Wed Mar 25 5:49pm ET
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The decision to pursue Tom Brady in free agency was a no-brainer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
That's not to suggest a lot of thinking and planning didn't go into it.
In snaring the six-time Super Bowl winner, who signed a two-year, $50 million contract that's fully guaranteed, the Bucs also pulled the plug on trying to develop a talented and much younger Jameis Winston into a championship quarterback.
The first overall pick from the 2015 draft, the 26-year-old Winston has been wildly inconsistent over the first five seasons of his career. There were flashes of brilliance on the way to becoming Tampa Bay's all-time leading passer, but also a league-leading 111 turnovers that hindered the team's prospects for success.
Brady, who'll turn 43 in August, has been one of the best ever at protecting the ball, leading the Patriots to nine Super Bowl appearances, 13 AFC championship games and 17 division title in 20 seasons with New England.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht are confident Brady can still play at a high enough level to not only end Tampa Bay's 12-year playoff drought, but win another Super Bowl - or two.
''He is a Buccaneer today not for what he has done in the past, but for what we know he can accomplish here in the near future as well,'' Licht said. ''We know that Tom is going to have a transformative effect in our locker room, and he is going to demand the best out of himself, his teammates and anybody that is around him.''
Three factors that made it an easy decision to seek Brady as a replacement for Winston:
Winston led the NFL with 5,107 yards passing in 2019. He also threw for 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions to become the first 30-30 player in league history. Opponents returned a record seven interceptions for TDs last season and scored 112 points off his league-high 35 turnovers overall.
Brady has never thrown more than 14 interceptions in a season. His 1.79 career interception percentage is the second-best of all time behind Aaron Rodgers among quarterbacks with at least 2,500 pass attempts. He's thrown just 27 picks total while throwing for nearly 13,000 yards and 85 touchdowns the past three seasons.
Winston's interception percentage was 4.8 last season, hiking his career mark to 3.5.
HE WINS ... A LOT
Brady's .774 regular season winning percentage ranks first in the Super Bowl era among quarterbacks with at least 50 starts. With 249 victories overall, including playoffs, he's won almost as many games in two decades as the Bucs have won (273) in the franchise's 44-season history.
Winston topped 4,000 yards passing in three of his five seasons in Tampa Bay, but that didn't translate to team success. He was 28-42 as a starter and produced just one winning record, 9-7 in 2016, which wasn't good enough to make the playoffs.
''When we looked at everybody that might be available at the quarterback position, obviously really never dreaming that Tom would be available, but if he was, he was going to be our No. 1 choice,'' Arians said. ''Mainly because he can do everything that we want to do in our offense, but more than that it's his leadership ability that we need in our locker room to get where we want to go.''
The surest path to the playoffs is a division championship. The Bucs have finished last in the NFC South eight of the past 11 seasons.
Brady won the AFC East 17 of the 18 seasons in which he was New England's primary starter, including the past 11 years.
Winston struggled to establish himself in a quarterback-driven division featuring Drew Brees in New Orleans, Matt Ryan in Atlanta and Cam Newton in Carolina - all of whom have been to Super Bowls. Brady is looking forward to getting better acquainted with the Saints, Falcons and Panthers.
''Winning the division is always the hard thing to do. These teams know each other so well, and I didn't play this division but once every four years, so I've got to learn the players. I've got to learn the schemes,'' Brady said.
''Great offenses aren't about one player. Great offenses are about every guy being on the same page and playing with confidence and anticipation.
''It's going to be a busy offseason for me learning a lot of new things, which is a great challenge and a great opportunity for me. I'm just going to do it the only way I know how to do it, which is just to fully engulf myself in what is done here,'' Brady added. ''It's a new program that I'm a part of and they have their way of doing things. They're committed to winning and I've got to come in and do my part. That's why I'm here.''
May 14th: Draft Values
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is hosting teammates for informal workouts in Florida next week. Many of Jackson's teammates are expected to be there, including wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin. While NFL teams were recently given permission to reopen their facilities, it is still closed to players and coaches. The Ravens were the highest-scoring offense in the league last season and will be returning most of the key components on the offensive side of the ball. Boykin stated that there are also plans for additional workouts beyond next week. Jackson is primed to be the first quarterback selected in fantasy drafts this year.
