TAMPA — Tom Brady threw the Lombardi Trophy across the Hillsborough River during a boat parade, and now a bunch of NFL teams want to toss their quarterbacks overboard.
The Rams, a couple of years removed from losing to Brady in Super Bowl 53, traded 26-year-old Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-rounder to the Lions for 33-year-old Matthew Stafford.
The Eagles gave up on Carson Wentz, trading him to the Colts only three years after the former No. 2 overall pick threw 33 touchdown passes before tearing his ACL during Philadelphia’s Super Bowl-winning season.
The Bears are keeping a keen eye on all the quarterback movement, hoping to replace Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft.
The Jets have dangled quarterback Sam Darnold, the third overall pick in 2018, as possible trade bait.
There are other quarterbacks whose futures are still up in the air and waiting to see where they land.
Jameis Winston could take over from Drew Brees in New Orleans when the future Hall of Famer retires, as expected. Dak Prescott is no closer to a contract extension with the Cowboys while he recovers from a season-ending ankle injury and could receive the franchise tag again.
Established starters such as the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins, Raiders’ Derek Carr, 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo or even the Falcons’ Matt Ryan could be had for the right deal. Even Carolina’s Teddy Bridgewater could be gone after one season with the Panthers.
In fact, of all the quarterbacks taken in the first round from 2009-16, none are currently with the teams that selected them.
Why is there so much potential for unprecedented quarterback movement?
It’s the Brady effect.
The NFL has always been a quarterback league. It’s also a copycat league, and the Bucs’ transformation from a team that hadn’t made the playoffs in more than a dozen years to Super Bowl champion was predominantly due to the signing of the 43-year-old Brady.
After going 7-9 in 2019 with Winston at the helm, Bucs coach Bruce Arians believed his team was a good quarterback away from being a Super Bowl contender.
Winston had plenty of production under Arians, with 33 touchdowns and a league-best 5,109 passing yards. But the NFL-record 30 interceptions wrecked the season.
When that quarterback the Bucs believed they could acquire turned out to be Brady, Arians couldn’t contain his excitement.
“It was crazy, because he was recruiting me as much as I was recruiting him,” Arians said. “He knew everything about us. He knew every player. ... That phone call? Within five minutes, I said, ‘He’s coming. He’s coming.’ He was excited. I could hear it in his voice.”
The Bucs didn’t stop there. Once Brady was aboard to pilot an already deep and talented team, they stockpiled more veteran weapons. They traded for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement. They signed running backs LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette and took a gamble on receiver Antonio Brown following his eight-game suspension.
Those players likely don’t show up at the doorstep unless it’s Brady’s house.
More than a couple Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks were watching and had their When Harry Met Sally diner scene moment: I’ll have what he’s having.
It started only a few minutes after the Bucs upset the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers called his future “a beautiful mystery.” Given that the Packers spent a first-round pick in the 2020 draft on Utah State QB Jordan Love, it invited speculation that maybe Rodgers would shake free from the Packers for the right price.
Both Rodgers and the Packers have done their best to downplay that possibility. But Rodgers has consistently asked for more help, and getting beat by Brady made his case.
The Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, after watching Brady win Super Bowl 55 without much pressure, said he would like to have more of a voice in personnel decisions and called his team to fix an offensive line that keeps getting him hit too much.
Of course, the quarterback everyone wants who may become available for the right blockbuster deal is the Texans’ Deshaun Watson.
He led the NFL with 4,823 passing yards, along with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions for a dysfunctional Houston team that traded away his best receiver in DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals.
Watson didn’t get the promised input before the Texans hired general manager Nick Caserio and coach David Culley, who insist their quarterback is not for sale.
This may be the year we remember for quarterbacks understanding the power they possess in the NFL and starting to influence the decision-making in their organizations.
Prominent NBA players realized this years ago, forming super teams. When LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, he joined Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh and succeeded in winning two NBA titles with the Miami Heat.
A year ago at this time, did anybody really believe Brady would leave the Patriots after 20 seasons for the Bucs? Did anyone predict he would pass for 4,633 yards and 40 TDs with 12 INTs in his first year in Arians’ “no-risk-it, no-biscuit” offense.
Of all the teams trying to steal Tampa Bay’s template, the Rams may have the best chance of succeeding. They have a great defense, reached the NFC divisional playoff game with two injured quarterbacks, and Sean McVay is a play-calling savant.
The problem, however, can be summed up by Brady’s ability to attempt and complete one final pass using the NFL’s championship trophy over a roughly 24-foot-deep river.
“There’s only one Tom Brady,” Arians said.
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