It was assumed that the New England Patriots were going to move on in 2020 without 20-year veteran Tom Brady at quarterback. It became real when Brady tweeted his thanks to the Patriots organization and NFL fans last week.
The NFL and its fans went into a full tailspin when it was announced that Brady would be heading off to Tampa Bay. The move was announced as the NFL clock ticked to the official start of the 2020 season on Wednesday, March 18.
Brady as a Buccaneer was finally official on Friday, March 20, the day the 42-year-old signed his contract.
What does it all mean for the NFL?
There are some interesting clauses in Brady’s new contract with the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay cannot apply the franchise tag to Brady nor can they trade him. Brady’s deal is for two years and comes with a base salary of $15 million and a roster bonus of $10 million for each season. That’s $25 million per season.
But wait…there’s more. There are also $9 million in incentives tied to the deal. There is $2.25 million per year tied to a Top-5 ranking in passer rating, touchdowns, passing yards, completion percentage and yards per pass. Another $2.25 million is linked to playoff appearances, playoffs plus playing time, and Super Bowl plus playing time.
Brady’s signing puts him in a tie for 12th on the quarterback earnings chart with the likes of the Raiders’ Derek Carr, Saints QB Drew Brees, and new Indianapolis Colt Philip Rivers. While Brady is certainly worth every penny, his deal will affect aging quarterbacks looking to capitalize on short-term deals.
Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, for example, earns an average salary of $34 million. He will become a free agent in 2022 when he will be 39 years old. You can bet he won’t see $30 million per annum again especially now that he’s coming off an elbow injury in 2019.
It will be a similar road for Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, who is under contract with the Lions until 2023. Stafford, 32 now, earns an average of $27 million a season. Stafford is very good, but he is no Brady and will be lucky to command $20 million as a free agent in 2023.
Building the Bucs
Under new head coach Bruce Arians last year, Tampa Bay made some solid improvements. They led the NFL in passing yards per game (302.8) with former No. 1 draft pick Jameis Winston under center.
Arians has two of the top wide receivers in the game in Mike Evans (118 receptions, 1,157 yards, 8 TDs) and Chris Godwin (121 catches, 1,333 yards, 9 TDs).
There are also quality tight ends in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. With RB Ronald Jones II (724 yards rushing) and new signee Devonta Freeman in the backfield, Brady will definitely have the weapons needed to put points on the board.
It would be in Arians and the Bucs interest to shore up the offensive line, especially at tackle. Demar Dotson is an unrestricted free agent and Donovan Smith is suspect. Tampa Bay surrendered 47 sacks last year and there is a wealth of offensive tackle talent in the 2020 draft.
Can Bucs Win in 2020?
There were some absolutely-too-early win totals projected for the 2020 NFL season. The Bucs check in at 7.5 and would apparently be competing with Atlanta for second place in the NFC South.
The Saints, winners of the last three division titles, are the favorite. Carolina, with new head coach Matt Rhule and apparently Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, will likely struggle.
Can Tampa Bay win? Absolutely, but the 2020 schedule hasn’t been released yet and what exactly is “winning?” A repeat of last year’s 7-9 or even 8-8 is not all that much better than 2019. With Brady at quarterback though, don’t count the Bucs out of the NFC playoff race.