Tom Brady

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Jets, Jones

The Patriots may have the top bargain at the quarterback position this season, with Cam Newton making league-minimum money (plus incentives) on his one-year deal. This reality would not be unfolding had Tom Brady come to terms with the Patriots on an extension ahead of the 2019 season. Prior to the Pats and Brady agreeing on an in-name-only extension that allowed him to become a free agent in 2020, the team made its legendary passer a two-year, $53MM extension offer, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The number here is notable, considering it would have represented a raise for Brady on a through-2021 commitment. While Brady was seeking an extension similar to the one Drew Brees had signed with the Saints in 2018, he almost certainly landed a better deal — two years, $50MM fully guaranteed — with the Buccaneers this March.

Although the Pats were prepared to consider Brady counteroffers in February and March of this year, Howe adds Brady’s camp did not make one. A previous report indicated, however, the Patriots did not make a strong effort to re-sign Brady this year — a strategy that rubbed the free agent passer the wrong way.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Following his 397-yard passing performance against the Seahawks, Newton has firmly re-established himself as an extension candidate. Given his injury history, however, the Patriots would probably like to see if their new QB1 can hold up for a full season or at least for most of it before beginning contract talks. Newton said during a recent radio interview an extension is “literally the last of my worries,” per WEEI.com’s Ryan Hannable. The 31-year-old quarterback also indicated he did not want to become mired in a back-and-forth negotiation with the Pats when he signed in June, leading to his incentive-laden deal. Were Newton to stay healthy this season, however, a negotiation would seemingly commence and end with the former MVP signed to a deal more lucrative than his 2015 Panthers extension.
  • The Dolphins will be without Byron Jones against the Jaguars. Miami ruled out its high-priced free agent acquisition, who landed on the injury report with Achilles and groin issues. Jones left the Dolphins’ Week 2 game against the Bills in the first quarter. This will only be his second missed game since arriving in the NFL in 2015.
  • More wideout injury trouble for the Jets. They will be without Breshad Perriman for a game or two with an ankle ailment, Adam Gase said this week. Gang Green is already down Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims. Crowder is not certain to return in Week 3, and Mims must reside on IR through Week 4.
  • Le’Veon Bell dropped a considerable amount of weight this offseason, coming into this season at 210 pounds. With a CBS broadcast indicating Bell lost 24 pounds, this would have placed the former All-Pro at 234 last year — above his listed playing weight. Bell’s conditioning was a concern within the organization, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. Bell is currently on IR and almost certainly in his final season as a Jet.
  • The Patriots have asked second-round rookie Josh Uche to morph from college pass rusher to all-around linebacker, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Perhaps this developmental role resulted in Uche being a healthy scratch in Week 1, with the Pats having third-round linebacker Anfernee Jennings active over him. Uche has yet to play this season; he was inactive because of an ankle injury in Week 2. The ex-Michigan Wolverine, however, is off the Pats’ injury report ahead of their Week 3 game against the Raiders.

NFC South Notes: Bucs, Forbath, Saints

Currently in the Buccaneers‘ concussion protocol, Chris Godwin may miss their Week 2 game against the Panthers. But the 2019 breakout wide receiver still looms as a candidate to sign a lucrative extension. The fourth-year wideout is willing to be patient ahead of his next contract, with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com noting (Insider link) the former third-round pick is willing to negotiate with the Bucs through the franchise tag or ahead of free agency. In April, Jason Licht said the team wants Godwin around for the long haul.

The Bucs already authorized a $16.5MM-per-year deal for Mike Evans — one of just two players ever to start a career with six straight 1,000-yard seasons (along with Randy Moss) — and the receiver market has ballooned since. A Godwin deal could come in north of $20MM annually, which would put Evans in a bit of a strange spot. With Godwin and Evans a big part of Tom Brady‘s two-year Tampa Bay commitment, the younger of the two Pro Bowl Bucs wideouts stands in good position as his contract season begins.

