Tom Brady announced on St. Patrick’s Day that he will move on from the New England Patriots, ending what has arguably been the most successful marriage in the history of professional sports. The 42-year-old QB will reportedly sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On April 21, his old friend Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement to accept a trade from the Patriots to the Bucs and now Brady potentially has a talented trio of TEs to target if Tampa retains both O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate ahead of the season.
After Brady was drafted 199th overall in the 2000 draft and took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe in his second season, he combined with head coach Bill Belichick to set a new standard for success. They’ve since teamed up for six Super Bowl titles, nine SB appearances, and a ridiculous 16 AFC East titles.
Here is a breakdown of how Brady’s decision to sign with the Bucs, plus the surprising addition of Gronk, impacts the NFL futures market.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa head coach Bruce Arians is an offensive genius with a history of success running offenses with the Colts, Cardinals, and a Bucs team that struggled to find consistency last year under Jameis Winston. While Winston is turnover prone, Brady has thrown a pick on just 1.8% of his career passes with a record TD:INT ratio of 28:2 in 2016.
The winning pedigree isn’t necessarily there in Tampa, but Brady will be working with some of the best young receivers in the game in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and he has a lot of potential with Gronkowski. Working with those weapons should give Brady a jolt at this stage in his career, especially with plenty of pundits still doubting the veteran.
His presence caused the Bucs’ win total to move up from 8 to 9 at DraftKings Sportsbook and their Super Bowl odds to drift up from +2300 to +2000 overnight (after opening +5000 in February).
By the time the Gronkowski news broke, the Bucs had moved all the way up to +1200 to win the Super Bowl. Tampa is now even money with the Saints (+100) to win the NFC South title. The Falcons’ division odds fell all the way from +700 to +1200 following the news.
Now the Bucs win total sits at 10 and that number is a bit tougher to back, but attainable with all the talent on their roster. They’ll host the Chargers and Rams on east coast time, have winnable division games against the Falcons and Panthers, and have easier non-division games at the Lions and Giants.
New England Patriots
The Patriots squashed rumors that they were interested in Teddy Bridgewater, who signed with the Carolina Panthers. Andy Dalton is a potential option to replace Brady with the Bengals expected to draft Joe Burrow No. 1 and cut or trade Dalton to avoid a $17.7M cap hit. At 32 years old, Dalton is an upgrade over Brady in terms of athleticism, although we would have to see how he responds to the demands of a new coaching staff.
There are other possibilities including Cam Newton, who is now a free agent after being released by Carolina in March. The Patriots could also swap in Jameis Winston, but Belichick’s value on ball security might give him serious pause when considering a QB who tossed a league-high 30 picks last year.
In any case, the Patriots are now assigned a 9.5-game win total in what is still a weak division. While they’ll have four winnable games against Jets and Dolphins teams that Belichick has dominated over the past two decades, their home games against the Broncos, Raiders, and Cardinals are the only other “easy” matchups. The Pats have a brutal schedule next season that includes home games against the 49ers and Ravens, plus road games at the Chiefs, Texans, Rams, Chargers, and Seahawks. Throw in two matchups against a surging Bills team, and the most exploitable bet in this division seems to be on Buffalo (+175) to win the AFC East.
If the Pats don’t win their division, it’s hard to envision them making another deep postseason run. New England lost key defensive pieces already in Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and whichever QB replaces Brady will likely struggle to make use of a weak receiving corps.
Perhaps the Patriots will re-fashion their offense around a mobile QB in Newton or even Taysom Hill. You can’t count out this coaching staff or organization, but an initial glance at the schedule indicates the Pats could fail to hit 10 wins for the first time since 2002.
AFC East Implications
The Patriots (+800) are initially still listed ahead of the Buffalo Bills (+1300), Indianapolis Colts (+1300), and Tennessee Titans (+1400) in terms of their odds to win the AFC title. The Chiefs (+300) and Ravens (+400) are clearly the favorites.
New England has won the AFC East every year since 2009 and in 17 of 20 years with Brady. The Bills (+160) are the likeliest candidate to wrest away the divisional crown this season. The Patriots (+100) are still favored on most books, but money should come in on Buffalo after the Bills traded for Stefon Diggs to bolster a weak offense that could complement one of the top five defenses in the NFL. The New York Jets (+750) and Miami Dolphins (+900) round out the odds as longshots to surpass either of those established playoff teams.