This year’s NFL offseason has served as a lone spark of entertainment in the absence of sports due to the coronavirus pandemic, as it has provided plenty of action in the past couple of months. In fact, this has been one of the craziest NFL offseasons in recent years.
As a result of the trading moves that different teams have made, football fans can expect to see a very different NFL landscape next season.
Some moves that should make things interesting come September (or whenever the season starts) include running back Todd Gurley signing with the Atlanta Falcons, running back Melvin Gordon joining the Denver Broncos and wide receiver Stefon Diggs getting traded from the Minnesota Vikings to the Buffalo Bills.
But without a doubt, the biggest move made this spring was Tom Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the move might seem disastrous for the Patriots and a contrary beacon of hope for Bucs fans, I would argue otherwise.
In a previous column, I argued that Brady was an average system quarterback rather than the greatest quarterback of all time, as he is commonly believed to be. This upcoming season could demonstrate whether my opinion is valid, as for the first time in his career, Brady will not be playing with the Patriots, where he has had invaluable coaching and defensive support his entire career.
This is why Bucs fans should not get overly excited about landing Brady as their quarterback.
Brady has often had the opportunity of playing under elite defenses — even last season, the Patriots’ defense allowed a league-best 14.0 points per game. The Bucs, on the other hand, allowed 28.1 points per game, which ranked 29th overall. Don’t get me wrong, the Bucs’ defense isn’t completely terrible — they had one of the best run defenses this past season — but Brady’s defense will not support him like it did in New England.
This will put more pressure on Brady — who is coming off one of the worst statistical years of his career with a career-low 53.7 QBR — to produce at a high level to compensate for the Bucs’ inability to stop teams from piling on points. There’s no denying that the soon-to-be 43-year-old Brady is aging and most definitely slowing down from a performance standpoint despite new offensive weapons such as wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
On the flip side, Patriots fans should be excited that their team has the opportunity to pursue a younger quarterback with more long-term promise to once again lead New England through deep playoff runs under the tutelage of the great Bill Belichick. Although the Pats have yet to make any moves, they will have plenty of opportunities to fill the position in the upcoming draft as well as the free-agent market, as former league MVP Cam Newton and former Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston are among those up for grabs this offseason.
Perhaps the second biggest move this offseason was the Houston Texans trading DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick in next week’s draft to the Cardinals in exchange for running back David Johnson, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick.
For the Cardinals, the trade was a huge steal since they acquired one of the league’s top receivers at a minimal cost. The Cards have had no use for Johnson since the emergence of Kenyan Drake, who went off on a hot streak at the end of last season averaging 103 rushing yards per game in his last three contests. And for Arizona, two draft picks was a small price to pay for Hopkins, who will most definitely make an immediate impact.
The trade should also have a positive influence on the development of Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who is coming off a solid rookie season in which he proved he is a more than capable NFL starter. Last season, Murray had a good — albeit not great — receiving corps with veterans including Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Crabtree. Now, with Hopkins, Murray will get a major upgrade and have an uber-elite playmaker that should boost his production and confidence.
For the Texans, trading away Hopkins was a huge loss but not necessarily a critical mistake. According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, Hopkins was seeking a bigger contract and was threatening a holdout if he didn’t get it. In addition, Hopkins was reportedly having issues with Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. It appears that the Texans were almost forced into trading Hopkins and taking a major hit in the process.
Houston was able to more recently obtain former Los Angeles Rams receiver Brandin Cooks in a trade for a second-round pick in next week’s draft and a fourth-round pick in 2022, but this intended replacement for Hopkins will not be sufficient enough for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Firstly, there is the small, yet very noticeable discrepancy in talent between Hopkins and Cooks, but what’s more is that Watson will have to develop a close relationship with his star receiver all over again.
Watson will still be able to work with capable receivers such as Will Fuller and Kenny Stills, but it’s difficult to envision Cooks being able to entirely replace the gap Hopkins had left. Thus, Watson will experience almost the opposite of what Murray will in this upcoming season, as he will have to work with a capable — but not as elite — receiving corps.
These major offseason moves have changed the league’s outlook. In the case of Hopkins, the Cardinals instantly got better, while the Texans instantly got worse. With Brady, many people believe that the Bucs are an instant playoff contender, but I have plenty of doubts.
Stay tuned to see the NFL landscape continue to shift with this year’s virtual draft beginning Thursday, and watch for other marquee free agents such as Newton, Winston and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to make splashes with big contracts before the season kicks off.
Harrison Cho is a sophomore writing about sports. His column, “The Chosen One,” typically runs every other Thursday.