The NFL season is still so far away, but everything happening in the world makes it feel close, almost out of necessity. Unfortunately, the offseason looks to be on hold to a degree, as the NFL Draft is being moved from Las Vegas and the official “start” of the 2020 calendar season is being pushed back.
Nevertheless, moves are starting to be made. The Baltimore Ravens picked up Calais Campbell for the low cost of a fifth-round pick. The Indianapolis Colts extended Anthony Castonzo. The Green Bay Packers signed Christian Kirksey. Dak Prescott, Derrick Henry, Bud Dupree, Leonard Williams, Shaq Barrett, Chris Jones, and AJ Green got franchise tagged. Kirk Cousins got another big pay day. And the biggest move of them all, the Tennessee Titans gave Ryan Tannehill a ton of money. The four-year, $118 million contract took away one of the few landing spots out there for Tom Brady. There have been betting odds about Brady’s new employer for quite some time, but now it looks like there are only two left.
Odds from BetOnline Sportsbook as of 11 a.m. ET March 16, 2020:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -150
New England Patriots +110
Los Angeles Chargers +600
San Francisco 49ers +1000
Las Vegas Raiders +1200
Indianapolis Colts +1800
Chicago Bears +5000
Dallas Cowboys +5000
Miami Dolphins +5000
One of them is the New England Patriots. New England still looks to be locked into an AFC East Division with only one legitimate challenger, so even as Brady’s skills deteriorate thanks to Father Time, the likelihood is still that the Patriots can have a good season and probably even make the playoffs.
The other is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is going to move on from Jameis Winston and may opt to go in the direction of Brady while grooming somebody else to be the long-term starter for Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich. Brady initially wanted to be in San Francisco with old friend Kyle Shanahan, but the 49ers made a commitment to Jimmy Garoppolo that they intend to stand by.
Now Brady faces an uncertain future. He can go to Tampa for more money and a change of scenery or he can go back to the Patriots for less money and attempt to extend the legendary run of success that he and Bill Belichick have had together.
The impact in the futures betting market has been virtually non-existent. As teams have fallen off of the list of potential destinations, the books offering up that prop have had to take those squads off of the board. Now that we are down to two strongly interested suitors, this subplot to the 2020 NFL season has taken on a decidedly less interesting turn.
Originally, there were rumors and reports that the Las Vegas Raiders would attempt to make a splash heading into their first season in Allegiant Stadium, but those headlines and speculations went away rather quickly. It never seemed like all that logical of a fit with Jon Gruden anyway.
It may simply be that we are all asking the wrong questions here. Maybe it doesn’t matter at all where Brady goes. And, in some respects, specifically with Tampa, it could be said that there is no guarantee that Brady is better than the other options that are out there in free agency or in the draft.
Brady had his lowest completion percentage since 2013. The last time he only threw 24 touchdown passes was 2006. He had his lowest season in yards per reception since 2002 and the second-lowest adjusted net yards per pass attempt since 2003. If we use Pro-Football-Reference and look at the Adjusted Passing stats, it was the first season that Brady was below league average in several categories. A “+” stat means relative to league average, where league average is 100. Brady was 13% below league average in yards per attempt at 87, 6% below league average in net yards per pass attempt at 94, 5% below league average in adjusted yards per attempt at 95, 13% below league average in adjusted completion percentage at 87, 7% below league average in adjusted touchdown percentage at 93, and he finished below league average in adjusted passer rating for the first time in his career.
In a tl;dr kind of way, Tom Brady may not even be a league average quarterback anymore. The question is whether or not he can be with better weapons. The Patriots didn’t have many weapons for Brady and it was extremely clear that he missed Rob Gronkowski very, very badly. If Brady was to go to Tampa Bay and play with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and OJ Howard, would an improved skill position group be the difference? Or would Brady’s age-based regression continue to show?
These are some of the things that we will have to consider in the futures market with regards to win totals, division, conference, and championship odds.