Teddy Bridgewater

Bucs Notes: Winston, Jefferson, Crowell

Throughout his first season as the Buccaneers’ head coach, Bruce Arians was generally non-committal towards former starting QB Jameis Winston. In one memorable sound-bite towards the end of the 2019 campaign, Arians was asked if Tampa could win with a different signal-caller, and he replied, “With another quarterback? Oh yeah. If we can win with this one (Winston), we can definitely win with another one, too.”

Despite that, Arians recently told Rich Eisen of the NFL Network that he is trying to sell other clubs on Winston (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). “I’ve called a couple teams,” Arians told Eisen. “You’re going to get one of the hardest workers you’ve ever had and a great young man.” 

However, none of the teams that Arians spoke with indicated they were interested in Winston as a starter. And indeed, teams that entered the offseason with QB needs have either filled those needs, plan to stay the course with their current group of passers, or are expected to use a high draft pick on a quarterback. So at this point, Winston will just need to get on a roster and hope that an opportunity opens up.

Now for more on the suddenly interesting Bucs:

  • We recently heard that the Buccaneers’ top QB choices were Tom Brady, then Teddy Bridgewater, then Winston, and Arians confirmed as much in the above-referenced interview with Eisen. “[A Winston re-up] didn’t work out for us only because [Brady] was available and we had [Bridgewater] if that wouldn’t have worked out,” Arians said. “We were going full steam ahead back with Jameis.”
  • After entering the offseason with a ton of cap space, the Bucs have only about $14MM left to spend, as Greg Auman of The Athletic observes, and some of that will be needed to sign the club’s draft picks. Auman takes a look at a few veteran FAs still available that could fit the Bucs’ remaining needs. One such player is safety Tony Jefferson, who played for Arians for four years in Arizona and who would represent a quality veteran presence in Tampa’s young defensive backfield.
  • The Bucs could wait until the draft to fill their need for a pass-catching RB, but if they are unable to do so or unwilling to wait, they could look at Isaiah Crowell, per Auman. Crowell does not have a past connection to Arians but did play for DC Todd Bowles when Bowles was the Jets’ head coach in 2018.
  • DB Ryan Smith re-signed with the Buccaneers several days ago, and Terez A. Paylor of Yahoo Sports says Smith’s one-year deal has a max value of $2.25MM (Twitter link).
  • Even though Brady may want him, the Buccaneers have no intention of signing Antonio Brown.

Brady Fallout: Bucs, Belichick, Colts, Hoyer

The Buccaneers‘ signing of the most accomplished free agent in NFL history triggered a ripple effect in several cities. That started in Charlotte. Although neither Bruce Arians nor Jason Licht spoke to Tom Brady until Wednesday of last week, the Bucs believed they had a “shell of a deal” with Brady by Tuesday, Peter King of NBC Sports reports. This was hours before the future Hall of Fame quarterback announced he would no longer return to the Patriots. The Bucs’ discussions with Brady’s agent, Don Yee, Tuesday prompted them to bow out of the Teddy Bridgewater pursuit, King adds. Bridgewater’s Panthers offer prompted the Bucs to give him an answer, and they chose to stay in the Brady pursuit without a full commitment. The Bucs had been linked to Bridgewater for weeks.

At February’s end, the Bucs’ quarterback hierarchy went Brady-Bridgewater-Jameis Winston, King notes. Tampa Bay had also been linked to Philip Rivers in February, but it became clear the Colts were his top option.

Here is the latest fallout from the Bucs’ Brady signing:

  • Brady’s camp expressed interest in the Colts, but King notes the interest was not mutual. The prospect of a Rivers-Colts partnership surfaced shortly after the Chargers revealed they would not re-sign him, and while the notion of Rivers-over-Brady sounds interesting based on the veterans’ accolades, Stephen Holder of The Athletic tweets the Colts’ preference of going with a one-year quarterback arrangement probably did not align with Brady’s hopes of a multiyear commitment. Rivers signed a one-year, $25MM deal; Brady became a Buccaneer for two years and $50MM fully guaranteed. Brady also expressed interest in the 49ers, and the Titans were a long-rumored suitor. These franchises joined the Colts and Raiders in leaving the Brady race early.
  • Early this offseason, Brady’s camp put out feelers to other teams, and ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham notes many executives around the league viewed the quarterback as being driven by ill will toward Bill Belichick that they could not tell if he wanted out of New England or merely wanted Robert Kraft to step in and broker a new Pats deal. Belichick refused to give Brady the extension he sought last summer, and Wickersham adds that a Brady-Belichick conversation in late 2017 about the quarterback’s future with the Patriots ended with a “blowup.” This meeting appears to have happened just before Wickersham’s “tension in New England”-centered report that indicated Kraft’s intervention helped drive the Jimmy Garoppolo-to-San Francisco deal. The Patriots gave Brady an incentive package in 2018, leading to his extension-in-name-only 2019 contract.
  • As for the Patriots‘ plans, they may actually be planning a Brian HoyerJarrett Stidham quarterback battle. Hoyer could have earned more money elsewhere but wanted to return to New England because he was told he will have a chance to vie for the starting job, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (video link). The Patriots, as of now, do not have Andy Dalton on their radar and are viewed as being high on Stidham, who has attempted four NFL passes.

