TAMPA – (Staff Report from Wire Services) – QB Tom Brady made his pitch to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians ever attempted to reel in the six-time Super Bowl champion.
Brady signed a two-year contract with the Buccaneers after 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.
“We had a great conversation — Bruce and I — we talked to him for over an hour and a half. And he made it clear in the conversation that he was very, very interested,” Licht said on ESPN Monday morning. “It was almost like a recruitment on his part, telling us why it would make sense for him to come to Tampa Bay. The next call we made, we signed him, but it was at that phone call that we realized, that we felt like we had him.”
The Buccaneers already had a quarterback, former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston. But Winston was in a walk year and Arians had already decided against him returning without seeing what else was out there.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Arians dovetailed into greater detail about the rare quarterbacks potentially in free agency, including Brady, Drew Brees and Ryan Tannehill.
All three players were under consideration in what Arians summarized as “Door No. 2.” Winston, the known commodity, was Door No. 1. But he led the NFL in interceptions in 2019 and didn’t make the strides management and coaches expected in Arians’ first season in Tampa Bay.
Arians was asked if there was one quarterback he’d pick up the phone for, he chuckled and said, “Tom Brady.” Licht was also quickly on board with Brady after watching film.
“The tape showed to us that he had plenty of arm. In fact, we thought that he had an ideal arm for Bruce in his system,” Licht said of Arians’ notorious desire to chuck the ball downfield to stress defenses. “He can still throw it deep. We felt like the mobility was still the same as he’s always had, which, he’s never been able to outrun anybody. But he certainly is good in the pocket in terms of eluding pressure and with his poise and his instincts. We did not see a decline in his arm talent whatsoever. And, in fact, we feel like he could still play for over two years for us, and hopefully that’s the case.”
Statistically, Brady was not up to his own standard last season. He was also working without Rob Gronkowski (retired) and his purported top receivers, Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon, both missed time with injuries. Gordon was eventually released.
“We feel like there’s a lot of teams that are struggling to find one really good receiver. And we have two really outstanding receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin,” Licht said. “Right now, there is only so much money that can go around. There are no plans to sign any other receiver at this time. Antonio (Brown) is somebody that Bruce has come out and had some words about, and Bruce knows him better than all of us. So right now, I would just say that we’re focused on other areas of our team.”