Here is the latest from Tampa and other NFC South cities:

  • Lavonte David began negotiating with the Bucs on another extension nearly three weeks ago. The sides have not made much progress, but Fowler notes David wants to retire as a Buccaneer. The 2012 second-round pick signed a five-year, $50.25MM deal in 2015. David joins Godwin as a contract-year Buccaneer, so the team will need to address one of these deals before free agency — in order to keep the franchise tag free for the other. David, 30, led all linebackers with 724 solo tackles during the 2010s and can conceivably push for a deal in the Bobby Wagner neighborhood ($18MM AAV).
  • Godwin and Evans represent a key reason why Leonard Fournette opted for a Tampa stay. The former Jaguars running back said the weapons the Bucs possess played a role in him agreeing to head to south Florida, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. As the centerpiece of the Jaguars’ offense for a while, Fournette faced stacked boxes on 39% of his carries from 2017-19, Palmer notes. Fournette received six touches in his Bucs debut but figures to become a bigger part of the offense in the games to come.
  • In addition to trading for Rob Gronkowski, the Bucs made another move to accommodate their new quarterback. They have given Brady’s trainer, Alex Guerrero, an office at their facility, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. The Patriots did this at one point too but removed the TB12 co-architect’s office later. Guerrero is working with Brady, Gronk and several other Bucs, per La Canfora, who adds that some believe the Pats souring on Guerrero helped lead Brady out of New England.
  • The Panthers worked out Kai Forbath on Thursday. Second-year kicker Joey Slye, whom the team went with over former Pro Bowler Graham Gano, made all three of his field goal tries in Week 1 but missed a PAT. Slye missed four extra points last season. Carolina does not have a kicker on its practice squad.
  • Panthers rookie UDFA Sam Franklin has moved from linebacker to safety, according to defensive coordinator Phil Snow (via The Athletic’s Joe Person, on Twitter). Franklin’s primary role still figures to be special teams this season. He played 18 special teams snaps against the Raiders compared to just two on defense.
  • The Saints worked out defensive lineman Anthony Zettel on Thursday. The journeyman D-lineman signed a one-year Vikings deal earlier this year but did not stick on their roster.

Bears Were “In The Running” For Tom Brady

It seems like just yesterday that the Tom Brady free agency rumors were dominating the NFL news cycle. And while Brady will be making his much-anticipated debut for the Buccaneers this afternoon, perhaps he instead could have been suiting up for the Bears in their Week 1 matchup against the Lions.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Bears — who took a look at every QB available on the market before swinging a trade for Nick Foles — made an offer to Brady. It’s unclear what that offer looked like, but Rapoport says Chicago was indeed in the running, though Brady was not particularly keen on signing with a cold-weather club.

Ultimately, the Florida sunshine and Tampa’s loaded receiving corps helped lure Brady to the Bucs. The Bears, despite the trade for Foles and the reworked contract they gave him, have elected to kick off the regular season with embattled signal-caller Mitch Trubisky under center.

Rapoport — along with Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington of ESPN.com — adds that there was mutual interest between Brady and the Saints when it was unclear if Drew Brees was going to retire or not. We already wrote about the New Orleans-Brady connection back in June, so this is not exactly news.

Interestingly, though, Jeff Duncan of The Athletic says that the Saints were Brady’s preferred landing spot if Brees had elected to head to the broadcasting booth in 2020 (Twitter link). Duncan adds that Brees was closer to retirement than many realize, so instead of seeing the two 40-something QBs battle each other today, we might have seen Brady in black-and-gold taking on Brees’ new backup and former Tampa starter Jameis Winston.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mutual Interest Existed Between Saints, Tom Brady?

An interesting what-if during an offseason featuring the highest-profile quarterback movement since free agency opened 27 years ago: Tom Brady was interested in the Saints this year. The Saints were also interested, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (on Twitter).

However, both sides’ curiosity hinged on Drew Brees heading into retirement, which he did not. The Saints re-upped their all-time great for the same figures — two years, $50MM — Brady eventually received from the Buccaneers. However, Brees’ deal includes only $25MM fully guaranteed; the Bucs guaranteed Brady all $50MM.

New Orleans’ Brees transaction occurred hours before Brady’s Bucs commitment, but the former had already declared he would return for a 20th season. And Brees said earlier in the offseason he would play for the Saints or no one.