Contract Details: Bridgewater, Panthers, Vaitai, Lions, Byrd, Patriots, Brees, Saints

The latest notes on all of the contracts being handed out around the league:

  • QB Teddy Bridgewater, Panthers: signed. Bridgewater got a three-year deal worth $63MM and a whopping $40MM of that is guaranteed in the first two years, according to David Newton of ESPN.com. He got a $15MM signing bonus to take over for the start of the Matt Rhule era. Newton’s post has the full breakdown on how it’ll be paid out with various workout and roster bonuses.
  • OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Lions: signed. Vaitai’s five-year, $50MM contract includes $20MM guaranteed which will come in the first two years of the deal, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL Radio tweets. Detroit can get out of the pact after that.
  • WR Damiere ByrdPatriots: signed. Byrd’s one-year deal can be worth up to $2.5MM, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network notes in a tweet.
  • QB Drew Brees, Saints: re-signed. Brees’ two-year, $50MM new deal with New Orleans includes a signing bonus of $23MM and a small base salary of only $2MM in year one, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. That structure as well as two voidable years added on for 2022-2023 help keep his 2020 cap hit very low so the Saints can spend more as they gear up for one more Super Bowl with Brees under center.
  • LB Sean Lee, Cowboys: re-signed. Lee is back for one more ride on a one-year, $4.5MM deal with $2MM guaranteed. He actually could earn up to $6.5MM if he hits some playing time incentives, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, although he writes they’re “not-likely-to-be-earned.”
  • S Darian Thompson, Cowboys: re-signed. Thompson is getting a two-year deal worth $2.5MM, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. He’s getting a $200K signing bonus and can earn an extra $250K with playing time escalators.
  • WR Cody Core, Giants: re-signed. New York locked up the special teams ace who barely plays on offense, and he got paid handsomely. Core will be getting $4MM over a two-year deal, Wilson tweets. Only $1MM of it is guaranteed however.
  • S Jordan PoyerBills: extension. The full details are in on Poyer’s new pact. Poyer had two new years added on and will now make $22.7MM over the next three years with $13MM of that being guaranteed, Wilson tweets. He also got a $3MM signing bonus. In a separate tweet, Wilson notes that Poyer has an annual $500K interception incentive he can earn.

Panthers To Sign Teddy Bridgewater

The Panthers are expected to sign Teddy Bridgewater when the league year officially kicks off on Wednesday, according to ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen (on Twitter). The two sides are still ironing out the details, but it’ll be a three-year deal in the range of $60MM, Mort hears. 

On Tuesday morning, the Panthers announced that they have given Cam Newton permission to seek a trade. Interestingly, that news caught Newton off-guard – he accused the Panthers of “wordplay” to imply that he wanted out. Either way, Newton will be playing elsewhere in 2020 and Bridgewater will be the club’s starter moving forward.

Bridgewater, who is beloved by just about everyone in NFL circles, worked tirelessly to come back from what could have been a career-ending knee injury. Since moving on from the Vikings, he’s shown that he still has tons of talent to go along with his charisma and leadership.

Last year, he got five opportunities to start in Drew Brees‘ stead and he went undefeated. Now, heading into his age-28 season, the Panthers are hopeful that he can rekindle his early Minnesota magic.

Before the injury, Bridgewater averaged 3,075 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in his first two seasons. With the Saints, he sat for most of the 2018 season before leading the team to a 5-0 record in Brees’ absence last year. While Bridgewater ranked at or near the bottom in multiple Next Gen Stats focused on average air yards, he completed 67% of his passes in 2019.