Detroit Lions cornerback James Agnew has been the team's regular kick and punt returner since he entered the league in 2017, has seen time as a gadget running back and offensive weapon and has played as a backup cornerback and on special teams. But the Lions are hoping to make him a wide receiver full time when training camp starts this summer. Agnew has been attending virtual meetings with the receivers and cornerbacks this spring, but the Lions plan to transition him exclusively to offense when everyone returns to the field. He actually sat in on late-season receiver meetings last year because of injuries to Marvin Jones and Marvin Hall. Agnew played 16 total offensive snaps last season, but he should see much more time with the offense in 2020 as receiver depth behind Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, Jones and Hall. Even with the position switch, he'll likely be on the roster bubble.
New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco (neck) says that he won't be ready to play by Week 1 of the regular season. I cant speak to exactly when Im going to be ready, but it will not be day one," Flacco said. That means that Jets will likely have to carry David Fales or fourth-round pick James Morgan until Flacco is ready to go. Flacco started the first eight games for the Denver Broncos last season, but then missed the rest of the season after suffering a neck injury. It appears he has not fully recovered yet, so who knows when Flacco will be back.
The New Orleans Saints officially signed linebacker Anthony Chickillo on Tuesday. In a corresponding move, the team placed pass-rusher Noah Spence (knee) on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list because he tore his ACL preparing for training camp this summer. Chickillo, a former sixth-round pick of the Steelers in 2015, had just 19 tackles (nine solo) and half a sack in 11 games for the Steelers in 2019. The 27-year-old defensive end has just 7.5 sacks in his five seasons and will be pass-rushing depth for the Saints. Spence was a second-round bust of the Buccaneers and had one sack in seven games for the Redskins in 2019.
Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said he can do more with wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr.'s size, speed and ability to get out of breaks in his routes. Gruden will move Chark around some in the slot and called the third-year receiver an excellent physical specimen. Chark is making an impression on his new offensive coordinator and wants to be great. The 23-year-old had a Pro Bowl season in 2019, catching 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns in his second season. There is plenty of upside with Chark with a new coordinator, but expect more inconsistent production in a run-first offense with one of the weakest starting QBs in the league. If everything goes his way, Chark could be a solid WR2, but fantasy owners are better off taking him as a WR3.
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey is entering the last year of his contract, and he told reporters on a video call that he does not intend to hold out. Ramsey was clear that he fully intends on reporting to training camp on time, but he also reiterated that the Rams know his contract demands. Ramsey's demeanor gave the impression that the two sides are no good footing so far, and Ramsey seemed excited to say that his new role with the team is expected to vary from just playing straight cornerback. Any extension for Ramsey expects to be a hefty one, but the expectation has been that the Rams would be extending him after they traded for him.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin will finally get his chance to be the unquestioned TE1 in Dallas this season. With Jason Witten off to Las Vegas to play with the Raiders, Jarwin is at the top of the Cowboys tight end depth chart. Not only did the Cowboys show their confidence in Jarwin by letting Witten go, they also signed him to a four year deal worth almost $25 million. Jarwin has flashed upside before, and he set career highs in catches and yards last season (31 catches, 365 yards, and three touchdowns). He'll be a near every-down player, but the issue will be all the mouths to feed in the Dallas passing game. Jarwin and Witten spoke recently, with Witten maintaining his mentor role with Jarwin, even with the two tight ends now on separate teams.
