Take a look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2017 NFL record. They won in their first game, but finished 6-9 for the season. The team traded away star running back Doug Martin and signed former New England Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady to be his backup. Can they make another Super Bowl run with this new lineup?
TAMPA, FLORIDA — Tom Brady announced his return to the NFL for a 23rd season almost six weeks after announcing his retirement from the league, and on the eve of NFL free agency which threatens to dismantle a Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster that was nearly completely intact last season after their 2020 Super Bowl championship, for “unfinished business.”
After leading the NFL in nearly every major statistical category at the age of 44, and coming within a whisker of defeating the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the NFC divisional round before the Rams kicked a last-second field goal, that business would include making another run at a championship.
While multiple NFL clubs face a quarterback shortage this summer, Bucs general manager Jason Licht stated they’ll “go on with their offseason plans to replenish this roster for another championship run,” after saying two weeks earlier at the NFL combine that they’d “leave a light on” for Brady.
• Brady offers “unfinished business” as an example of a problem. Can the Buccaneers now win the Super Bowl? • Is he back? The sporting world responds. • What’s next for the Buccaneers in free agency? • Brady’s three Hall of Fame careers
The Buccaneers were up against it with their roster and no apparent starter at quarterback without Brady. While Licht and coach Bruce Arians said last year’s second-round draft pick Kyle Trask would compete for the starting job at the combine, members of the coaching staff privately expressed doubts that Trask, who spent the 2021 season leading the scout team and focusing on mechanics and improving his body composition, was ready to step in.
Now he isn’t required to be, and the Buccaneers must attempt to join the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. The Buccaneers had been keeping an eye on the Houston Texans quarterback since he was exonerated of all charges by a grand jury a few days ago but they weren’t hopeful about the situation.
It would have been out of character for them to make a deal involving a high number of draft selections, something they haven’t done since adding coach Jon Gruden before to winning Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002.
On Sunday night, the first domino fell when center Ryan Jensen agreed to a three-year contract for $39 million, with $23 million guaranteed. Jensen will earn an average of $13 million a year, but on the free market, he might have received $14 or $15 million. Brady contacted Jensen on Sunday afternoon to inform him of his return, which set the wheels in motion.
Before Tuesday’s deadline, the Buccaneers had already affixed the franchise tag on wide receiver Chris Godwin, assuring that one of Brady’s favorite targets will be back for at least another season.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Carlton Davis, right guard Alex Cappa, safety Jordan Whitehead, running back Leonard Fournette, defensive linemen William Gholston and Ndamukong Suh, and outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul are all set to become unrestricted free agents when legal tampering opens at noon ET on Monday, and they face tough odds to keep some of their talent.
However, the allure of competing for a championship and doing so with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time is what led the Buccaneers to return all 22 starters from their Super Bowl roster last offseason, and it could lead some players to take less this season, as Brady has done in the past. However, as Licht and Arians have stated on numerous occasions, they will not be able to bring everyone back.
In recent days, the Buccaneers have been able to generate significantly more salary cap room by placing left guard Ali Marpet on the retirement list and restructuring Vita Vea’s deal. They’re still in the negative, around $3 million over the cap, and they have until Wednesday to get back in the black.
Brady’s comeback means he’ll have to go on the retirement tour he claimed he didn’t want, and he’ll have to do it against one of the league’s hardest schedules. The Buccaneers will face the Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys Green Bay Packers Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens in addition to their NFC South opponents next season, with one of their games taking place in Germany.
Brady may now complete his goal of playing until he is 45 years old, which he previously said was a personal goal. That was the age at which Nolan Ryan, a big League Baseball pitcher who has been likened to Brady due to his longevity, chose to call it a career after 27 years.
It’s also worth noting that Brady wouldn’t be able to achieve this without his family’s help. They were a big part of why Brady retired in the first place, and he shared a photo of them when he announced his comeback on Instagram, writing, “I love my teammates, and I love my supporting family.” None of this would be possible without them.”
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