TAMPA — I suppose it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. Or, in this case, the GOAT in the room.
Quarterback Tom Brady, often referred to as the Greatest of All Time, may be looking for a new team. And the Buccaneers, a franchise with a raging case of turnovers, may be looking for a new quarterback.
So is it possible we can get these two kids together?
NFL guru Peter King mentioned the possibility this week on a radio show in Boston. King suggested the Bucs might have interest in Brady if quarterback Jameis Winston wants more money than Tampa Bay is willing to commit.
When I talked to King Friday afternoon, he was emphatic that he was not repeating anything he heard out of Tampa Bay. Other people have mentioned the possibility, but King said most of his conjecture was based on logic and connecting dots.
He pointed out that the Bucs have the kind of weapons in the passing game that Brady craves, and that Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians is in a win-now mode. Brady may also be the only free agent on the market who could boost a team’s ticket sales, and the Bucs are in dire need of box office relief.
Put all those factors together, and you can make a circumstantial case for Brady in Tampa Bay.
King said you could also make a similar case for the Chargers and the Raiders.
“Any quarterback wants a head coach who is really smart, who loves to throw the ball, with a team that has enough offensive pieces and a chance to win,’’ King said. “All of that, to me, makes Tampa Bay highly intriguing, a very interesting dark-horse candidate.’’
But, even if there is interest, there are still a lot of factors that must be sorted through for the Bucs and Arians, who is a York High graduate.
1. How likely is it that Brady will leave New England? Yes, Johnny Unitas had a sad finish in San Diego and Joe Namath hobbled to Los Angeles. But Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl in Denver, Brett Favre went to the playoffs in Minnesota and Joe Montana went 17-8 in Kansas City. It happens.
The only real fact we know is that Brady intends on playing at age 43. How much New England wants him back, how much the Patriots are willing to spend, and how much they are willing to spend on offensive upgrades are all unknowns.
2. How likely is it the Bucs will re-sign Jameis Winston? Tampa Bay has invested a No. 1 pick, five seasons and more than $46 million in salary in Winston. He also led the NFL in passing yards in 2019. Those facts are not easily dismissed.
On the other hand, Winston is still reckless with the ball after five years in the league. If his agents want a long-term, top-dollar contract, it’s more risk than the Bucs should entertain.
3. What are the Glazers thinking? Ownership has always been in Winston’s corner. They have fired coaches and overspent on the offensive line just to give Winston the best possible chance to succeed.
But there is no getting around the fact that Tampa Bay fans do not seem overly enamored with Winston. Attendance has dropped 17.6 percent since Winston’s rookie season. Re-signing him may do more harm than good at the gate.
4. What is Bruce Arians thinking? He was Winston’s biggest defender through the first dozen games of the season, but there was a sharp departure in his tone when Winston played poorly in the final two games. Almost as if Arians realized all of the progress he thought he was seeing was, potentially, a mirage.
Arians is cocky and confident. He has to look at what Tennessee did this season with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback and assume that he could have similar success with a quarterback who understands the difference between a calculated risk and an irresponsible decision.
So is there a chance Brady could play in Tampa Bay?
You have to assume the Bucs would be interested and Brady would be too.
But it’s not a fool-proof plan. Arians likes to use lots of receivers, which means his quarterbacks get hit a lot. Brady is not used to that, and certainly not at his age.
Also, it would only work if the Bucs have a succession plan in mind. They have to draft or acquire another quarterback who would be waiting in the wings for 2021 because this team has a chance to contend for several years.
In the end, the best reason for signing Brady is to fire up the fan base. And that’s not the smart way to do business.
Ticket sales might spike initially, but a team has to have a long-range plan for success or else it will all crumble quickly.
If I was a fan, I’d be all for it.
If I was the GM, I think I would pass.