NFL free agency

The one part of sports that will stop for nothing

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Tom Brady is officially a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

Bennett Carollo, Sports Editor

Even with the threat of COVID-19 shutting down all games and seasons for the major sports leagues in the country, one sports tradition has gone on as planned: NFL free agency. Luckily for sports fans looking for something to follow or talk about, this year’s free agency period has been action packed.

One of the first big moves to go down was an unexpected and shocking trade between Arizona and Houston. Bill O’Brien, the much-maligned long-time head coach and newly appointed GM of the Texans, made the head-scratching decision to send world class wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals for pennies on the dollar. In return for arguably the best wideout in the game, the Texans received overpaid and past-his-prime running back David Johnson and a second-round pick. When asked why he traded Hopkins, O’Brien stated that “Everything we do is made with the team in mind. We don’t think about one player.” It seems that there was a rift between player and coach, with Hopkins even admitting that he wanted to be traded.

The Hopkins trade was the most significant one made, but there were other moves made on the trade front. The Jaguars continued their fire sale of veterans on defense by sending cornerback A.J. Bouye to Denver and defensive end Calais Campbell to Baltimore. The reigning NFC champion 49ers made a salary-cap motivated move by trading DeForest Buckner to the Colts. The Vikings received a plethora of draft picks from Buffalo for star wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The Eagles found the high-end defensive back they were looking for by getting Darius Slay from Detroit. Most recently, O’Brien and the Texans continued their puzzling offseason by acquiring wide receiver Brandin Cooks from the Rams. Cooks is more expensive than Hopkins and nowhere near at the same level.

There was also no shortage of big-name signings in this year’s free agency. Todd Gurley, shortly after being released by the Rams, was signed on by Atlanta. Melvin Gordon, another running back, found a new team in the Broncos. Former Buccaneer Gerald McCoy left Carolina after one season to join the Cowboys. The Falcons lost tight end Auston Hooper to the Browns but attempted to fill the hole by signing Hayden Hurst.

Many quarterbacks were on the move in free agency. Former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will get a shot to compete for the Bears’ starting job, as Jacksonville had seen enough after one injury-riddled season. Philip Rivers, after 14 seasons as the starter with the Chargers, has moved on and signed with the Colts. Teddy Bridgewater showed enough promise in a brief stint with New Orleans to earn a contract in Carolina. The Titans chose to resign Ryan Tannehill, and so Marcus Mariota, a former number two overall pick, signed with the Raiders. The QB picked ahead of Mariota in that 2014 draft, the controversial turnover machine Jameis Winston, is also looking for a new team after the Buccaneers pulled the trigger on a proven winner and possible GOAT by resigning Blaine Gabbert. Oh yeah, they also signed Tom Brady.

All jokes aside, the Bucs made the biggest move in free agency and possibly in the team’s history by signing Brady to a two-year contract. At first, it seemed unimaginable that Brady would sign anywhere other than New England, where he has one six Super Bowls. However, as the offseason dragged on it seemed more and more likely that Brady and head coach Bill Belichick were headed for a divorce. When the news broke on March 17th that Tampa Bay was the choice, the Bucs immediately skyrocketed into relevance. Once nonexistent Super Bowl odds suddenly became among the league’s best, and hype and buzz from media and fans is in effect like the team hasn’t seen since the early 2000s. When the Bucs unveiled their new jerseys, which are similar in look to the sharp Super Bowl era uniforms, Brady number 12s started flying off the shelves. Bucs fan Brock Maloy is one of many excited about the quarterback’s arrival, as he said that he’s “glad I don’t have to hate him anymore.” Many Patriots fans have also switched allegiances due to loyalty to Brady and possible fears that the Patriots’ winning ways will leave New England and come to Tampa with Brady.

One player doesn’t make a team, and the Bucs have also done a good job addressing other areas in the offseason. Chief among these moves was acquiring the freshly unretired Rob Gronkowski from the Patriots for a fourth-round pick on April 21st. The star tight end known as Gronk will be reunited with Brady, whom he won three Super Bowls with. Additionally, nearly the entirety of the front seven from last year’s team, which boasted the number one run defense, was brought back in the form of re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh and giving Shaq Barrett the franchise tag. Joe Haeg was also signed to bolster the offensive line. However, its impossible to argue with that fact that the offseason is only a success because of the upgrade at quarterback. It isn’t even Brady’s skill that is important, although his famously accurate arm will be a breath of fresh air after a 30-pick season from Winston. More so, it’s the winning attitude and leadership qualities that Brady can bring to a team that hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2007 that have fans excited.