Brady’s interest level in the Saints was believed to be “very serious,” per La Canfora. This adds a layer to a complex Saints QB offseason, one that saw them re-sign Brees, replace Teddy Bridgewater with Jameis Winston and extend gadget player/possible Brees successor Taysom Hill. Brady would have been surrounded by weapons in New Orleans, but he now has an enviable arrangement in Tampa.

This isn’t necessarily surprising. Brady was connected to a number of teams this offseason, before his sweepstakes narrowed to the Bucs and Chargers. The Bay Area native was believed to be interested in joining the 49ers, who investigated the possibility. Brees’ return cut off anything notable between Brady and the Saints.

Brees, 41, and Brady, 43 in August, will instead face off twice this season in what promise to be two of the highest-profile divisional QB matchups in NFL history. Despite playing in 10 fewer games (285-275), Brees has a 3,000-plus-yard edge on his new rival and is six TD passes up on the ex-Patriot legend (547-541). Brady, of course, has a 6-1 Super Bowl edge here. The Bucs and Saints are scheduled to play in Weeks 1 and 9.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs Notes: Brady, TEs, OL, Free Agency

Tom Brady‘s transition to a new team in advance of his 21st NFL season has obviously been less than ideal, with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing the future Hall of Famer from working with teammates and coaches at the Buccaneers‘ facility. The first time the soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback is expected to be permitted to enter his new team’s facilities will be training camp. But the Bucs do not plan to compensate for this by giving Brady more preseason work. Bruce Arians said Thursday he doubts Brady will need more preseason time to make up for the virtual offseason, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (on Twitter). Still, Brady’s preseason snaps figure to be more important than usual this year.

Here is the latest out of Tampa:

  • Arians has not gotten much out of the tight end position during his stay as head coach in Arizona and Tampa. That should soon change. The Bucs currently house an all-time tight end stable, with Rob Gronkowski joining the team’s O.J. HowardCameron Brate duo already regarded as one of the NFL’s best. Arians said the Bucs will use a two-tight end offense as their base this season (via Auman, on Twitter). Going with more “12 personnel” looks would give Howard and Brate more time on the field and potentially represent an effort to conserve Gronkowski, who retired partially because of injury issues last year. This also points to the Bucs giving stronger consideration to keeping all three tight ends rather than trading Howard or Brate. Arians even said he’s interested in three-tight end looks.
  • Tampa Bay is not expected to make a move to add interior offensive linemen to back up starters Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa and Ryan Jensen, Arians added (via Auman, on Twitter). The Bucs did not draft any guards or centers, but Arians likes what he has seen from backups Aaron Stinnie, Anthony Fabiano and Zack Bailey. A fifth-year blocker, Fabiano is now on his eighth team. Stinnie was a 2018 Titans UDFA; Bailey was a Bucs 2019 UDFA who spent much of last year on IR.
  • However, the Bucs are keeping multiple roster spots open for possible veteran additions. Arians said (via Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com, on Twitter) he and GM Jason Licht discussed saving room for veterans who would be more prepared to play than rookie UDFAs. With Brady on a two-year deal, Tampa Bay stockpiling vets would make sense.

AFC Notes: Ravens, Patriots, Rivers

After the Ravens added Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Mark Ingram believes his team officially has the best running game in the league.

“I like his mindset, I like his attitude, I like the way he run the ball. Just bring him and his talents to our room that’s already special; our backfield is gonna be the best in the league for sure,” Ingram told NFL Network’s Colleen Wolfe (via NFL.com’s Grant Gordon). “We’re all looking forward to it, being playmakers for the team and help us win the championship.”

Last season, Ingram and quarterback Lamar Jackson became just the second RB-QB duo to top 1,000 rushing yards in the same season (Warrick Dunn and Michael Vick did it with the Falcons in 2006). Gus Edwards also had a productive season in Baltimore, running for 711 yards and two scores. Even Justice Hill found the end zone twice as a rookie.

While the backfield may be a bit crowded, it doesn’t sound like Ingram is too concerned about carries. Rather, the veteran is focused on winning a championship, and he passed that mindset on to his rookie teammate.

