NFL Offseason Moves: Bye, Bye Brady
Jon Impemba discusses the fallout from Tom Brady's decision to leave New England and what it means for both the legendary quarterback, as well as who will succeed him for the Patriots
If you were worried about being bored due to the suspension of nearly all events the NFL has decided to keep you entertained with a wild unofficial start to their 2020 league year. So far we have seen the likes of DeAndre Hopkins , David Johnson , Stefon Diggs , Austin Hooper and Hayden Hurst swap jerseys but the one name everybody wondered about heading into this offseason was the status of Tom Brady and that news just dropped….sort of. Brady announced on social media that he will not be returning to the New England Patriots and that his football journey will take him elsewhere. Now, it does not sound like Brady is retiring, in fact he has stated himself on numerous occasions that he does not intend to retire. So, now that question is where does he go? Who will be the quarterback to replace him in New England? Let’s discuss these two questions and the potential fantasy impacts they will have on the upcoming season.
The Landing Spot
Brady has been linked to quite a few teams this offseason with the Chargers, Raiders, Buccaneers and 49ers all being mentioned as having interest in the six-time Super Bowl winner. As of yesterday, we learned the 49ers have dropped out and will continue with Jimmy Garoppolo at the quarterback position. The Raiders also went and signed Marcus Mariota to likely back up Derek Carr so let’s just remove those two teams from the conversation and focus on the Buccaneers and the Chargers.
Tampa’s coaching staff has been pretty outspoken that they are openly looking at all alternatives to Jameis Winston at their quarterback position. They have even gone as far to say that it is not often that someone like Tom Brady is available in free agency. It’s clear that head coach Bruce Arians is not a huge fan of the turnover prone Winston after finishing the season with a disappointing 7-9 record. There is no doubt that the Buccaneers offense has the best weapons of any team looking to replace their quarterback as Brady would step onto the field with the likes of Mike Evans , Chris Godwin , O.J. Howard , and even Cameron Brate as viable receiving weapons. At running back we saw Ronald Jones take a step forward in his sophomore season as well and his pass catching ability is something that Brady could very much utilize in the same sense that he looked to James White and Rex Burkhead out of the backfield in New England. Brady may not have the arm strength that Winston has to really throw downfield, but his football IQ and decision making could certainly make this offense much more efficient, and in that sense much more dangerous.
With the Chargers, Brady will replace Philip Rivers who was always good but just never good enough to get the team over that hump. Going to the West Coast would give Brady a chance to return home to California and play in Los Angeles which many believe would be a key factor in him choosing the Chargers. On offense the team has Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen , emerging wide receiver Mike Williams , and tight end Hunter Henry who got the franchise tag. At running back, Austin Ekeler would take an extreme bump in value should Brady end up with the Bolts as his pass catching along with running ability gives Brady something that you could maybe compare to a James White with a bit more upside. This offense to me makes more sense for Brady in the way that it is built. You have an over the middle possession receiver in Keenan Allen , a down the seams tight end in Hunter Henry , a pass catching running back in Austin Ekeler , and a big red zone target in Mike Williams . In terms of the fantasy impact Brady would have on the Chargers, I would say it would be difficult to expect major increases here. Though Rivers certainly struggled with interceptions and at times inconsistent play, he was still a fairly accurate quarterback in terms of completion percentage. And the Chargers relied on him to throw the football A LOT. The downside to playing with the Chargers is that Brady would have to face off against Patrick Mahomes at least two times a year and need to beat him out to win the division and get a first-round bye. Certainly, a tougher road here. He has also not had a ton of success playing in Denver, owning a 5-7 record over the course of his career.
What’s Next for New England
Well it is an end of an era in New England, but the show must go on so now the question is who is next? There have been a few players linked to New England if Brady was to ultimately exit and the Patriots also have an inhouse option that can be explored. Let’s first take a look at who New England already has on their roster and that is Jarrett Stidham.
Stidham played his college ball at Auburn and was drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL draft. With Brady away from the team during the preseason and then dealing with some minor injury ailments, we saw A TON of Stidham during the preseason. He looked impressive, appearing in all four games while completing 67.8-percent for 731 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. During the regular season Stidham appeared in three games, completing 2-of-4 pass attempts for 14 yards with one interception. From all reports, many do not think Stidham is ready to take the reigns, however we have seen in the past that Bill Belichick has won games with the likes of Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback thanks to his innate ability to coach up the players and scheme around the strengths of the team. Based on this, it would not shock me to see him as the Week 1 quarterback this season.
If looking outside the organization there are few names that have been floated around since the offseason kicked off. Currently the Las Vegas Odds list Teddy Bridgewater as the favorite to land in New England. Bridgewater filled in for the injured Drew Brees last season, appearing in nine games and making five starts. Overall, he completed 67.9-percent of his passes for 1,384 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Bridgewater is an accurate passer, but is largely a game manager and during his early years in Minnesota did not do much to help win that team football games. At 28 years old, he could provide another stop gap for the Patriots to put at quarterback for a few seasons while they look to develop a younger guy whether it be Stidham or a prospect they take in the coming drafts. For fantasy purposes I don’t feel like Bridgewater would be a positive for the skill players in New England.
Another name most often linked to the Patriots is current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton . With the Bengals holding the first overall pick in the 2020 draft they are expected to take a quarterback with Joe Burrow the likely pick to takeover as the franchise quarterback. Dalton has just one year left on his current deal which would make him an ideal option for the Patriots should they truly have faith in Stidham to develop but feel like he needs another year behind a veteran. Dalton has certainly had some up and down seasons with Cincinnati, which included seeing him benched last year and often in quarterback controversy during the final years of his tenure with the team. An injury ended Dalton’s best season in 2015 which saw him complete 66.1-percent of his passes with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions over 13 games. For his career he owns just a 62-percent completion percentage with 204 touchdowns and 118 interceptions. Though inaccurate, Dalton does offer the downfield passing upside which the likes of a N’Keal Harry could benefit from which could be a boost for his fantasy relevance.
A possibly wild card for the Patriots should Tom Brady end up in Tampa Bay could end up being Philip Rivers. Rivers was long linked to the Buccaneers. He even moved his family to Florida from California but if Brady takes his spot then we could see Rivers find his way north. Rivers would fit the bill as a veteran quarterback for the Patriots to start while looking to develop a younger guy. Rivers would not be a total downgrade from Brady if we are being honest, as I stated above when discussing Brady as an option for the Chargers. Given the age Rivers would likely only need a one or two-year deal at most and I would not imagine the salary request would be unreasonable. The Patriots however may not be an appealing option for Rivers given the lack of weapons the Patriots currently have on their roster which was a big problem and likely a key reason for Brady deciding not to return.