Tampa Bay keeping its most talented free agents home could position Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady to take a where he hasn’t in more than a decade.
“This is the most talented team Tom Brady’s ever played on,” Fox Sports analyst Colin Cowherd said on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on Wednesday. “Everyone is drafting for need except Tampa. They’re just drafting for depth. Also, this is a franchise the drafts incredibly well, so you might as well put three or four more talented guys on this roster.”
Cowherd shared his thoughts following the Bucs’ announcement of re-signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and extending offensive tackle Donovan Smith’s contract. It bolstered the Bucs roster amid all the other re-signed key players. That list includes tight end Rob Gronkowski and linebackers Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett. Wide receiver Chris Godwin took the franchise tag, and the Bucs extended Brady’s contract and linebacker Jason Pierre Paul’s.
“This is the best team Tom Brady’s ever played on,” Cowherd said on his show. “They are completely stacked.”
Cowherd compared it to the only team Brady has ever led to a 16-0 regular season record, the 2007 New England Patriots.
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Bucs vs. Almost Perfect Pats
The Brady-led Patriots dominated the NFL in 2007 before the New York Giants stunned them in the Super Bowl. New England won a league-record 18-straight games in one season, Brady won the MVP and threw for 50 touchdowns, and the Patriots had the highest point differential in one season, 315, in league history per Pro Football Talk.
“Now, they had Randy Moss, but that wide receiving core is not close to Tampa’s,” Cowherd said.
The Bucs have two Pro Bowl receivers in Godwin and Mike Evans under contract in addition to Gronkowski, a four-time All-Pro who has played with Brady for 10 seasons. If Antonio Brown re-signs, the Bucs have four Pro Bowl-caliber players for Brady to throw to.
Moss and Wes Welker were the only Pro Bowl-quality pass catchers in 2007 for Brady with the Patriots, and Moss caught the lion’s share of touchdowns with 23.
“They had Mike Vrabel, but that linebacking core in New England is not close to as athletic as Tampa’s,” Cowherd said on his show. “They had Vince Wilfork. But this defensive line is far greater as a unit than that defensive line.”
“The only area that New England team is better than the Tampa team is the offensive line,” Cowherd said.
The 2007 Patriots had three Pro Bowlers among the team’s eight on that offensive line, Cowherd noted. Patriots linemen Matt Light, Logan Mankins, and Dan Koppen helped Brady have a monster season with 4,806 yards passing and a career-best 68.9 completion percentage.
Brady, 13 years later, posted comparable numbers with 4,633 passing yards, 40 touchdowns, and a 65.7 completion percentage. Brady had time in Tampa behind his new line though the Pro Bowl voters didn’t tab any of them.
“And I would make a strong argument that the offensive line for Tampa in the last two months was unbelievable,” Cowherd said on his show. “Ali Marpet is a top-three guard in the league. Ryan Jensen is a top-six to seven center. Tristan Wirfs, right tackle, looks like a Pro Bowler. That’s the weak spot of Tampa.”
Second Half Sequel?
If the second half of a season gives any indication on how a team will do the following season, then the 2021 Bucs could be historically good, Cowherd alluded to.
Tampa never lost again after dropping to 7-5 in a 27-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 29, 2020. If Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes took the torch from Brady as the best quarterback in the game that day, Brady took it right back in the final stretch as the Bucs won the rematch in the Super Bowl 31-9.
“And I kind of look at Tampa as two seasons,” Cowherd said on his show. “There was the Tom gets signed, no preseason, a lot of turbulence, kind of trying to fit Arians’ offense with Brady’s offense. And from that point on, 8-0 and the average score was 34 to 19, and it was the number one offense in the NFL.”
Cowherd also noted that the Bucs topped the league in scoring and point and sack differentials during that 8-0 run — all numbers that bode well for a dominant 2021 if the Bucs keep sailing that direction.