Tom Brady to Tampa Bay: Winners/losers of free agency stunner

Now that it's official -- Tom Brady has agreed to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a legendary 20-year run with the New England Patriots -- who are the winners and losers in this seismic development? Let's get right to it:


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brady's arrival makes them instant Super Bowl contenders, which is saying a lot, considering they finished in the bottom half of the NFC South in 10 of the past 12 years (with eight last-place showings) and haven't been to the playoffs since 2007. But a deeper dive shows there is tremendous offensive talent at the skill positions, with wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate and running back Ronald Jones. That's a group that can hold its own against anyone. Tampa's problems in 2019 were at the quarterback position, where Jameis Winston threw a league-high 30 interceptions and lost five fumbles, consistently compromising the defense by giving opponents short fields or limited rest. Ball security won't be an issue with Brady, who has never thrown more than 14 picks in a season and has thrown nine or fewer in seven of the past 10 campaigns. Another thing: Brady is a winner, helping the Patriots advance to 17 postseasons and nine Super Bowls (six titles). He has certain expectations and a way of going about his business that should facilitate a positive change in culture with the Bucs.

AFC East: The Patriots have had a stranglehold on the division since 2001, when Brady moved into the starting lineup and proceeded to lead them to 17 first-place finishes in his 18 full seasons, with New England's current reign spanning the last 11 years. His departure should provide added hope to the Bills, Jets and Dolphins, who have been little more than nuisances to the Pats over the past two decades. The teams appeared to gain ground on New England last season, when Buffalo advanced to the playoffs and the Dolphins won three of their final five, including a 27-24 thriller over the Patriots in Week 17. All have cap space -- and, with regard to the Dolphins especially, draft capital -- and that should lead to greater improvement this year.

Bill Belichick: The greatest coach in league history knows what many people are thinking -- that the departure of Brady could represent ground zero of the demise of the Patriots. Belichick wants to thank you in advance, because he will use the words as a rallying cry for the 2020 season. Privately, former players tell stories of Belichick taking perceived slights and using them as motivational points for a game or a season. What better message to get the attention of this year's team?

Debate shows: For years, people have wondered who is more responsible for the Patriots' success: Belichick or Brady? The correct answer is "both," but why let facts get in the way of a shouting match? Fans who've been lining up on both sides of the issue will use each week's games as ammunition for their case, which is great fodder for talk shows but bad news for those who desire context and nuance.

Fan bases in Tampa and New Orleans: These groups will get the high-priced honor of seeing Brady and Drew Brees, shoo-in Hall of Fame QBs, battle each other twice a season. Both signal-callers have played the position at a level many can only dream of, and the opportunity to see them face off in a regular-season home-and-home is worth the price of admission.


Los Angeles Chargers: In need of a difference-maker on the field and at the box office, the Chargers went all in on Brady, hoping his combination of playmaking and ball security could win games and his iconic stature could put fans in seats as the team moves into a new stadium. They had everything Brady was seeking in terms of talent and financial commitment, but they lacked the thing that was most important to him: proximity to his son Jack, who lives in the New York area. Coach Anthony Lynn remains confident in Tyrod Taylor, last season's backup and someone he previously worked with in Buffalo, but it's stating the obvious to say his game is not on the same plane as Brady's. Perhaps the Bolts will look to the draft for help at the position -- or even to Cam Newton, though that had not been discussed as of Tuesday. But missing out on Brady hurt.

Brady's replacement in Foxborough: A truism in sport is that you never want to be the man who replaces The Man. This is one such occasion. Short of claiming the Lombardi Trophy, Brady's successor is in a can't-win situation. He could be good, even very good, but that will be insufficient when measured against someone who was GREAT. So go ahead, Jarrett Stidham or Andy Dalton or Cam Newton or any other candidate whose name you want to fill the blank with ... It will never be good enough when measured against the Greatest Of All Time.

Patriots fans: The greatest coach in league history + the greatest QB in league history = the greatest dynasty in league history. Watching the Brady-Belichick era come to an end won't be easy for Patriots fans, who've witnessed historic success over the past two decades, with New England reaching the Super Bowl nearly one out of every two years. You never want to say never, but I feel comfortable saying we will never see that type of dominance again.

NFC South defenders: It's one thing to face the Bucs with Winston at quarterback. It's another to line up against Brady. Enough said.

Follow Jim Trotter on Twitter @JimTrotter_NFL.

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