording they used in an official team statement talking about "the end of his nine-year run in Carolina."
"He will always be a Carolina Panther in our hearts," general manager Marty Hurney stated, hours before agreeing to terms with Teddy Bridgewater as Newton's replacement.
A trade would be a best-case scenario for the Panthers, but I wouldn't expect much in return, if they get anything. It's safe to say Carolina didn't just start assessing the trade market for Newton this morning, and Tuesday's events prove they are comfortable releasing him. Newton's current health status -- and all of the issues inherent in getting medical testing amid the COVID-19 pandemic -- complicate his status even more.
It's possible that a team like the Chargers, Bears or even Patriots take a risk on Newton sight unseen, but Newton may also be released into free agency sooner than later. He would add some juice near the top of a top 101 free agents list that's already picked over even before the new league year officially starts.
Bears betting on post-primes: The early word on Tuesday that the Bears could jump in the Brady sweepstakes or make a push for Bridgewater was quickly shot down. The Bears apparently can't have nice things right now. Instead, they are paying premium dollars to players unlikely to overachieve. Robert Quinn was a revelation in Dallas, but there's a reason he was available for so cheap last offseason. He's averaged 7.4 sacks, 6.4 QB hits and under 550 snaps over the last five seasons combined, per Pro Football Focus. Quinn is an upgrade over Leonard Floyd -- who was released on Tuesday -- but handing Quinn $30 million guaranteed is a major risk considering his history of back injuries.
Tight end Jimmy Graham's two-year, $16 million contract is even harder to understand for a team short on cap space. If Aaron Rodgers couldn't squeeze any more big plays out of Graham, there's little reason to think Mitchell Trubisky will.
Detroit Lions buzzzz: Let's take a quick look at the ledger from this offseason. They gave huge money to linebacker Jamie Collins and tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, two players better organizations didn't want to pay. They agreed to a deal with Chase Daniel to be Matthew Stafford's backup. They said goodbye to one of their better interior linemen, Graham Glasgow, on Monday. They cut team captain Devon Kennard, one of their better front seven players, on Tuesday. Cornerback Darius Slay is on the trade block. The Lions have a lot of needs, but they need something concrete to believe next year will be different. It's incredibly early, but so far it looks like more of the same.