Well, this matchup has certainly gotten more interesting – as if it even needed to. First, the Buccaneers signed quarterback Tom Brady at the start of free agency, who sits behind none other than New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for multiple career passing records. Brees has 77,416 career yards to Brady's 74,571. Brees also has 547 passing touchdowns to Brady's 541. Now, they'll get to go head-to-head twice a season, all but solidifying the given primetime slot months before the schedule was even released. The two teams will face off first to start the season at 4:25 p.m. on FOX in Week One on September 13 and then again on Sunday Night Football November 8 during Week Nine at 8:20 p.m. on NBC.
Brady filled a quarterback hole that was left when the Bucs didn't re-sign quarterback Jameis Winston, the team's 2015 first overall pick who had been the starting signal caller for the past five seasons. To add another layer of '#thisleague' to the mix, Winston is now a Saint, signing with New Orleans just recently to backup Brees for the division rivals.
That took a turn.
Winston isn't the only difference between these Saints and the NFC South winners of 2019, either. Tampa Bay will have to contend with a reinforced secondary with the (re)addition of safety Malcolm Jenkins and a veteran Emmanuel Sanders added to Brees' receiving arsenal. But more than who New Orleans added, it may be more about who they retained. The Saints held onto veteran guard Andrus Peat, and of course Drew Brees who was set to be a free agent this year until New Orleans extended him. In fact, they didn't really lose any key players from an offense that ranked in the top 10 in passing yards and tied for third in points scored, thanks in large part to wide receiver Michael Thomas.
The Bucs have their own Mike-answer to Thomas in Evans, who will now be catching passes from the greatest quarterback of all time, which is sure to make for a back and forth battle each time these two teams match up.
New Orleans Saints
2019 Record: 13-3
Scoring Offense: 3rd (26.8 points per game)
Total Offense: 9th (373.9 total yards per game)
Rushing Offense: 16th (108.6 rushing yards per game)
Passing Offense: 7th (276.9 passing yards per game)
Scoring Defense: 13th (21.3 points allowed per game)
Total Defense: 11th (333.1 total yards allowed per game)
Rushing Defense: 4th (91.3 rushing yards allowed per game)
Passing Defense: 20th (248.1 passing yards allowed per game)
Turnover Margin: 2nd (+15)
What helped the Saints to that 13-3 record and division title was just as much their defense as their high-powered offense. They're annoyingly set on both sides of the ball and it made the fact they only had four total picks in the 2020 NFL Draft nothing more than a footnote.
Saints' 2020 Draft Class: G/C Cesar Ruiz, Michigan (Round 1, 24th overall), LB/EDGE Zack Baun, Wisconsin (Round 3, 74th overall), TE Adam Trautman, Dayton (Round 3, 105th overall), QB Tommy Stevens, Miss. St. (Round 7, 240th overall)
New Orleans went almost exclusively offense with their four draft picks, prioritizing reinforcements on an aging offensive line. IT should be enough to keep Brees upright for the foreseeable future, though not if the Bucs' defense has anything to say about it.
Seeing how the Saints will end up using Baun will be interesting. He's bigger than your traditional off-ball linebacker, which is why many have him categorized as an edge defender. He's smart though and can undoubtedly be used in multiple ways. Many projected the former Badger to even go in the first round, but here's a case that shows a perfect example of how greatly the draft boards of GMs and the draft boards of media analysts can vary.
Key Veteran Additions: S Malcolm Jenkins (FA), WR Emmanuel Sanders (FA), QB Jameis Winston (FA)
Notable Departures: QB Teddy Bridgewater (FA), CB Eli Apple (UFA), S Vonn Bell (FA)
Again, the Saints didn't really shake things up too much. And why would they? The emphasis in free agency was more about keeping their own free agents at home. That resulted in a new contract for 15-year veteran Drew Brees, as well as retaining guard Andrus Peat and defensive tackle David Onyemata. Even one of their biggest free-agent signings in Jenkins was a guy that had played in New Orleans before. He returns to the team that drafted him in 2009 with a Super Bowl championship under his belt.
Bridgewater was one of the most highly sought-after free agents in this year's class and he was rewarded handsomely as the assumed-starter for the division-rival Panthers. Between Bridgewater going to Carolina and Winston going to New Orleans, all we need now is quarterback Cam Newton to sign on with the Falcons to make the signal-caller swap of the NFC South even more complete.
But for now, you can be sure the clash between the Saints and Bucs will be highly anticipated around the league. New Orleans, as of now, provides the highest threat to the division title the Bucs will be aiming for this coming season. With no significant losses from their 2019 team, the Saints are poised to make a similar run in 2020. Tampa Bay will have a chance to stop them from another sweep at least in weeks one and nine.