Every year, there are a handful of teams that make big moves in the offseason. Whether it’s a big trade or a big free-agent signing, there’s always an element of risk/reward involved.
But when it comes to the Bucs, the risk they took is more about a move they didn’t make as opposed to one they did make.
Bruce Arians and Jason Licht haven’t been shy when it comes to how they feel about this roster. They feel like they’re very close to being contenders and that is the main reason why —outside of being the greatest quarterback to play the game— the Bucs signed Tom Brady.
Everyone knows that Brady is the key to this season. He is the most important player on this team. But that’s not a big surprise considering his reputation and the fact that quarterback is the most important position on the field.
What is a surprise, though, is how the Bucs don’t really have a backup plan (no pun intended) if Brady were to miss time.
This is no disrespect to Blaine Gabbert or Ryan Griffin, but it’s clear that there’s a steep drop-off between Brady and them. Life without Brady would almost certainly sink the Bucs’ playoff chances.
And despite the fact that Brady hasn’t missed a regular season game due to injury since 2008, there’s a good chance he may miss time in 2020.
His age, Arians’ system, and the Bucs’ questionable pass protection are the three main factors when it comes to Brady’s health on the football field. They’ve all been discussed at length and at good depth.
Brady is 43. He’s playing in a system that prefers quarterbacks to stand in the pocket and withstand a lot of hits in order to allow vertical routes to develop downfield. The quintet of Alex Cappa, Ali Marpet, Demar Dotson, Donovan Smith, and Ryan Jensen allowed 47 sacks last year. That was one just one sack away from tying for the league lead.
Those are all valid concerns, but there’s also a concern that doesn’t involve the game of football, and that’s the Coronavirus.
Call me pessimistic, but I feel like every player in the league will catch COVID-19 at some point if the 2020 season is a go. It’s inevitable. So how much will the Bucs suffer if/when (I’ll say “if” just to leave a modicum of room for optimism) Brady contracts COVID-19?
Usually hindsight would be a good cop-out for this. Something to the extent of, “Well, we didn’t know it was going to be this serious” or “Things took a drastic, unexpected turn” would suffice, but that’s not the case, here. America was in the middle of a shutdown as free agency kicked off. The Bucs knew how serious things were back in March.
But the dagger in the heart was the trade for Rob Gronkowski. They traded for him on April 21, when the country was more than a month into the shutdown. Nothing had really changed at that point in time and the need for a viable backup quarterback was still there.
The Bucs put everything in the middle of the table when they agreed to pay Gronk his $10 million salary. Granted, he could end up being worth every penny, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Bucs could’ve used that money to sign a very good backup quarterback.
Andy Dalton signed a one-year deal worth $3 million with the Cowboys. Case Keenum signed a deal that averages $6 million per year. Chase Daniel and Marcus Mariota also signed deals that would’ve fit in with Gronk’s salary.
Those are just a few scenarios that would have been possible and that’s what makes this move so risky. Especially when you combine it with the fact that the Bucs already had a good tight end room (that did have some questions of its own, to be fair) before Gronk’s arrival.
There is simply too much at play this year for the Bucs to put all of their eggs in the Brady basket, yet that appears to be the plan heading into 2020. You never want to over prepare (for lack of a better word) your roster when it comes to injury risk, but today’s world isn’t the world we’re used to.
What if Brady tests positive —or gets hurt— and the two games (at minimum) he misses end up being losses that take the Bucs out of the playoff race? Wouldn’t having a guy who can come in and do enough to win the game be worth the price of service? Shouldn’t this be at the forefront of Arians’ and Licht’s minds?
Maybe they they have a ton of confidence in Gabbert and Griffin, but I won’t blame those on the outside who question that. Griffin has four career pass attempts and Gabbert hasn’t taken a regular season snap since 2018.
It just seems like a team that is “all-in” should have some type of contingency plan in case something goes wrong, especially during a time where just about anything can go wrong.
But even with all the unknown and all of the uncertainty, there is one thing that is definitely certain: Tom Brady needs to stay healthy in 2020.