“He reached out to me,” Ingram said. “Right after he got drafted, just shot me his number, said he was looking forward to getting to work. I told him let’s go get a ring.”

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC…

  • Sticking with Baltimore, Ravens GM Eric DeCosta told season ticket holders that the team doesn’t have a whole lot of salary cap flexibility (via The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec on Twitter). DeCosta noted that if the front office did open up space, they’d likely pursue a pass rusher/linebacker or a veteran offensive lineman.
  • Reports yesterday indicated that Tom Brady‘s “deteriorating relationship” with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was a big reason why the quarterback left New England. However, Brady vehemently denied those rumors via Instagram, asking reporters to “[p]lease be more responsible with reporting” (via Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com). McDaniels and Brady had been paired together for more than a decade, winning six Super Bowls along the way.
  • In 2019, Philip Rivers was playing behind a Chargers offensive line that ranked 29th in effectiveness, per Pro Football Focus. In Indy, he’ll be playing behind an offensive line that was ranked third by the same metric, and that’s a big reason why the veteran decided to join the Colts. “The big part of Philip being here is Anthony CastonzoQuenton Nelson,” said offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni (via NFL.com’s Nick Shook). Ryan KellyBraden SmithMark Glowinski. Those guys are studs…That’s something that he just kept mentioning after we signed him of how valuable those guys were to him.”

NFC South Notes: Saints, Bucs, Brady

Despite the three Pro Bowl selections on his resume, Larry Warford‘s standing with the Saints is in flux. The Saints have been pondering his status throughout the offseason, according to Larry Holder of The Athletic.

Warford has started in every game he’s played throughout his career, including these last three Pro Bowl seasons with the Saints. Still, Sean Payton followed through on his promise to prioritize the interior line by drafting center Cesar Ruiz in the first round. He’s also indicated that Ruiz could be a first-stringer and that Warford will have to compete for his starting gig.

Warford is still on the right side of 30 (he turns 29 in June), but the Saints aren’t sold on him. It’s a situation to monitor as he enters the final year of the four-year, $34MM deal he inked as a free agent in 2017. If released, Warford would count for $5.125MM in dead money versus $7.75MM in cap savings.

The Saints are giving real thought to shedding that deal, especially with a combined $28MM committed to Terron Armstead and Andrus Peat in 2020. They also have an extension on the horizon for standout tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who just recently had his 2021 option exercised.

More from the NFC South:

  • When Tom Brady visited Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, he accidentally walked into the wrong house. He also triggered some questions regarding league rules, since the visit occurred during the league’s “dark period” prior to virtual offseason activities. However, the league looked into it and determined that there were no rule violations, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • The NFL has also determined that the Saints‘ signing of Jameis Winston will not count against their compensatory formula (Twitter link via Nick Underhill of New Orleans Football). It’s not clear whether Winston’s signing was actually borderline in this regard – his deal was reportedly signed after the deadline for the compensatory pick formula, which should have made this an automatic. In any case, Winston is now set to watch and learn from Drew Brees on his one-year contract.
  • Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are hoping to finally figure out their kicking situation. They’re hopeful that Matt Gay will improve this year, GM Jason Licht says, but the Bucs are also “definitely planning on adding competition,” (via the Tampa Bay Times). Gay made only 27 of 35 field goals last year, but he did nail five of his tries from 50 yards out.

Gronk: I Told Tom Brady I Wanted To Play Months Ago

Earlier this week, Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement and pushed the Patriots to trade him to the Buccaneers. Publicly, the tight end hid his intentions, but he says Tom Brady has known about his plans for a while now. 

[RELATED: Brady Didn’t Demand Gronk]

We rarely talked about what his decision was gonna be, where I’m at,” Gronkowski said of their winter talks (via ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine). “But we did talk about [it] for one second. I told him that — we talked just real quick — like, ‘Hey, I’m kinda getting that fire underneath me again.’

I said, ‘I’m definitely interested in your decision that you make.’ I didn’t put any pressure on him. I said, ‘If there’s a right opportunity out there, and you go somewhere and that opportunity is right – even if you go back to the Patriots and I feel like the opportunity is right – there’s a possible chance that I would definitely love to reconnect.'”

