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Analyst: It's two-team race for Tom Brady between Bruce Arians' Bucs and Pats

RICK STROUD
Tampa Bay Times (TNS)
York High graduate Bruce Arians, right, appears ready to part ways with quarterback Jameis Winston. Arians' Tampa Bay Buccaneers are considered a finalist to land quarterback Tom Brady.

TAMPA — According to all indications, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear set to move on from their mistake-prone quarterback, Jameis Winston.

Since he walked off the field in the final game, his last pass intercepted and returned for a winning touchdown by the Falcons in overtime, Jameis Winston has worn a cast on the broken right thumb of his passing hand, undergone surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and had LASIK surgery to repair his near-sightedness.

Barring an unexpected agreement on a new contract, Winston looks headed for a new team. The new league year still is set to begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday, when Winston would become an unrestricted free agent.

Coach Bruce Arians, a York High graduate, called Winston an “unknown quantity” despite leading the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and resetting the club mark with 33 touchdowns in 2019.

Unfortunately, his 30 interceptions and five lost fumbles that resulted in 112 points off turnovers resulted in Arians wanting to look behind what he calls Door No. 2.

The search for a new quarterback is expected to begin with 43-year-old Tom Brady. The six-time Super Bowl winner is a free agent and the Bucs will make a hard run at him with deep pockets: $80 million of salary-cap space and a big cache of offensive weapons.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coached by York High graduate Bruce Arians, are considered a finalist to land quarterback Tom Brady, shown above in a file photo.

The Chargers, Raiders and Bucs all may have an interest, but his options appeared to be narrowed a bit Sunday.

The Titans, once considered the likeliest landing spot for Brady if he left New England since his former teammate, Mike Vrabel, is the head coach, reached an agreement on a four-year $118 million contract extension for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Multiple reports Sunday said that the 49ers planned to stick with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Two-team race for Brady? In fact, Pro Football Talk analyst Chris Simms said Sunday that it’s a two-team race for Brady — the Bucs and Patriots.

“From everything I’ve heard, it’s down to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New England Patriots, and I don’t think that the New England Patriots are going to be willing to give Tom Brady $30 million a year type of money," Simms said. “As we know, Bill Belichick, he drives a hard bargain, he treats it like a business no matter who it is, even if it’s the GOAT."

Simms says he expects the Bucs to be willing to spend more money on Brady, who will count $13 million against the Patriots’ salary cap whether he plays there or not.

“I think ultimately he will wind up back with the New England Patriots for a very favorable contract like he’s always done so they can sign more players and maybe make one more run at this thing so Brady can get seven Super Bowl rings," Simms said.

If the Bucs swing and miss on Brady, they are expected to quickly pivot. Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, in that order, are next on their free-agent list.

None of those talks would preclude the Bucs from continuing a dialogue with Winston, 26, the club’s all-time passing leader in yards (19,737) and touchdowns (121), and second only to Vinny Testaverde in interceptions (88).