Patriots

Patriots

We posted a Twitter poll on Monday afternoon that asked whether or not people -- if they were to put themselves in Tom Brady's shoes -- would consider Tampa Bay as a landing spot. 

About 3,400 votes came in. Thirty-eight percent said they'd consider the Bucs. The other 62 percent went with the "pshhh it's Tampa Bay..." option. Makes sense. 

The Patriots have become one of the most well-respected franchises in the NFL during Brady's career. They're arguably the most accomplished dynasty in modern sports. Brady has turned himself into the consensus most-accomplished player in NFL history while wearing a Patriots logo on his helmet. 

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The Bucs, meanwhile, have had two winning seasons in their last 10. The last time they made the playoffs was 2007. The last time they won a playoff game was when they won the Super Bowl in February of 2003. The franchise's winning percentage is .387.

Brady's been used to playing for a winner. The Bucs have not been winners. 

And yet, they should be taken seriously as we wade into Day 2 of the legal tampering period. Why? Let us count the ways.

 

1. Those coveted 'weapons'

Brady hoped to be surrounded by more last season in Foxboro.

In Tampa he'd have arguably the No. 1 receiving duo in the league, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, running routes for him. Add that pair to a pair of very capable tight ends in OJ Howard and Cameron Brate, and Brady could talk himself into finding personal success there in his mid-40s. Even the offensive line -- which ranked eighth in the NFL in pass-blocking efficiency in 2019, per Pro Football Focus -- offers some promise.

2. Needed cap space

The Bucs were fourth in the NFL in available cap space headed into the tampering period, according to OvertheCap.com. Even after handing pass-rushers Shaq Barrett (franchise tag) and Jason Pierre-Paul lucrative short-term contracts, Tampa has plenty of money left over. Not only for Brady, but for anyone else who might make life easier for him there. An offensive tackle? Another wideout? Why not? 

3. Years

The Bucs don't have a plan at quarterback at the moment. They're sitting in the middle of the first round of this year's draft and could potentially pull the trigger on one of the top three or four passers available.

But how much time would those players need to develop? After Joe Burrow, some evaluators believe there's not a ready-made passer in the class. And if it's a season or more that a rookie would require, isn't that a season or more wasted for Evans and Godwin? Isn't that a season or more wasted of Bruce Arians, 67? They have enough dough and enough quarterback uncertainty moving forward to offer Brady multiple years.

If they can get him closer to his goal of playing until he's 45, that's worth something. And whatever he'd be paid -- it's worth noting -- would be tax-free in Florida. No state income tax.

4. Control

Brady would not be employee No. 12 in Tampa, by all accounts. The Bucs might be one of only a couple teams who'd be willing to absorb Brady's system -- something he's likely going to want to bring with him wherever he goes -- and all the hours of work that'd require.

"If it's control of the offense," Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times wrote last week, "there's no question that Arians and Byron Leftwich would adapt to Brady rather than the other way around."

Good thing, since Arians' down-the-field attack doesn't exactly suit Brady's strengths, nor do deep drops and long bombs bode well for a 40-something quarterback's well-being when facing hungry pass-rushers. Sounds like the roster, too, would be something Brady could shape with the Bucs.

 

According to ESPN's Dianna Russini, they can give Brady "the things he needs, he wants. Some of those things he wants -- control over the roster, he wants to be part of making decisions on the play-calling ... If he wants control, Bruce Arians is a guy he should match up with."

5. Culture change

This breaks a couple of different ways. Brady could look at the opportunity in Tampa Bay as an opportunity to change a franchise's culture for the better. The Bucs have been losers for so long; what better way to provide an already unassailable resume an added bump than to make them winners? That's what he could do for their culture.

Then there's what their culture can do for him. On the one hand, what he's known for two decades has produced a mountain of success and a pile of rings. On the other, Bill Belichick is the first to acknowledge he's not easy to play for. Would Brady be interested in something very different? Arians is different. But would his laid-back style help an entire coaching staff and roster to pick up a famously difficult offense imported from New England?

Brady might like the idea of Tampa as a breath of fresh air. But he's going to want to compete. And if he's going to be screaming at receivers every week because no one has put in the time he has, what good is working under more relaxed conditions?

6. A chance

This team isn't as bad as you think. They went 7-9 last season with a quarterback who threw 30 picks (could've been about 40) and fumbled 12 times. Four of their losses -- to the Texans, Titans, Niners and Seahawks -- came thanks in part to a difficult schedule that pitted the NFC South against opponents from the AFC South and NFC West last season. Does Tampa offer Brady the best chance to win a title in 2020? Maybe not. But it'd be far from incompetent with him behind center.

The Bucs aren't the Patriots in terms of prestige. But they have things Brady should find intriguing. And they want him. That should be enough for them to be considered serious players as the 42-year-old gets closer to making his choice with the official start of free agency looming Wednesday.