This also represents an interesting move for a Panthers team that has been linked to a possible run at Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in 2021. While Bridgewater will be tasked with taking over a team that has lost a lot of talent this year, he profiles as a quarterback talented enough to play Carolina out of the No. 1 or No. 2 draft slots — likely needed to secure Lawrence or Fields — next year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Interested In Teddy Bridgewater

The Patriots have shown interest in Saints free agent Teddy Bridgewater, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). The Pats, of course, are in the market for a quarterback after Tom Brady announced that he’ll be heading elsewhere in 2020. 

[RELATED: Tom Brady Bids Farewell To Patriots]

Bridgewater has started in just six games since January of 2016, but he’s also made a complete recovery from his devastating injury. Many believe that Bridgewater can thrive if given the opportunity to start. By extension, there are also many who are questioning the Saints’ decision to move forward with Taysom Hill as the main backup and heir apparent to Drew Brees instead of the proven vet.

Last year, Bridgewater went 5-0 as the Saints’ starter, filling in for Brees while he was sidelined. His performance has made him an appealing option for lots of teams – including the Panthers – so the Pats will have their work cut out for them.

Before the injury, Bridgewater started 28 games for the Vikings from 2014-15, averaging 3,075 yards, 14 touchdowns, and ten interceptions per season. Among the 30 QBs who attempted at least 500 passes in those two seasons, Bridgewater ranked 22nd in passer rating, 25th in adjusted net yards per attempt, and 29th in touchdown percentage.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Give Cam Newton Permission To Seek Trade

The Panthers may be moving on from Cam Newton. On Tuesday, the club announced that they have granted their star quarterback permission to seek a trade.

One of the distinct pleasures of my career was selecting Cam with the first pick in the 2011 draft,” GM Marty Hurney said in a statement. “Every year difficult decisions are made and they are never easy. We have been working with Cam and his agent to find the best fit for him moving forward and he will always be a Carolina Panther in our hearts.”

Newton, 31 in May, captured the NFL’s MVP trophy in 2015 and led the team to the Super Bowl. He also owns just about every franchise record for QBs.

Unfortunately, injuries have taken his career in a different direction as of late. The three-time Pro Bowler has gone under the knife multiple times, including surgeries to his throwing shoulder and left foot.

Newton may have lost some of his luster, but he should still hold appeal for teams in need of QB help. He’s slated to make just $18.6MM this season, making him a fairly affordable bridge option.

Any interested clubs will want to take a close look at his aforementioned maladies. At last check, we heard that Newton could ready to throw sometime this month, though the Panthers were planning to be cautious with him and delay some of his work until later in the spring.

Meanwhile, the Panthers are showing very strong interest in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, sources tell Dianna Russini of ESPN.com (on Twitter). They’ll have competition for Teddy Two-Gloves, however – the Bears have shown interest (though they seem ready to pivot towards other passers) and the Bucs also see him as a strong fallback if they’re unable to land Tom Brady.

If the Panthers don’t go for Bridgewater, or another one of this year’s high-profile free agent QBs, they could consider a passer in the first round of the draft. The Panthers own the No. 7 overall pick, putting them in good position for most of this year’s top signal callers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Interested In Teddy Bridgewater

The Bears have been in talks with Teddy Bridgewater during the legal tampering period, Mike Florio of PFT hears. The Saints don’t have the cap room to keep the quarterback, but the Bears are among the clubs interested in him and, potentially, among the teams willing to give him a starting job.

The Bears plan on sticking with Mitchell Trubisky, though they’ve signaled a desire to bring in competition. Bridgewater would fit the bill.

Florio hears that Bridgewater is in line for a deal that would pay him roughly $21MM/year. At that salary, Bridgewater would probably be anointed as the Bears’ Week 1 starter.

Bridgewater has started in only six games since January of 2016, but he’s also made a complete recovery from his devastating injury. Many believe that Bridgewater can thrive if given the opportunity to start.

Last year, Bridgewater went 5-0 as the Saints’ starter, filling in for Drew Brees while he was sidelined. Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 draft, went 8-7. He had just 17 touchdowns against ten interceptions, casting doubt on his future prospects with the Bears.

Buccaneers “All In” On Tom Brady

The Buccaneers are “going all in” on legendary signal-caller Tom Brady, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Bay, of course, has been connected to Brady in recent rumors, but it was difficult to determine how serious the team’s interest was. Apparently, it’s very serious.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has generally been non-committal towards incumbent passer Jameis Winston, who, like Brady, is eligible for free agency. Stroud says Arians wants to move on from Winston, and GM Jason Licht is willing to defer to his head coach.

