On Sunday, March 13th, 2022, Tom Brady announced that he was returning for his 23rd season in the NFL. This news came through the airwaves and social media went crazy as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time was at least returning for one more season. If you are a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, you were excited and relieved that you were not going to start Kyle Trask or Blaine Gabbert, while other fans groaned at the possibility of seeing Brady once again.
While we can talk about how the Buccaneers have gotten better and are back as a Super Bowl contender, we forget to realize the impact that this has on the other teams in the NFC South. Based on the happenings of free agency and the ramifications of a certain major trade, there are a few implications of Tom Brady’s return. So, here are the three ways that Tom Brady’s return affects the NFC South.
Reason #1: The Saints & Falcons made moves at QB
With Tom Brady returning to the Bucs, the three other teams (New Orleans, Atlanta, and Carolina) are looking for quarterback options to compete with Tampa Bay. The first option was to sign former Texans QB Deshaun Watson, but he decided to accept a trade with the Cleveland Browns, leaving the three aforementioned teams high and dry. For the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, the void was gone shortly.
After missing out on Deshaun Watson, the Saints went ahead and resigned Jameis Winston to a two-year contract, giving Winston another opportunity to become the long-term solution for a New Orleans team in the post-Drew Brees era. Atlanta, meanwhile, decided to look towards the future by trading Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round pick. While the Falcons have signed QB Marcus Mariota to a two-year deal, they may be looking for their future quarterback in either this year’s draft or next year’s draft.
Reason #2: Tampa Bay is the odds-on favorite to win the division
Last season, even though the New Orleans Saints swept the Buccaneers in the regular season, Tampa Bay still won the NFC South. With the return of Tom Brady, the Buccaneers will be the favorite to win the division. The rest of the group is either rebuilding or going through some things.
Firstly, the Atlanta Falcons are going through the beginning of a new era with the departure of Matt Ryan. Secondly, New Orleans also has a new regime atop as Dennis Allen replaces Sean Payton as their new head coach. Lastly, the Carolina Panthers, in turn, are, unfortunately, undergoing an identity crisis that they may not overcome in just one season. The 2015 NFC champions may need two or three seasons to be relevant again.
Reason #3: The NFC is fair game with limited superstar QBs
The theme of this offseason seems to be “Let’s take all of the NFL’s grand stars and put them in the AFC”. Players like Russell Wilson, Davante Adams, Amari Cooper, and Matt Ryan have all taken their talents to AFC teams, making their new sides stronger. This predicament, especially at the quarterback position, has made the NFC limited in terms of star power at the most important position. The NFC South is one of the divisions affected by this great shift.
No disrespect to Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but they are bandages for the Saints and Falcons, respectively, until these teams find permanent options down the line. Moreover, the Carolina Panthers clearly do not want Sam Darnold as their franchise quarterback.
Tom Brady is the only true star quarterback in the NFC South and it makes the Buccaneers even stronger bringing back a major part of their offense. With Tampa Bay bringing back its superstar QB, the Bucs’ status as a threat in the NFC is, once again, undisputed.
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