The second day of the NFL’s legal tampering period is in the books, and it saw NFL history be changed forever: Tom Brady announced that he would leave the New England Patriots after 20 years to pursue opportunities elsewhere. The move dominated the headlines on Tuesday — we here at Pats Pulpit published nine articles on just Brady’s departure that day alone — despite plenty of other transactions happening both in New England and elsewhere in the league.
With that being said, let’s clean out the notebook to recap the second day of action.
#BradyWatch is over
You may have heard it by now, but the biggest free agent in league history will indeed change teams. Brady took to social media to thank the Patriots and their fans for two decades of support, while announcing that his football journey will take him elsewhere. His decision obviously is a league-altering one — not since Joe Montana has a quarterback considered the greatest ever at that time changed teams, and even back then the circumstances were different (Montana was traded from San Francisco to Kansas City).
From the Patriots’ perspective, Brady leaving the team creates an enormous hole at the most important position in the sport. New England does have some options to fill it — either by turning to in-house options Jarrett Stidham or Cody Kessler, by investing resources in one of the free agent passers still available, by making a trade, or by looking to the draft — but one thing is certain: the times have changed and the most successful era in pro football history has come to an end.
For more on Tom Brady’s decision to leave New England, please check out our additional coverage from Tuesday:
Brady is expected to move to Tampa Bay
While Brady has not yet made an announcement where he will play next, the expectation is that he will join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers once free agency official opens. Joining the team would make sense from a football perspective, and also would ensure that Brady will not go up against his former team during the 2020 regular season. Furthermore, if reports that he will sign a contract that will pay him around $30 million per year turn out accurate, New England also is in line to receive a third-round compensatory draft pick for him in 2021.
For more on Tom Brady possibly joining the Buccaneers, please check out our additional coverage from Tuesday:
The quarterback market continues to evolve
While Tom Brady was the biggest domino to fall, the rest of the quarterback did not stand still either on Tuesday as some veteran players either changed teams or returned to their old stomping grounds. Without including the Patriots’ situation, here is what happened at the quarterback market on the second day of the legal tampering period:
Drew Brees returns to the New Orleans Saints: Brees entered the offseason in the same situation as Brady, with his contract also being set to void on the first day of the 2020 league year. Unlike his fellow future Hall of Famer, however, he will remain put after signing a new two-year contract with the Saints worth $50 million.
Philip Rivers joins the Indianapolis Colts: Rivers leaving the Los Angeles Chargers was already set in stone before the legal tampering period even began on Monday, so his decision to join the Colts on a one-year, $25 million contract did not come as a surprise. The 38-year-old is expected to become the team’s starter right away, pushing ex-Patriot Jacoby Brissett down the depth chart again.
Teddy Bridgewater is the Carolina Panthers’ new quarterback: Bridgewater was one of the hottest names due to his relatively young age — he is 27 years old — in combination with his experience and success as a stand-in for Drew Brees in 2019. While Tampa Bay and Chicago was rumored to be in the running for his services, the former first-round draft pick eventually opted to move to Carolina on a three-year, $63 million deal.
Cam Newton is apparently now available via trade: With Bridgewater in Carolina, the Panthers have made their former starting quarterback available for trade. It will be interesting to see how his market develops, however, considering that Newton will turn 31 in May and is coming off back-to-back seasons cut short by injury. His salary cap hit of $19.1 million salary cap hit may not help (but is a comparatively minor problem).
Jameis Winston will be a free agent: Speaking of quarterbacks about to change teams, Winston will hit free agency because of the Buccaneers’ successful pursuit of Tom Brady. The former first overall draft pick brings an intriguing skillset and four years of starter experience to the table but is also as erratic a passer as any in the NFL.
The rest of the Patriots’ free agency class remains silent
While Brady dominated the news cycle on Tuesday, his former teammates also set to enter free agency did not make any headlines. Only seven of New England’s previously 16 unrestricted free agents are accounted for so far, with just two of the rest — offensive lineman Ted Karras and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett — generating any noticeable reported interest. That being said, the market for the Patriots’ remaining free agents will start to pick up once the first wave of signings is over.
New England makes its first new addition
The Patriots have re-signed two members of their unrestricted free agency class as of Wednesday morning — Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater — and also placed the franchise tag to keep guard Joe Thuney from entering the open market. On Tuesday, after the Brady news broke, they also made their first outside hire: New England signed former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Damiere Byrd to a one-year contract.
Byrd is joining the Patriots off a career-year. The 27-year-old, who has been a member of the Panthers and Cardinals since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2015, caught 32 passes for 359 yards and one touchdown while appearing in 11 of Arizona’s games. A speedster who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.6 seconds, Byrd also brings experience as a returnman to the table.
For more on Damiere Byrd joining the Patriots, please check out our additional coverage from Tuesday:
Keionta Davis will remain with the Patriots
New England also made another move on Tuesday by re-signing exclusive rights free agent Keionta Davis. The team had originally signed Davis as an undrafted free agent in 2017, but he had to spend his entire rookie season on the sidelines due to a neck injury. He eventually returned to the field in 2018 and appeared in six games as a rotational edge rusher, but failed to build on his momentum heading into Year Three: the Patriots waived him with an injury designation in August and he eventually reverted to season-ending injured reserve.
Apparently, however, New England still thinks that the 26-year-old defensive end can contribute moving forward and potentially carve out a role at the defensive edge. With Davis remaining in the fold, the position group therefore looks as follows:
Remaining free agents: Shilique Calhoun (UFA)
New England likely remains in the market for additional help at the position after the free agency departure of outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, but bringing Davis back on a low-cost deal at least ensures that the club has another experienced depth option available to compete for a roster spot. Tendering him may not be the most noteworthy decision from the Patriots’ perspective, but it is a positive reflection of Davis’ projected upside after three injury-riddled seasons in the NFL.
For more on Keionta Davis staying with the Patriots, please check out our additional coverage from Tuesday: