There is lots of NFL free agency news coming down the pike today, but none of that news is going to reverberate the entire NFL world like yesterday’s report that Tom Brady would be unretiring about 40 days after his announcement that he was done with football for good.
No one masters the NFL news cycle quite like Tom Terrific.
Lots of people have thrown lots of takes at the wall about Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. My biggest thought about the entire “Will he? Won’t he?” situation over the past few months is that it’s probably not enough.
Don’t get me wrong, Brady is awesome. He was statistically one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL over the last two seasons, which is one of the things that made his retirement so special. He was going out on top! That means he can continue to be on top! Any thought that he’s too old, his arm is gone or anything of the sort is just nonsense and is clearly coming from people who didn’t watch him over the past few seasons.
The timing also makes a lot of sense. Brady un-retired before the first day of the “legal tampering period” which is a term that only makes sense because the NFL calendar is very, very stupid. As such, the Buccaneers have an upper leg in retaining a lot of their own free agents who otherwise may have winced at the idea of re-signing with a rebuilding team. The re-signing of cornerback Carlton
So, in a vacuum, it’s certainly not “too little, too late” because Brady is just enough and he’s right on time. Yet, we don’t play the NFL in a vacuum. We play the NFL on a playing field of 32 different NFL teams—all trying to get better right now while the Buccaneers are still trying to hold serve from 2020. Tampa Bay returned their entire starting lineup from their Super Bowl championship and still fell short last season. It wasn’t because Brady wasn’t good enough. It was because it takes a tremendous amount of both talent and things to fall your way to get to the top of that mountain.
Without Brady, the 2022 Buccaneers would’ve been near-unwatchable. With him, they’re a playoff team. That’s fantastic. I’m glad he’s back. The whole NFL world (outside of the NFC South) should be happy he’s back—especially advertisers and the TV networks they pay. Still, it’s hard to believe this Buccaneers team will recapture anything resembling the magic of the title run.
That said, the chance is greater than zero, and that’s more than this team could say without Brady.
The Schottey Six: Quarterbacks Left on the Carousel
With Russell Wilson in Denver, Carson Wentz in Washington, Brady back in Tampa, Aaron Rodgers back in Green Bay and Mitchell Trubisky signing in Pittsburgh, who is left for quarterback-needy teams?
1. Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans) — Legal problems aren’t out of the way, but they’re enough in the past that a team will take a chance.
2. Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers) — I’m not sure Garoppolo gets enough respect, but he’s also coming off an injury so things may not align for a massive return here.
3. Jared Goff (Detroit Lions) — Goff is almost a lock to stay in Detroit, unless the Lions fall in love with a QB in the draft…
4. Jameis Winston (New Orleans Saints) — Also coming off an injury, Winston seems to be Plan B in New Orleans, but they’re hot on the top guy on this list.
5. Marcus Mariota (Las Vegas Raiders) — Not a hot name in a lot of circles, he’s maybe the most talented guy on the free agency market with Trubisky gone (and maybe even before).
6. Jordan Love (Green Bay Packers) — With Rodgers staying, Love should get moved for some draft capital to keep Rodgers happy.
Cleaning out the Notebook:
— The talk of the first day of free agency has to be the Los Angeles Chargers who signed cornerback JC Jackson to a relatively bargain deal for one of the top cornerbacks on the market adding him to a defense that had just traded for defensive end Khalil Mack. Suddenly this team looks like it can compete in the increasingly tough AFC.
— The biggest spenders of free agency have been the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have brought (bought) help for QB Trevor Lawrence in the form of (among others) offensive guard Brandon Scherff, WRs Christian Kirk and Zay Jones and TE Evan Engram. After spending a lot of money, the Jaguars still need help on the offensive line and in the receiving corps. They’re doing work, but they’re overspending. Either they’re really smart and we’ll all stupid, or they’re just overspending.
— The Jaguars moves and the rounding out their offensive line seem to portend their eventual drafting of DE Aidan Hutchinson in a few weeks.
— One of my favorite signings of the first day was LB/EDGE Haason Reddick heading to the Philadelphia Eagles, his hometown team. The Camden, NJ native and Temple alum seems to be very excited about returning to Philadelphia and he’s a great fit in a defense that’s likely to use him at multiple linebacker positions and as a pass rusher.
— Confused about the New York Jets signing of OG Laken Tomlinson. Sure, he’s reconnecting with a bunch of his former coaches who came over from the 49ers last offseason, but he plays the same position as Alijah Vera-Tucker. Sure, you can reshuffle the line from last season, but signing Tomlinson to play him somewhere else or move a young player like AVT are both pretty foolish.
— The Lions had a quiet first day but re-signed S Tracy Walker who was one of the top safeties on the market. They didn’t have to overpay to keep him, and that alone says things are changing in Detroit.
—More Free Agency news to come here at Pickwatch, so stay tuned to our NFL News & Notes page in the coming days and weeks!
— “I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I'm more afraid of succeeding at things that don't matter.” —Bob Goff