Some of you may have already heard a rumor or two about this, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed Tom Brady, making the official announcement on Friday.
Yes, that Tom Brady. The G.O.A.T. I know, crazy, right?
I think it's fair to say that Brady-to-the-Buccaneers is one of the most dramatic results of unrestricted free agency since that system began in 1993. Reggie White, Deion Sanders, Jerry Rice…if you can reasonably put the word "GOAT" in the same sentence with the player you just teamed up with, that's a big deal.
Obviously, Tom Brady is unique. He's got the most Super Bowl rings. He has millions of Twitter followers. He was a sixth-round draft pick! (People forget this.) He was the first quarterback to throw 50 touchdowns in a season, and so on.
You're going to see Brady-to-the-Buccaneers covered from every angle in the next few days and weeks. Hopefully you've already check out some of our own stories about his rivalries, his records, his Super Bowl heroics, and more. We'll discuss the impact of Brady's arrival a little bit more below. But here's one more little note that demonstrates just how unique Brady is in the NFL's long history:
Tom Brady is the first player ever, at any position, to play 20 or more seasons for his first team and then start a second chapter of his playing career with a new team.
Of course, simply playing 20-plus seasons in the NFL is remarkable in its own right. Only 20 men have ever played at least 20 seasons, and only 11 have played more than 20 seasons. (Drew Brees will join the 20-season list this coming fall.) Only eight of those 20 players were not at least part-time kickers or punters.
Brady's 21st season, and his first as a Buccaneer, will tie him with another former Buc, Vinny Testaverde, for the most seasons by an NFL player who did not serve as either a punter or a kicker at some point in his career. Even when he switches teams, Brady will still be one of only five players who have ever put in 20 seasons with a single team, along with Lou Groza, Jason Hansen, Darrell Green and Jackie Slater. That's wild.
Oh, and yes, I did notice how nicely symmetrical it is that exactly 20 people have now played 20-plus NFL seasons and it just happens to be 2020. I guess it was meant to be that I'd be writing about Tom Brady today.
View pictures from QB Tom Brady's 6 Super Bowl victories.
Now on to your questions.
A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you think Tom Brady will have a chance to lead this team to a playoff run this season?
Well, let me ask you this, David: Do you think there is any chance that Brady would have chosen to sign with the Buccaneers if he didn't think they had what it takes to make the playoffs?
You know the answer to that.
When the Brady deal was officially announced, General Manager Jason Licht emphasized the veteran quarterback's competitiveness, saying, "[H]is desire to be a champion burns as strong today as it ever has." As surely you've heard, and as we mentioned again above, Brady is the only six-time Super Bowl champion there is. All he knows in the NFL is winning. He's won 17 division championships. And while he might have taken some below-market deals along the way, it's not like he had to chase the biggest available contract in his first foray into free agency. Tom Brady is coming to Tampa to win.
Is he right in his assessment? Well, I'm sure you'd consider me biased, but I think so. Tampa Bay's offense has been prolific in many ways the past couple years but obviously has hurt itself too often with turnovers. Brady should change that latter part of the equation; he has the second-lowest interception percentage of all-time (1.79%) among players with at least 2,500 career passes. The Bucs could use some work in the running game and might need to add a starter on the offensive line, but those are both things that can be effectively addressed in the next couple months. Brady will be directing a very talented cast that starts with the best wide receiver duo in the league, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's defense quietly rounded into one of the league's best last year and is loaded with young players who should only get better. Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul will be back, meaning that defense should be good at pressuring opposing quarterbacks, especially in Todd Bowles' aggressive and effective system.
I mean, the Buccaneers were 7-9 last year and lost two games by three or fewer points and two others in overtime. Three of their other five losses were by seven or more points. That's not uncommon in the NFL, of course; a lot of teams with losing records can point to a couple games that they believe could have easily gone their way. But in the Buccaneers' case the turnovers were so often the culprit that one can reasonably conjecture that fixing that one issue would go a long way towards flipping that win-loss record.
I think there's a good chance that Tampa Bay's defense can put together a whole season as good as it played in the second half in 2019. The offensive cast is still loaded with playmakers. And now the G.O.A.T. is at quarterback. Yeah, that looks like a playoff team to me.
Who will be our third wide receiver? Do we draft one and if so, which round?
- @kevbetten123, via Instagram
It's an interesting question and I do think the answer is impacted by the addition of Brady. It certainly seems possible that a free agent wide receiver, particularly a relatively young one who is looking for a larger opportunity in a new spot, would be more motivated to look at Tampa now that the GOAT is here. And perhaps Brady will offer some input on that. For instance, he's made very good use of shifty slot receivers in the past; maybe he and the Buccaneers will see a player of that ilk they like on the free agent market. On the other hand, Tampa Bay already has an excellent slot receiver in Chris Godwin, who played about 49% of his snaps in the slot last year.
