Tom Brady, quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sorry. This is going to take some getting used to. After two decades of watching Brady accumulate more wins, more Super Bowl championships and more postseason records than any quarterback before him — and most likely after him — Brady will be playing for a team other than the Patriots.
But Brady is just part of a sweeping series of changes at the most important position in football, and the reshuffling will have a profound impact on what happens in the 2020 season and beyond. The merry-go-round included passers young and old, from TB with Tampa Bay to another TB — Teddy Bridgewater — with Carolina. From Philip Rivers in Indy to Nick Foles in Chicago.
And it hasn’t stopped, because there’s still the matter of where Cam Newton will play. And how next month’s draft — featuring Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love — will cast an even wider net around the league.
* Tampa Bay: How impactful has Brady’s acquisition been for the Buccaneers? Well, season ticket sales immediately shot up, and so did the Bucs’ playoff and Super Bowl odds. According to Las Vegas oddsmakers BetOnLine, the Bucs’ Super Bowl odds went from 66-1 after the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win to 12-1 after Brady’s signing. And their odds to win the NFC South went from 8-1 after last season to 3-2 with Brady.
Surely, the Bucs are in better shape with Brady over interception machine Jameis Winston, who had the most picks (30) in the NFL last season. And Tampa Bay’s skill position players are collectively better than the ones Brady left behind in New England.
But Brady’s game was in decline last season, especially when the Patriots needed him most in a home loss to the Dolphins on the final weekend that wiped out a playoff bye week, then in a 20-13 wild-card loss to the Titans in which he continually was unable to summon his greatness throughout the game.
The feeling here: The Bucs can be a wild-card contender in 2020, with an outside shot at winning the division if the Saints slip. But there won’t be many — if any — playoff wins for a quarterback who turns 43 in August.
* New England: With no Brady, this will be Bill Belichick’s most challenging season since he became the Patriots’ coach in 2000.
He has second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham and backup Cody Kessler on the roster, and there has been talk of adding a “bridge” quarterback such as Andy Dalton of the Bengals. The Patriots pick 23rd in the draft, so unless they have a conviction on one of the lower-ranked quarterbacks, they might bide their time for now.
* Chicago: Time may be running out on Mitchell Trubisky, the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. The Bears badly miscalculated by trading up to get the North Carolina quarterback, especially in a draft that included eventual star passers Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Chicago has been patient with Trubisky, but he hasn’t progressed enough.
Enter Foles, acquired in a trade with the Jaguars. Foles led the Eagles to their only Super Bowl title after replacing an injured Carson Wentz late in the 2017 season. Look for the Bears to open up the competition. It might be a matter of when — and not if — Foles takes over.
* Carolina: The Panthers have moved on from former No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton after two injury-filled seasons.
Bridgewater, whose career looked over after he suffered a devastating knee injury while with the Vikings in 2016, received a three-year, $63 million deal and will get another chance to start. He parlayed a 5-0 record with the Saints during Drew Brees’ injury-related absence last season into a nice contract, and good for him.
Now the Panthers will look to trade Newton, although there might not be any suitors, especially with the draft coming up and quarterback-needy teams likely to invest in rookies. The better bet is that Newton is released and signs elsewhere.
* Indianapolis: Rivers gets one more — and possibly a last — chance after signing a one-year deal with the Colts, who simply weren’t the same after Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement during training camp last year. Jacoby Brissett simply wasn’t good enough. Rivers ran out of gas after 16 seasons with the Chargers, and there’s no guarantee he won’t be the turnover-prone quarterback he became last season. But he does have a terrific offensive line, a promising running game and a big-time defense. If he can become a trustworthy game manager, the Colts will be in the playoff mix.
* San Diego: The Chargers are in a transition period, especially after losing out to the Bucs on Brady. They may wait to see if Newton is released and sign him as a bridge quarterback, but with the sixth overall pick, they’ll be in line to draft a quarterback. It almost certainly won’t be Burrow or Tagovailoa, who could go 1-2 or 1-3, but Herbert or Love might be a suitable alternative.
* Detroit: Matthew Stafford remains committed to the Lions, but after he missed most of last season with a back injury, it’s possible that Detroit, which has the third overall pick, will consider drafting a quarterback. Can you say Tagovailoa?
* Cincinnati: It’s looking more and more as if it will be Burrow or bust for the Bengals, who have the No. 1 overall pick and will take the LSU star — unless there is a blockbuster trade offer that features multiple first-round picks.
* Miami: For now, it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick . . . again. But the Dolphins, who have the fifth overall pick, could be ready to trade up for either Burrow or Tagovailoa. If no deal materializes, Herbert or Love could be their choice. And Newton remains a possibility.
* Dallas: There’s no question Dak Prescott is still the guy in Big D; all that remains is how long and how much he signs for in a new contract. The Cowboys have placed the franchise tag on Prescott, buying themselves at least a year. More than likely, however, he signs a long-term deal.
* New Orleans: Brees is back, but don’t ignore the fact that the Saints made a strong statement by placing a first-round tender on backup Taysom Hill. The multi-dimensional Hill was used in several roles by coach Sean Payton, and there will be more where that came from in 2020 and beyond. There’s a chance that Hill someday will take over for Brees, who signed a two-year deal.
It was a busy week for NFL quarterbacks. Who's on the move?
Tom Brady: Patriots to Bucs
Philip Rivers: Chargers to Colts
Teddy Bridgewater: Saints to Panthers
Nick Foles: Jaguars to Bears
Cam Newton: Panthers to ? (trade or release likely)
Jameis Winston: Bucs to ? (unrestricted free agent)