The Miami Dolphins aren't opposed to playing quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the No. 5 overall pick in this year's draft, in his rookie season. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to start the season under center, especially given how well he played last year, but Fitzpatrick as the team's starter could just be temporary in 2020. Fitzpatrick also has an advantage in knowing offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's system from their time with the Bills and the Jets, and Tagovailoa is at a disadvantage because of the lack of on-field work he's had amid the coronavirus pandemic this spring. But if Tagovailoa impresses in training camp, Fitzpatrick's starting leash could be shortened. The rookie QB has plenty of long-term upside, but he'll be more attractive in dynasty/keeper leagues in his first season in the NFL.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich said that wide receiver Parris Campbell will play more in the slot this season with the team wanting to move him around. "Im super pumped about Parris and his upside," Reich said. Campbell battle a handful of injuries in his rookie season, and he wound up playing in only seven games (three starts). The 22-year-old reeled in 18 catches for 127 yards and one touchdown in his first season. However, he'll start in three-wide sets with T.Y. Hilton and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. and has big-time upside with Philip Rivers now at quarterback in Indy. Campbell is an excellent value pick late in drafts as a second-year sleeper if he can stay healthy in 2020.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray was recently touted by ESPN NFL analyst Marcus Spears as a breakout candidate in 2020, a sentiment that was echoed by former signal-caller Tim Hasselbeck. The sophomore finished the 2019 campaign with 3,722 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, while also earning the offensive rookie of the year award. With the addition of former Houston Texan DeAndre Hopkins, who is arguably the second-best receiver in the league, along with the return of Larry Fitzgerald, the odds are favorable for the 22-year-old to smash expectations in addition to finishing as a top-five fantasy quarterback this season.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb was recently named as one of the top players under 25, a list composed and published by CBSSports. Despite the Browns' inefficient play, Chubb was solid during the 2019 campaign and finished with 1,494 rushing yards on 298 attempts while adding eight touchdowns. Though the return of Kareem Hunt from suspension decreased his production to some degree, he still finished as one of the most elite backs in the league. With a new head coach and an enhanced offensive line, Chubb should get plenty of touches this season to justify his first-round ADP, but he will likely concede most of the team's passing attempts out of the backfield in 2020 to Hunt.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle is expected to receive an offer from the team that could keep him in the Bay Area for the foreseeable future. NBC Sports recently reported that the former fifth-round pick could make anywhere between $12.5 to $15 million per season, ultimately making him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. The 26-year-old compiled 2,430 yards and 10 touchdowns off of 173 catches over the last two seasons and has been a consistent source of fantasy production as a result. He should be taken somewhere in the first or second rounds of fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign, likely being selected after fellow tight end Travis Kelce in the majority of them.
New York Giants DL Dalvin Tomlinson's average tackle depth of 1.1 yards was the lowest by any defensive lineman with at least 50 tackles in 2019.
Atlanta Falcons DT Tyeler Davison made 98.2 percent of the tackles he should have made - defined as being in position to make a tackle and made contact with the ball carrier but failed to bring him down - in 2019. His miss rate of 1.8 percent was the lowest of any defensive lineman with at least 50 tackles.
Pittsburgh Steelers DE Cameron Heyward compiled a career-high 81 tackles in 2019 - the most of any full-time defensive lineman in the league. Heyward's tackle total was 22 more than his previous career high of 59 in 2013.
Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift was recently named by USA Today as one of the league's top instant impact rookies. The 21-year-old, who was drafted 35th overall in the NFL Draft, is slated to fight for carries with the oft-injured Kerryon Johnson this upcoming season. While Swift may not make an immediate impact, he could eventually find himself gobbling up carries toward the end of the year, resulting in Johnson becoming relegated to an afterthought. The former Bulldog has received plenty of praise since his selection by the team, and will likely be one of the first rookies off the board in dynasty drafts for the upcoming 2020 campaign. Swift compiled 1,216 yards and seven touchdowns off of 195 attempts (6.2 YPC) during his final season at Georgia and was also named First-Team All-SEC.
Tennessee Titans TE Jonnu Smith was charged with only one blown block on 331 rushing snaps in 2019, tying him with Kyle Rudolph for the lowest blown block rate among tight ends with at least 200 rushing snaps (0.3).
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor could be involved in the team's offensive plan from the get-go this season. According to head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, they both reiterated that the rookie, along with Marlon Mack, will form an impactful one-two punch during the 2020 campaign. Mack has missed numerous games due to injury throughout his tenure in the league, but he still managed to finish with a career-best 1,091 yards in 2019. However, with the former Badger now in the mix, Mack may concede more touches in 2020 than initially thought.
Cleveland Browns TE Austin Hooper was not charged with a blown block on 204 rushing snaps in 2019 as a member of the Atlanta Falcons, making him one of only four tight ends to not blow a block on at least 200 rushing snaps.
Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey amassed 1,009 yards after the catch in 2019 - 43 more than second-place Austin Ekeler (966) and 137 more than any other back since at least 2015, according to Sports Info Solutions.
Fantasy Spin: McCaffrey officially finished with 1,005 receiving yards, meaning all the yards he compiled (and then some) last season came after the catch. He became only the fourth back since the merger to top 1,000 yards and joined Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk as the only backs ever to post a 1,000/1,000 season. Owners would be a bit crazy to expect a similar effort from McCaffrey this season, but there's little question he is still worth taking No. 1 overall in the majority of fantasy drafts.