Even though players can’t officially sign and join new organizations until Wednesday, March 18 when the new league year officially begins, the legal tampering period kicked off Monday at noon. During that legal tampering period, players can agree to terms with new teams.
With Tuesday morning beginning with Tom Brady announcing that he was moving on from a 20-year-career with the New England Patriots, we were awaiting the announcement to come for where he would play next…
Tampa is the expected landing spot for Tom Brady barring anything unforeseen, sources tell me and @JeffDarlington.
There’s no signing date or announcement officially set up, but Brady is expected to be a Buccaneer.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 17, 2020
Tom Brady Career Stats
The most decorated quarterback in league history is coming off his 20th NFL season. After winning the league’s MVP at 40 years old in 2017, Brady’s output has dropped as he keeps fighting Father Time. Prior to last season, just two other passers (Warren Moon and Vinny Testaverde) attempted more than 100 passes in an NFL season at age-42 while Moon held the record with 258 pass attempts for a quarterback 42-plus in 1998.
Brady dropped back and attempted 613 passes last season, but unfortunately posted lows in yards per attempt in a season since 2002 while his touchdown rate was an all-time low for the future Hall of Famer. Brady will be 43 years old this August coming off being a QB1 scorer in nine of his past 25 games dating back to the 2018 season.
One thing Brady doesn’t do, though, is throw interceptions. Which is why we’re here. With Jameis Winston being the first passer to throw 30 interceptions in a season since Vinny Testaverde in 1988 (hey, another Testaverde drop). Winston also added another five fumbles lost to his turnover issues.
While one quarterback threw the ball to the other team more often in 2019, he also threw it at a higher rate to his own team per depth of target last year. Using the completion percentage per depth of target took at Sharp Football Stats, here is where Brady and Winston measured up compared to league averages.
It’s more than fair to ask what Winston’s chart would’ve looked like if he were throwing to what Brady had to work with a year ago. Brady’s weaponry was pretty much whittled down to a 33-year-old slot man and a satellite back as his primary pass catchers a year ago. He targeted Julian Edelman and James White 248 times in 2019. The next highest target was Phillip Dorsett at 54 targets.
Brady comes out this the best as he upgrades scheme and personnel, having Mike Evans (27-years-old to start 2020) and Chris Godwin (24-years-old) in the heart of their careers. Arians’s primary passers have finished in the top three in pass attempts per game in each of his past three seasons.
That may be harder for Brady to achieve keeping the turnovers down. Tampa Bay had a league-high 187 offensive possessions in 2019 (11.7 per game) and ranked fourth in the NFL in plays per game (67.9) due to all those extra possessions. Tampa Bay trailed for 49.3% of their offensive snaps last season (18th) while having a 69.9% pass rate on those plays, which ranked sixth in the league. The Bucs defense also quietly ranked fifth in DVOA last year, so they clearly believe they’ll be ahead and in more games not being put in poor spots due to turnovers. I still have reservations with investing in a 43-year-old player, but Brady gets a jolt entering 2019. He should still be treated as a higher-end QB2 than a set and forget starter.
For the Tampa Bay wideouts, there’s no way to spin that they haven’t benefited from the free-wheeling style of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Winston, who are hyper-aggressive passers. Expecting both to retain WR1 value is asking a lot.
Winston was second in the league in depth of target last season (10.9 yards) and was first in air yards per completion while Brady was 28th in aDOT (8.0) and 15th in air yards per completion (6.0). That initially doesn’t sound endearing for Mike Evans, who has had an aDOT himself of over 14.0 yards in every year of his career. Josh Hermsmeyer has shown that depth of target belongs more to the receiver than the quarterback, which would explain a good chunk of Brady’s low aDOT. All is not lost on Evans, who joined Randy Moss as the only wideouts in NFL history to clear 1K yards in each of their first six seasons a year ago.
The most obvious benefactor is Chris Godwin. Brady has always been attached to strong traditional slot players in Wes Welker and Edelman. Godwin is not only good in the slot, but he is a 6’1”, 210-pound all-around receiver. He’s in a slightly better portion of his career arc than Evans is, while he has the additional scheme bonus, playing a role in the passing game that has churned production from Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald, and Godwin himself a year ago.
The past two significant downfield targets Brady had have been better than the league rate. In 2018, Josh Gordon caught 11-of-21 targets (52.4%) over 15-yards downfield while Brandin Cooks caught 24-of-46 (52.2%) of those targets in 2017. League completion rate on those targets over the past five years is 43.4%. I’d still favor Godwin over Evans given his career arc and more favorable target dispersion, but the end of days for Evans solely because Brady is onboard are exaggerated.
The other player people will be looking to keep the lights on for here is tight end O.J. Howard. Howard was stuck in the doghouse all season in 2019, catching just 2.4 passes for 32.8 yards per game with just one touchdown all season. Tampa Bay is saying all the right things once again this offseason and the narrative will be spun that Brady loves his tight ends. It should be noted that Winston also got 29 3’4” armed-Nick O’Leary a Mackey Award in college and Cameron Brate on a multi-year contract despite not having Rob Gronkowski, but who am I?
But back on track…. The real question will be how the Buccaneers choose to deploy Howard for his hopes at bouncing back. A year ago, Howard ran a pass route on just 48.4% of his snaps after 57.6% in 2018. The change to Arians’ offense also took away a lot of his route running from the middle of the field.
For those curious if the Bucs’ playbook looks that much different for tight ends in Bruce Arians’ scheme versus Dirk Koetter’s, here are OJ Howard’s route trees, powered by NFL Next Gen. Left is 2018. Right is 2019.
Green = completion
White = incomplete
Blue = TD
Red = INT pic.twitter.com/f1l2H81PYx
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) November 21, 2019
I would never completely write off a 26-year-old tight end that has averaged 15.5 yards per catch to start his career. Especially one playing the worst fantasy position, but there’s more to Howard bouncing back than Brady being an elixir that will solve everything that went wrong for him in 2019.
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