INDIANAPOLIS — It didn’t exactly take thumbscrews to get Bruce Arians to cough up the name of the first quarterback he would pick up the phone and call if he makes it to the start of the free-agent negotiating period March 16.
“Tom Brady," said the Bucs coach Tuesday without hesitating.
Now, by the letter of NFL bylaws, that’s tampering since technically Brady is under contract with the Patriots for another three weeks.
Arians can talk all he wants about who may be behind Doors 1, 2, 3 and 4 if the team decides to move on from Jameis Winston. Brady is the quarterback the Bucs and several other rudderless teams would like to see in their huddle next fall.
On Wednesday, Arians’ declaration was heard loudly by Boston Globe reporter Ben Volin who wrote Why the Buccaneers are a threat to steal Tom Brady from the Patriots.
Of course, the story mentions the usual suspects vying for the 42-year-old Lord of the (six) Rings. The Chargers want some star power in L.A. to sell tickets to the stadium they share with the Rams. The Raiders and owner Mark Davis need a big name in lights for their new home on the Las Vegas strip.
The Tennessee Titans have Brady’s former teammate, Mike Vrabel, as head coach. Reports on Wednesday said the Titans were rushing to sign Ryan Tannehill before the March 12 deadline to designate franchise players.
“Beware of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — they need a quarterback, and they should be seen as a serious threat to steal Brady away from the Patriots," Volin wrote.
Forgive me for being skeptical, but we’ve all seen this leverage play before.
Bill Parcells left the Bucs at the altar twice. The Green Bay Packers were going to trade quarterback Brett Favre here in 2008 before he jetted off to New York.
The only time the Bucs really landed a matinee idol player in his prime is when they traded two first-round draft picks to the Jets for Keyshawn Johnson. They paid a pirate’s ransom of two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8 million to the Raiders in a trade for coach Jon Gruden.
It may have effectively mortgaged any future the Bucs had and sent them on a downward spiral of 12 seasons with no playoff appearances, but they have a Lombardi Trophy under glass in the lobby of the Bucs’ AdventHealthcare Center.
What was it Joe Maddon said? Fortune favors the bold?
You’ve got to give this to the Glazers, if they are going to toss Winston overboard, it’s only going to be to land a bigger fish.
They fired Tony Dungy to get Gruden. They made a play for Chip Kelly before having to settle for Greg Schiano. Say what you want about Kelly, but he took the Eagles to two straight 10-win seasons.
Darrelle Revis may have been coming off a torn ACL, but they gave the Jets first- and fourth-round picks to visit his island for one season.
The Bucs haven’t been to the playoffs in 12 years. The Patriots have reached the playoffs 16 times in the past 17 years.
Even if it were a short-term solution, the Glazers would love to see Brady in a new uniform in 2020. Their new uniform. Maybe Giselle would model it.
Look, if you’re a Tampa Bay fan, you already know we can’t have nice things. The Rays are a playoff team again and want to split their season in Montreal. The Lightning won the President’s Trophy last year and got swept in four games by Columbus.
The Bucs haven’t been relevant in more than a decade.
This is hard to imagine, probably even harder for Brady, yet maybe not as farfetched as you think.
At this point in his career, the only thing that matters to Brady is winning. Nobody has won more than the Patriots.
But of all those teams vying for his services, the Bucs may have the most to offer him. They have about $80 million in salary-cap space, fourth-most in the NFL.
In addition to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Breshad Perriman and O.J. Howard, they have an improving defense under Todd Bowles.
They also have Arians, a two-time NFL Coach of the Year with good references from Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer.
For those of you who wonder how Brady would fit into Arians’ downfield passing game, consider that it would be the Bucs tailoring the offense to Brady, not the other way around.
As the Globe correctly points out, Brady doesn’t give away the football. Last year, opponents scored 112 points off turnovers by Winston, who threw an interception on 4.8 percent of his pass attempts. Brady tied for the sixth-lowest at 1.8 percent.
Only someone in Boston is equipped to play Paul Revere on this one.
Brady is coming? We’ll all keep a light on for him.