As a New England-based Falcons fan, of course, I am all too familiar with Brady. I can tell you that the Bucs are definitely paying top-of-the-market dollars for a quarterback who is firmly in his decline phase, but remains a capable, savvy starter. I can also tell you that the amount of fawning that’s going to happen for this Bucs team is going to be embarrassing in the extreme, but that’s not anything you should be surprised by.
What does it mean for the Falcons, though? Well...
#1: 28-3, endlessly
I regret to inform you that we’re going to hear about the Super Bowl throughout the offseason, during both matchups this coming year, and potentially a lot in between.
I say this not to be a downer or to sensationalize anything, but because it’s an unfortunate by-product of Brady arriving in the NFC South. Other teams will likely be endlessly annoyed about the breathless coverage of Brady, but we’re going to have to re-live the worst moment of our careers as fans over and over again because he had the audacity to come to the NFC South.
Suffice to say if you didn’t hate him before this, you’ll probably hate him soon.
#2: The Buccaneers will be under enormous pressure to win
The Bucs are not just going to sign Brady and call it a day. They’re going to want to win a Super Bowl one of the next couple of years, while Brady’s still playing and they’re ponying up $30 million a year. There are already healthy rumors that they’re considering trading for Todd Gurley and possibly even signing Antonio Brown, who essentially lost the 2019 season to a sustained mental breakdown that turned into legal trouble.
On paper, neither of those moves would be bad, but Gurley is expensive and has knee troubles and it’s hard to know if AB is going to be the same player if and when he returns. There’s also the not-so-small matter that Jason Licht has repeatedly proven himself to be a questionable evaluator of talent, and he’s the guy nominally in charge of bringing in Brady’s help.
The Bucs certainly have a lot of talent, but there are still significant holes on that roster that have helped them stay mired in mediocrity all this time. A 40-something year old QB, no matter how legendary he might be, isn’t enough to fix that, and the Bucs will have to use their now more limited cap dollars to try to splurge. If they somehow manage to stumble to .500 or worse again with Tom Brady at the helm, everyone’s getting canned. That means the next couple of years are going to be unpleasantly tough in the NFC South, in all likelihood, which should help the Falcons decide what they want to do this year.
#3: It will change the dynamic of the matchup
Dating back to 2016, the Falcons are 6-2 against the Bucs. Dirk Koetter calling plays, Todd Monken calling plays, Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich calling plays, it’s hardly mattered. The Bucs have been a sleeper playoff pick every single year in that span, and yet the Falcons have routinely dispatched them.
How could things possibly get easier for Atlanta, then? Because Jameis Winston utterly destroyed them year after year despite that record, and Brady isn’t Brady at the height of his powers.
Brady was extremely successful against the Falcons too—no one’s forgetting about that—but he was extremely successful against them in a very different context, playing for the greatest coach in NFL history on a loaded team. The Brady who engineered a great comeback in early 2017 and pretty effortlessly dispatched Atlanta later on the same year is not the same Brady whose arm was faltering a year ago, and while he’ll have way more weapons in Tampa Bay, he doesn’t have the lethal arm and willingness to challenge the Falcons deep that made Winston so dangerous.
His supporting cast is likely to be stronger, but this will be a drastically different offense than you’re used to seeing from the last couple of years. If the Falcons can somehow stumble into an actual pass rush, they might just be able to keep up their winning ways here.