The answer could also be Scotty Miller, who showed some promise as a rookie and has incredible speed. Miller struggled with a couple hamstring strains but he started to show the ability to make plays downfield in the season's second half. It's not clear yet whether he could produce all over the field like Breshad Perriman did as the primary third receiver last year, though.
And then you have the draft. In case you haven't heard, this year's crop of wide receivers is being called one of the deepest in a long time, maybe ever. There are receivers of every size and shape available in this year's draft to fit whatever need a team has, and it may be too good of an opportunity for the Buccaneers to pass up. Want a big and physical pass-catcher? How about USC's Michael Pittman, the son of a former Buccaneer. Want a smaller, quicker guy to operate out of the slot? You might be able to land Penn State's K.J. Hamler. Want a guy who may be able to produce more at the NFL level than he did in college and therefore might be available in the third round? That could end up describing Florida's Van Jefferson.
The Buccaneers have already franchise tagged Shaquil Barrett and re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul, which means they've made a very good start towards keeping their rising defense together. If they can make a couple more moves – re-signings or outside signings – on that side of the ball they could use the first two days of the draft to focus primarily on offense. For instance, you could come out of Rounds 1-3 with an offensive tackle, a running back and a wide receiver.
So who is going to be the primary third receiver for Tom Brady. I don't think I can give you a specific name yet but I could see a scenario in which the Bucs' use a Day Two pick on a wideout, add a lower-tier free agent at the position and then let those two fight it out with Miller for that coveted spot.
What is the number-one priority in this years draft?
- @billyk2122, via Instagram
I'm not sure I've printed this disclaimer in a little while, so let me start by saying that the answer to this question is going to be my opinion of what the Bucs' number-one draft priority should be. Jason Licht isn't going to reveal his draft strategy to me or anyone but a very tight circle of Buccaneer decision-makers, and if he did it would be detrimental to my job security to share it publicly.
Cool? Okay, in my opinion the Buccaneers' top priority in the draft should be offensive tackle, and in a broader sense offense as a whole. I find it a little hard to believe I'm saying that after the Buccaneers just broke their own franchise scoring and passing records in 2019, but it's not hard to find holes that need to be plugged on offense.
First and foremost is right tackle, where Demar Dotson is a pending free agent and is not certain to return, or to be a sure-fire lock to start if he does. Bruce Arians called Dotson a "warrior" during the Scouting Combine, and I like that a lot. The big man has played through a lot over the last decade and has given the Bucs a reliable answer at right tackle for a long time, but that time could be coming to an end. The fact that this year's draft offers an embarrassment of riches at the position works out well for the Buccaneers; there could be a run on offensive tackles early in the draft and Tampa Bay will still probably be in position to get a very good one at pick number 14.
Beyond that, the Buccaneers are likely to be looking for additions at both running back and wide receiver. They have some very good pieces at those positions, especially at receiver, but not a ton of depth. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were the NFL's best wide receiver tandem in 2019 and could be the same in 2020, particularly with Tom Brady distributing the ball, but nobody on the roster beyond that is really established as a consistent contributor yet. We talked about Miller above, and 2018 fifth-round pick Justin Watson still has a chance to emerge, but Breshad Perriman is a free agent and the Bucs don't have another receiver with more than 16 career catches on the roster. As I noted above, this year's class of receivers offers a great opportunity for just about every team in the league to help themselves at that position in the draft.
Ronald Jones had a nice breakout year in 2019 after a lost rookie season, with more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage, and Arians and the Buccaneers likely believe he is capable of another step forward in 2020. Still, just by sheer numbers the Bucs are thin at that position, and Arians would probably like to add a running back who can put up big numbers in the passing game.
Sure, there are some needs on defense; there always are. But that side of the ball already has a lot of young and promising talent that could be around for a long time, from Vita Vea to Devin White to a stable of young corners that appeared to, uh, turn the corner last November and December. That group is surrounded by such proven veterans as Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. If there is any real question on defense it's at safety, and there's some young potential there too in Jordan Whitehead and Mike Evans.
Speaking of Vea and White, they are the Bucs' last two first-round draft picks. Over the last two drafts, the Bucs have made 11 picks in the first four rounds, where you can reasonably expect your additions to stick for at least a couple seasons, and nine of them have on defense. Upwards of seven of them (Vea, White, Whitehead, Edwards, Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting) could be opening-day starters in 2020, if one considers the slot corner job to be a starter. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers haven't used a first-round pick on an offensive tackle since 2001 and haven't even used a second-round pick on one since taking current starting left tackle Donovan Smith in that round in 2015. I think it's time.