Brady, per Gronk, was “all fired up and juiced up” about the potential reunion. Now, they’ll look to pick up where they left off – the duo connected for 78 touchdowns across nine years together in New England. There should be plenty more to come, with better weather to boot.

Of course, this won’t be welcome news to fans in New England who were clamoring for Gronk last season. While the veteran’s 2018 campaign (47 receptions, 682 yards, three touchdowns) weren’t up to his normal standards, they still proved to be better than the numbers put up by New England’s tight ends in 2019. The Patriots got 36 receptions and two touchdowns from the trio of Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, and Ryan Izzo last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: Brady, Hundley, Hopkins

At multiple points during this offseason’s Tom Brady saga, we heard that the 49ers‘ reported interest in the legendary signal-caller was perhaps largely driven by Brady’s camp and that San Francisco was not legitimately considering the 42-year-old. But regardless of how serious their discussions were, 49ers GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan at least explored the possibility.

“When you’re talking about one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time with Tom Brady, of course you’re going to have some internal discussion,” Lynch recently said in an interview on The Rich Eisen Show (via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com). “So of course Kyle and I have discussions. … But within a day or two, Kyle and I looked at each other and said, ‘You know what, we really like what we have in Jimmy [Garoppolo].’ … I would tell you we’re more convinced than ever about who our quarterback is in Jimmy Garoppolo.”

Though he had a disappointing showing in the 49ers’ Super Bowl LIV loss, Garoppolo has largely justified the team’s steep investment in him, so it stands to reason that Lynch and Shanahan would continue moving forward with Brady’s former (and much younger) understudy.

Now for more from the NFC West:

  • Per TMZ Sports, Cardinals backup QB Brett Hundley is being sued by his ex-wife, who is alleging that Hundley assaulted her both before and after their marriage. The suit is outside of the statute of limitations, and while the accuser’s attorney believes they will be able to overcome that hurdle, Hundley’s attorney says the action is nothing more than an extortion attempt and that Hundley will be filing a counterclaim. Arizona recently re-signed Hundley to serve as Kyler Murray‘s QB2.
  • Newly-minted Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins may not be demanding a new deal from Arizona, but the two sides are talking contract just the same. Hopkins has three years (and no guaranteed money) remaining on his existing deal, but former NFL agent and current CBS Sports pundit Joel Corry says the club has no qualms about renegotiating. Corry explores the two approaches the team could take: either adding money to Hopkins’ current deal — i.e. turning the roughly $40MM that remains due to be spread out over the next three years into $50MM-$54MM — or a more conventional extension that adds time and more guarantees to the current contract. Corry’s piece is well-worth a read for Cards fans.
  • In case you missed it, the Seahawks have not closed the door on a Jadeveon Clowney return.

Tom Brady Didn’t Demand Gronk

Tom Brady made no demands for a Tampa reunion with longtime pal Rob Gronkowski, Ed Werder of ESPN.com tweets. However, the QB did “mention” to head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht that Gronk would love to play for the Buccaneers. 

[RELATED: Patriots Trade Rob Gronkowski To Buccaneers] 

The speculation over Gronk’s potential return to football has raged ever since his retirement in March of 2019. Once Brady left the Patriots for the Bucs in March of this year, everyone connected the dots, speculating that Gronk could force a move to Florida. This week, the deal went down. Gronkowski will be traded to the Bucs, along with a seventh-round pick. In exchange, the Patriots will receive a fourth-round pick in this weekend’s draft, a compensatory pick at No. 139 overall.

To date, Gronkowski has registered 521 receptions, 7,861 yards, and 79 touchdowns over the course of his legendary career. The majority of those throws, of course, came from Brady. Together, they’ve racked up multiple Super Bowl rings while securing their status as future first ballot Hall of Famers.

Gronk, the one-man fiesta, will look to silence any on-field doubts after a down 2018. In his last NFL season, he appeared in 13 games, catching 47 passes for 682 yards and three touchdowns. Still, with incredible offensive skills plus blocking ability, he’s one of the best (if not the best) tight ends of all-time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.