Nigel Tufnel would be proud.
That’s because the Bucs have officially cranked it to 11 with their recent signing of Antonio Brown. The troubled receiver has been a routine topic of conversation over the last few days due to the fact that he would be able to return to the field after Week 8. So, naturally, people began to try and connect the dots in figuring out where Brown would land.
For some reason, Tampa Bay wasn’t brought up as a possible destination, despite Brown’s infatuation with Tom Brady. But by the end of Friday, the Bucs were Brown’s new suitors.
Things have obviously changed since Bruce Arians rejected the notion of Brown joining the Bucs back in March. For starters, teams weren’t clear on how the NFL would punish the uber-talented receiver when Arians spoke on the matter. Would he be expelled for life? Would he be allowed to play in 2020? You also have to consider the public opinion, as well. Brown’s actions were still a rather hot topic at that point, but he’s stayed out of his own way —and society’s way— over the last few months. When you add the injury issues with the Bucs’ offense, the move actually makes sense at this point. I’m not making excuses for the signing, at all. It’s simply the reality of the situation.
The addition of Brown immediately ranks Tampa Bay’s offense as one of the best-ever on paper and the outside message is clear: The Bucs better handle business from this point on.
We already know that all eyes are on the Bucs. People expect big things from them. Some expect last year’s 7-9 team that returned 20 of 22 starters to make the Super Bowl simply after the Brady and Rob Gronkowski additions.
What do you think they expect now?
It’s one thing to sign or trade for a guy with Brown’s prolific history, but when you consider the baggage that comes with him, it adds another layer of risk to the situation. The Bucs are not a 2-4 team at this juncture in the season. They are 4-2 and have a great shot to not only get to 5-2, but they could easily be 6-2 heading into a pivotal Week 9 matchup with the Saints. The plan is working. The train is on the tracks and it’s moving. Brown has shown that he can be a total pain-in-the-ass; a malcontent. The Bucs have a strong locker room, but as we’ve seen, one player can tear it all down. What happens if Brown goes on another tirade? What kind of effect will that have on the team? Is it worth potentially putting the season at risk to an extent?
And speaking of “effects on the team”, what are the long-term effects of this move? What if Brown looks like his old self? Do the Bucs bring him back next year? Do they bring him back on a multi-year deal, even?
As it currently stands, the Bucs have 32 players under contract for the 2021 season and just $30 million in cap room ($25 mil per overthecap.com). That can obviously change, but let’s stick with this scenario since it applies right now.
Next year’s roster is missing the likes of some rather important pieces when you speak within the context of this team. Heavy-hitters like Godwin, Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, Gronkowski, and Leonard Fournette all enter 2021 without a deal. You think they’ll command yearly averages of less than $1.5 million per year? Me neither.
And we haven’t even mentioned the important depth pieces such as Joe Haeg, Kevin Minter, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, and others.
It’s pretty much an automatic that Brown will want to get paid if he has a good year with the Bucs. It’s even more automatic that the majority of teams will also jump in line to bid on the receiver’s services for 2021 and beyond, which will drive up his market value. If that happens, the Bucs will have to make some sacrifices at key spots in order to fit Brown onto the roster.
Would another Super Bowl run be worth losing a perennial Pro Bowler (possibly) in Godwin? What about David, who is the heart and soul of the defense? Hell, even Suh is showing that he can still play at an elite level and has been so important to this defense in 2020. Losing players like Godwin, David, and Barrett would hurt even more because they can be building blocks for the next 3-4 years. Instead, Tampa Bay would be wiping them away for a 33-year old receiver whose best days are getting further and further behind him.
It’s clear that the move comes with a ton of questions and added pressure for the Bucs. How it all plays out will only be determined in the coming months. Everyone knew the Bucs were “all-in” this year, but now it’s almost painful when you consider how dedicated they are to winning it all.
Let’s just hope the pain stays in that lane and doesn’t swerve over into the W/L column as the year goes on.
And just a quick sidenote, but I figured this has to be mentioned just out of fun:
The timing of all of this is absolutely crazy. You’d get laughed off stage if you told someone before the start of the 2018 season that the Bucs’ roster would feature Brady, Gronkowski, and Brown come 2020.
I don’t know what seance Jason Licht performed, what goat heart he ate, or what spell he conjured up in order to see all of this coming, but it’s been remarkable to witness all of these pieces falling into place like they have over the last six or seven months. It all started with Arians and now, we have arrived at Brown.
“Buc Luck” has done a complete 180 this year, which has really been the only good part about 2020. Now, it’s time to do a 180 in terms of wins and losses.