Are the Buccaneers a Super Bowl contender with Tom Brady?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed the most successful player in NFL history, but will Tom Brady make them Super Bowl contenders?

Tom Brady has changed the entire landscape of the NFL by doing the unthinkable. Sure, there were whispers he would leave the New England Patriots and rumors of a rift between himself and legendary head coach Bill Belichick, but nobody expected Brady to actually leave New England.

He’s shipped out of Boston, though. Brady will officially join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 2020 NFL season, signing a deal worth about $30 million per year to be Tampa Bay’s splashiest signing in NFL history. And unlike Bill Parcells, Brady won’t leave the Bucs at the altar.

With Bruce Arians running the ship and one of the NFL’s most talented pass-catching groups, the message is clear. The Buccaneers are all in on a Super Bowl title in the next couple of years, knowing Brady’s window is either closing or shut. And in order for Brady to sign with them over other suitors like the Los Angeles Chargers, they’ve likely convinced them of their ability to win a ring in the near future.

Arians has weaved his magic with an older quarterback whom others thought was washed up, turning the Arizona Cardinals into Super Bowl contenders with a resurgent Carson Palmer under center. Eventually, the wheels fell off the wagon when Palmer’s arm was finally shot, and the Cardinals never quite reached the Super Bowl despite coming close.

The Buccaneers have the personnel on offense to make it happen. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin form one of the best wide receiver duos in the league, and Brady’s never had two playmakers at wide receiver in the same offense like them. Furthermore, he also has two great pass-catching tight ends in OJ Howard and Cameron Brate.

Tampa Bay’s running game is in question, but the offensive line isn’t. And having watched Brady struggle against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl and the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game in 2013, everyone knows a strong offensive line means everything to Brady in the heat of the postseason.

Arians and the Bucs are going to need to make serious upgrades to the defense in the draft and during the rest of the offseason. At 42, Brady won’t be able to carry a questionable defense to a Super Bowl title in 2020, let alone in 2021 or 2022.

Last season, the Buccaneers were 29th in the NFL in points per game allowed. So they have plenty of work to do. Yet with stars like Shaquil Barrett and Lavonte David, the building blocks are there. The Buccaneers also have two of the NFL’s most underrated young cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean, who are breakout seasons away from being formidable interception machines after both had more than 15 passes defended in 2019.

Plus, since the Bucs ranked first in yards per carry allowed, 12th in yards per pass attempt allowed, and 15th in total yardage surrendered, the Bucs’ points per game statistics may give opposing offenses a false sense of superiority. Perhaps opponents only scored so many points because the Bucs aggressive, Jameis Winston-led offense encouraged high-scoring games. And perhaps the short fields from Winston’s interceptions – or the pick-sixes directly leading to points on the board – unfairly characterize the defense as a porous one.

Above all else, signing Brady gives the Bucs an important psychological advantage, even beyond having a multi-time Super Bowl winner actually on the field during big games. Adding Brady forces everyone in the organization to put their heads down and work. Brady sets a high standard on the field, and everyone from his teammates to the coaching staff to the front office needs to be at their best to take advantage of what he brings to the table. Nobody wants to be the weak link with a guy like Brady in the building.

Next: 5 NFL teams who did the best in free agency

It’s too early to tell if the Buccaneers are Super Bowl contenders, since no games have been played. But Brady makes the Bucs feel like a team gunning for a Super Bowl in the near future. This feeling means something, and Arians is a man who knows how to motivate his players. If the front office makes the right tweaks, the Bucs should be a dangerous team in the NFC.

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