Tom Brady

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.

Patriots Trade Rob Gronkowski To Bucs

Rob Gronkowski is ready to make his NFL return and he’ll do it with Tom Brady as his quarterback. The Patriots have agreed to trade Gronk and a seventh-round pick to the Buccaneers in exchange for a fourth-round pick. The trade is still pending a physical, but all of the pieces are in place for Gronkowski to suit up in TB, with TB.

Gronkowski, soon to be 31, told the Patriots that he wanted to return to football – just not with them (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). Rumors have swirled about the superstar tight end taking his talents to Tampa for months. Now, it’s happening. Gronk will pick back up where he left off with one season and $10MM left on his deal. Gronk has a $9MM base salary due in 2020, with the other $1MM available through workout and roster bonuses.

Gronk has passed his physical and the deal is now official, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Greg Auman of The Athletic tweets that the fourth-rounder Tampa is giving up is the No. 139 overall selection, which is a compensatory pick. The Bucs still have their own fourth-rounder, No. 117 overall.

Although Gronk spent his prime tied to a contract he expressed frequent dissatisfaction with, he plans to honor it in Tampa, agent Drew Rosenhaus notes (via Rapoport, on Twitter). This deal goes all the way back to 2012, when the Patriots agreed to a six-year, $54MM deal with a player who would become an all-time great. For the time being, Gronkowski will remain tethered to that contract.

The future Hall of Famer said this week he was not “totally done” with football. He’s made a slew of “never say never”-type comments ever since his retirement, but this turned out to have legs.

Brady lobbied hard to have Gronkowski on the Bucs, per Rapoport, who adds Gronk has also been adding weight in preparation for an NFL return, Rapoport notes (on Twitter). The return-and-trade transaction is an unusual one, but it’s not without precedent. Back in 2017, the Raiders and Seahawks agreed on a trade involving Marshawn Lynch, allowing the running back to return to the NFL with his hometown team after a one-year hiatus.

As Gronk made notable inroads in the WWE, the Patriots sorely missed their top weapon. Brady struggled for much of last season, and the Patriots did not come close to filling the void the four-time All-Pro created when he retired over a year ago. It’s a fascinating deal, because the Patriots obviously need Gronkowski more than a Bucs team that rosters O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate does.

Gronkowski has dealt with numerous injuries throughout his career, with back trouble limiting him late in his Patriots tenure. But the Bucs are now set to pair Pro Bowlers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin with the most dominant tight end of this generation. Even if Gronk has ceded that belt to either Travis Kelce or George Kittle, he still stands to be a difference-making presence for a Bucs team that has now added the highest- and second-highest-profile members of the second leg of the Patriot dynasty.

A Gronk-Howard-Brate setup would seem untenable, with Brate also signed for $6.8MM per year. One year remains on Howard’s rookie deal, though he can be controlled through 2021 via the fifth-year option. Another trade should be expected, one that would stand to help the Bucs add a draft pick to make up for the one they’re losing by acquiring Gronkowski. Even before this, there were rumblings of Howard being available.

The Patriots still do not feature much at tight end, but they have engaged in Gronk trade talks previously. They were close to dealing him to the Lions two years ago, but Gronkowski nixed it by indicating he’d retire instead of going to Detroit. With Brady now a Buccaneer, Gronk OK’d a deal to the NFC this time around.

The Bucs said no to a Brady-Antonio Brown partnership, but they have green-lit a Brady-Gronk reunion. Either way, this figures to generate immense publicity for a team that has not made the playoffs since 2007. Conversely, with no surefire Brady successor in place and Gronk now on another team, the Patriots feature major questions for the first time in decades.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Giants, Herbert, Tua

Will the Giants actually consider quarterback Justin Herbert with the No. 4 overall pick, even though they already have Daniel Jones under center? The answer is no, according to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, though GM Dave Gettleman has been eyeing him for quite some time. Had Herbert entered last year, he would have been Gettleman’s top choice, Pauline hears.

Here’s a look at the latest draft rumblings from around the NFL:

  • In private conversations, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has indicated that Herbert is not actually in consideration for the No. 5 pick, a source close to Ross tells Pauline. That same source says the pick will either be used on Tua Tagovailoa or a position player, with Jordan Love being selected sometime later. If it’s a non-QB at No. 5, Pauline hears that tackle Andrew Thomas is the most likely choice.
  • Multiple NFL execs tell ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler that the Vikings are looking to move back. The Vikings own Nos. 22 and 25, but they could fill their needs at cornerback and wide receiver later on. In the second round, they should be able to land one of this year’s second-tier corners such as Utah’s Jaylon Johnson, LSU’s Kristian Fulton, or Alabama’s Trevon Diggs – the brother of former Vikes receiver Stefon Diggs.
  • Based on what we’ve heard, Washington’s Jacob Eason profiles as a Day 2 pick for QB-needy teams like the Patriots. He could also be a fit for teams looking to groom their next signal caller. One AFC exec pondered the possibility of Eason going to the Buccaneers, where the pure passer serve as the heir to Tom Brady. The Bucs own the No. 45 overall pick in the second round and Eason could be there for them, provided that teams like the Colts (No. 34) don’t pounce first.

This Date In Transactions History: Patriots Draft Tom Brady

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the 2000 NFL Draft, the day the Patriots took a flyer on a quarterback named Tom Brady with the No. 199 overall pick. He watched and waited for his name to be called behind 198 other players, including six other quarterbacks. And, two decades later, he’s still not quite over it. Earlier today, Brady posted a screenshot of the QBs drafted in front of him with a caption: “Nope, I haven’t forgot.” 

[RELATED: Brady On Leaving The Patriots]

Many of the quarterbacks taken in front of Brady have been largely forgotten by football fans, including Giovanni Carnazzi (49ers, No. 65 overall), Chris Redman (Ravens, No. 75), and Spergon Wynn (Browns, No. 183). Others, like Chad Pennington (Jets, No. 18) and Marc Bulger (Saints, No. 168) found some success at the pro level – but nothing like Brady.

The Jets, 49ers, Ravens, Steelers, Saints, Browns, and every other team in the league have been kicking themselves ever since. Then again, hindsight is 20/20, and few can claim that they envisioned Brady as an NFL starter, let alone a league legend. Brady got his first real opportunity in 2001 when Drew Bledsoe suffered a frightening injury. Fast forward to today, he has 14 Pro Bowl appearances, nine Super Bowl appearances, and six Super Bowl rings. This year, in his age-43 season, Brady will try for his seventh ring with the Buccaneers.

The Patriots did pretty well for themselves with that sixth-round pick. And, now, they have the unenviable task of trying to replace him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.