Patriots

Why Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be taken seriously as Tom Brady suitors

Why Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be taken seriously as Tom Brady suitors

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.

Cam Newton sets record straight on Patriots contract in Instagram post

Cam Newton sets record straight on Patriots contract in Instagram post

Cam Newton might get paid like a backup NFL quarterback in New England -- and he could care less.

The three-time Pro Bowler and 2015 NFL MVP reportedly signed a meager contract with the Patriots on Sunday that includes a $1.05 million base salary and just $550,000 in guaranteed money.

But in an Instagram post Thursday, Newton insisted he's not concerned about his light paycheck.

"This is not about money for me; It's about respect," Newton wrote in the caption, which included the hashtag #ImBettingItAllOnMe.

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Newton was an elite QB before shoulder and foot injuries derailed his career, forcing him to miss a total of 16 games between 2018 and 2019. Those injuries led the Carolina Panthers to release Newton in March and seemingly scared away 30 other teams that viewed the 31-year-old as damaged goods.

But Newton has a great opportunity to revive his career in New England, where he can help the Patriots continue their success in the post-Tom Brady era if he's able to stay healthy.

By regaining that respect, Newton also can help himself get paid: His contract reportedly doesn't prevent New England from franchise tagging him in 2021, which would vault the QB's salary well north of $20 million.

Newton made more than $121 million during his nine seasons in Carolina, so it appears he was willing to take a bargain deal with the Patriots if it meant showing the NFL he can still bring it. 

Will Patriots go over or under oddsmakers' new season win total with Cam Newton?

Will Patriots go over or under oddsmakers' new season win total with Cam Newton?

Oddsmakers decreased the New England Patriots' win total prop for the 2020 NFL season to a new low just a few weeks ago.

The Patriots were set at 8.5 wins -- a notable difference from the 10 or 10.5 win totals we've been accustomed to seeing over the last 20 years. But this Patriots team is quite different. Six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady left in free agency, along with several important veteran players on defense. 

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The reported addition of Cam Newton has changed the Patriots' outlook, however.

The Patriots reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with Newton that could be worth up to $7.5 million if he hits all the incentives in the deal. Newton struggled with injuries in 2019 and played in only two of the Carolina Panthers' 16 games. He's healthy now, though, and also the favorite to win the Patriots' starting quarterback job over 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham.

Oddsmakers at DraftKings Sportsbook have increased the Patriots' win total to nine. Here are the latest odds for that prop bet:

Over nine wins: -125
Under nine wins: +103

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It should be noted the Patriots' odds of reaching the 2020 NFL playoffs also have improved to -200. Both conferences will have an extra wild card playoff team beginning next season, and nine wins would have been enough to secure the No. 7 seed in the AFC last season.

Newton, if healthy, should give the Patriots above-average (or better) play at the sport's most important position. His dual-threat skill set would bring a dynamic to the Patriots offense that we've rarely seen during Bill Belichick's 20-year run as the team's head coach.

There are plenty of challenges standing in New England's way of winning more than nine games next season. For starters, they have a difficult schedule that includes matchups versus the best teams in the AFC and several of the top contenders in the NFC. The team also had lots of veteran players, including Brady and its two sack leaders from last season (linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy) leave in the offseason. Adjusting to this kind of roster turnover is a challenge. The offseason as a whole has been difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing all team activities to be held virtually. Neither the Patriots nor any other team have been able to hold on-field workouts.

The Patriots are no doubt a better team with Newton now in the fold, but he'll need to be healthy and play at a high level in 2020 for New England to extend its playoff appearance streak to 12 seasons.