On September 11, Tom Brady will be walking onto the field for his 22nd season as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback. Conflicting reports about his retirement had Tampa Bay fans biting their nails and football fans wondering what is next for the seven-time Super Bowl champion.
Those doubts were washed away on March 13, 2022, when he sent out a tweet with the following announcement.
“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands. That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa. Unfinished business LFG”.
Hours after Brady’s tweet, an ESPN reporter broke the news and was in disbelief. “This just in, and I am told in my ear that this is not a joke.” Just when you thought Brady’s time was up, he is back with a vengeance and looking to add another Super Bowl ring. His path, however, has changed. The league he returns to looks different.
During the offseason, quarterbacks played a game of musical chairs as they found new destinations: Matt Ryan to the Colts, Russell Wilson to the Broncos, and Carson Wentz is now a Commander. Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones look to make a statement in their second year, while Desmond Ridder and Kenny Pickett settle into the league as rookies. Lastly, Deshaun Watson signed with the Browns as manages the controversy surrounding him.
With the changes happening around the league, Tampa Bay made a blockbuster move at the wide receiver position. They signed Julio Jones to a one-year, 6 million dollar deal, reported by Ian Rapoport. Jones played with the Falcons for nine years before being traded to the Titans. The Bucs may have signed him to counter their loss of Rob Gronkowski, who announced his retirement in July. Gronkowski was a top-3 tight end in the league and was with Brady when he played for the Patriots and Bucs. Now that Gronk has departed the Bucs have Julio Jones, an elite wide receiver who gives Brady another target to throw to.
The addition of Julio Jones makes Tampa Bay stacked with offensive firepower. This past season, Leonard Fournette ran for 812 yards and eight touchdowns (NFL.com). Tampa Bay also boasts one of the biggest dual threats at the wide receiver position. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin recorded over 1,000 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns combined.
Another stat worth mentioning is 28. According to teamrankings.com, Tom Brady ranked in the bottom half of quarterbacks in sacks. A stable offensive line leads to more time in the pocket, which translates to more points on the board for Tampa Bay if Brady finds Evans, Godwin, or Jones down the field. On the ground, Fournette can find holes and break out for gains down the field.
On the flip side of the trenches, their defense ranked fifth last year in points allowed and 17 interceptions (pro-football reference). The more opportunities to give Brady the ball on offense, the better. Tampa Bay has Ryan Succop as their kicker, a seasoned veteran in his 14th year. He will be there to tie or win the game when it matters most.
Despite the additions and returns, the Tampa Bays’ schedule is a tough one. They begin the year on the road against Dallas. Dak Prescott has his toolbox at his disposal, as WRs CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and TE Dalton Schultz will give Tampa Bay a headache. Ezekiel Elliott will cause trouble on the ground as well. The Cowboys and the Bucs will be in for an old-fashioned gun-slinger, battling it out in the first week during primetime Sunday night.
They travel to New Orleans, where Alvin Kamara will likely get some shine, and Jameis Winston faces the man he backed up in Tampa Bay a few years ago.
The next two matchups are where fans grab the popcorn and enjoy the show. The Bucs host the Packers in the battle of the Bays, then face the Chiefs in a rematch of Super Bowl 55.
Aaron Rodgers looks to get revenge against Tom Brady. Green Bay lost 38-10 in their last meeting. With the help of his running back Aaron Jones and wide receivers Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins, Rodgers hopes to steal one in a potential NFC Championship preview.
Last but not least, the revenge tour continues as Patrick Mahomes heads to Raymond James stadium looking for better results. Another primetime game for the Buccaneers, and one that will have fans from all over the league watching. Kansas City boasts Travis Kelce, the no. 1 tight end with Gronkowski no longer in the picture. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a threat on the ground and in the passing game. This game likely goes down to the last possession, or if you are Patrick Mahomes, 13 seconds.
Whether Tampa Bay comes out the first four games unscathed, splits them, or another result, they have confidence with Tom Brady steering the ship. The G.O.A.T is back and looking to ride off into the sunset with an eighth Super Bowl Ring.