Licht and Arians certainly have plenty to offer Brady. The club is among the league leaders in cap space and will have plenty of money to lure Brady to sunny, family-friendly Tampa while giving him a two- or three-year deal. The Bucs also have a dynamic pair of receivers and a talented (if uncertain) tight end, and they plan to add the type of pass-catching back that Brady covets. They also plan to draft an offensive tackle to shore up his protection, and Stroud says they will probably add a receiver from the immensely deep class of collegiate wideouts.

The Bucs will also allow Brady to take charge of the offense, and the fact that Florida has no state income tax will only help the team’s push. The defense also looks like a unit on the rise, so if you squint hard enough, you can see Tampa Bay as a contender with Brady under center.

If Brady chooses to sign elsewhere, Stroud says the Bucs’ fallback options are Teddy Bridgewater and Philip Rivers, in that order. Failing that, a reunion with Winston could still be in play, but that is sounding increasingly like a worst-case scenario for the Bucs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs Interested In Teddy Bridgewater?

Caught in the middle of this unusual quarterback market, the Buccaneers still have a major decision to make. Shaquil Barrett has been mentioned as the player likely to receive Tampa Bay’s franchise tag, leaving Jameis Winston in limbo. And another quarterback has surfaced as a potential target.

The Bucs, who have been linked to a Philip Rivers pursuit, are being connected to Teddy Bridgewater. They were the team most closely tied to a Bridgewater run at the Combine, per Larry Holder of The Athletic (on Twitter), with one GM mentioning (via Mike Sando of The Athletic, subscription required) the Bucs are indeed interested in the former Vikings starter and two-year Saints backup.

This would be a significant course change for the Bucs, who have started Winston in 70 games since using the No. 1 overall pick in 2015 on him. But the former Heisman winner has not overcome his interception habit, throwing 30 INTs last season.

Tampa Bay may well prioritize Rivers over Winston, who could well hit the market if the Bucs use their franchise tag on Barrett, and GM Jason Licht confirmed the Bucs are investigating other quarterbacks. That would be an interesting turn of events for a quarterback who threw for 5,109 yards — a career-high by over 1,000 — and 33 touchdowns in 2019.

Bridgewater helped the Saints to a 5-0 record last season and has begun to generate interest, with Peter King of NBC Sports noting a market for the 2014 first-round pick has begun to form. Teams are viewing the 27-year-old passer as a starter, though he’s obviously overshadowed on this market by Rivers and Tom Brady. The Saints are not expected to bring back Bridgewater.

Bridgewater and Winston displayed widely contrasting styles last season as well, with the former ranking last in Next Gen Stats’ average intended air yards metric (6.2) and third from the bottom in average completed air yards (4.6) in 2019. Winston was second in both metrics (10.5, 8.2). Bridgewater threw nine touchdown passes and two INTs last season. He threw 14 TDs in both 2014 and ’15, before 2016 injuries sidetracked his career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Teams Eyeing Teddy Bridgewater As Starter

Free agent Teddy Bridgewater, in all likelihood, will be leaving the Saints this offseason. When he hits the open market next month, multiple teams expect him to attract interest as a starting quarterback option or, at minimum, a bridge to a younger QB, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com hears (via Twitter).

Assuming Drew Brees returns for another season, the Saints are expected to move forward with Taysom Hill as the future Hall of Famer’s backup. In that scenario, Bridgewater would be priced out of New Orleans. Plenty of other clubs see Bridgewater as a top option and the 27-year-old (28 in November) would likely relish the opportunity to run his own show once again.

The Saints went 5-0 with Bridgewater under center while Brees was out, but they seem more tantalized by the ability of Hill, another athletic quarterback who is on the cusp of his 30th birthday. Hill, who has flashed with his catching ability, has thrown just 13 passes over the course of his career to Bridgewater’s 1,070 throws as a pro.

In his nine total appearances last year, Bridgewater completed 67.9% of his passes with nine touchdowns against just two interceptions. He’s also respected league-wide as a locker room leader and an all-around positive influence. Years removed from his devastating injury in Minnesota, Bridgewater has the shown the ability to do much more than hold the clipboard as a third-string afterthought.

This offseason, he’ll be treated accordingly, even though he doesn’t offer the same kind of star power as others in a deep free agent QB class.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.