The movement of Tom Brady from New England to Tampa Bay during this period of NFL free agency would have been a humongous story in any year. With all the seasonal sports shut down in 2020 due to COVID-19, that event became even bigger – – because there were no other things to write about/talk about. The commentary fell into two bins; if you read through most of the stuff, Brady’s decision will wind up as an “either/or” decision:
- Either he will make the Bucs an instant Super Bowl contender in the NFC and that he and the team will likely win a Super Bowl in the next couple of years a la Peyton Manning…
- Or he is too far past his peak performance years to make that kind of a difference anymore and his end game will harken back to John Unitas as a San Diego Charger.
If you look at those two men as historical precedents, I think it is important to look at their situations more completely.
- Manning did not go to a team that was on a playoff drought for a dozen years; nonetheless, he did not lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl until his 4th year in Denver.
- Although coming to Denver off a season lost to neck surgery, no one would have thought to write that his passing skills had eroded at age 36. Some might remember that he led the NFL in passing yards (5477) and TDs (55) while in Denver; it is important to remember that was NOT in the Super Bowl winning season.
- Unitas was much more clearly on the downslope of his career when he left the Colts and joined the Chargers in 1973. He had only started 5 games in each of the two seasons prior to the move and the Colts record in those 10 games was a mediocre 4-6. He bottomed out in San Diego starting the first 4 games and then being benched for inability to make plays.
My point is that there is a ton of room on a spectrum between “Peyton Manning as a Bronco” and “John Unitas as a Charger” and that the ultimate fate of Tom Brady does not have to be at either extreme. I would argue that two other “face of the franchise QBs” left to go to other teams late in their careers and that both of them performed in a way that would put them between Manning and Unitas on a “performance spectrum”. Those QBs would be:
- Brett Favre
- Joe Montana.
Switching subjects and sports, the NBA has been hit with an economic one-two this year. As the season began, the NBA had to deal with the issues created by Daryl Morey’s Tweet that did not sit well with the folks in power in China. The Chinese put economic pressures on the NBA and most estimates say it has cost/will cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars. After trying to figure out how to absorb those lost revenues, the coronavirus hit the NBA again with game cancellations and lost revenues. It is still not clear when the NBA might be able to start up again given that players have tested positive for the virus and playing basketball guarantees that players will not be abiding by the social distancing guidelines. Not to worry; I am not about to try to make you feel sorry for NBA owners who might not make nearly as much money this year as they did last year.
The issue facing the NBA is that the salary cap is tied to league revenues. A couple of years ago when the league had just signed a humongous new TV deal, the owners proposed to the NBPA that they phase in the escalation on the salary cap over a couple of years; the union would hear none of that and the surge in the cap for every team set off a spending spree. Now there is a huge drop in revenues, and I doubt the owners would consider a multi-year phase in for the drop in the cap.
[Aside: It was that huge spike in the salary cap that gave the Warriors the cap room to add Kevin Durant to their roster to form that championship winning team.]
A new trend for player contracts has been for them to sign on to max contracts that peg their annual salary to some percentage of the cap for that season. I recall that Ben Simmons signed such a deal with the Sixers; I cannot recall any other specific players who have worked such deals, but I do recall that sort of thing happening more than once. So, those players and their agents are going feel a pinch here too.
In addition, the NBA has in its CBA a league calendar which specifies when players whose contracts will expire become free agents. We can’t know how that will impact teams and players because we can’t know at this time when/if the 2019/2020 season will restart or if there will be some sort of playoffs for the season. I would imagine that players with expiring contracts this year and their agents are considering strategies for what to do come free agency. Here is a situation that would present an interesting dilemma:
- Suppose Joe Flabeetz has an expiring contract this summer. Joe had been over-playing his deal back in November and December and folks had him pegged for s substantial raise and a long-term deal come this summer.
- In addition, that expiring deal has a “player option clause” in it albeit for only one year and at the same salary level as this year.
Imagine you are Joe Flabeetz’ agent; what do you tell your client to do?
Finally, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel is not one of the folks who thinks the Bucs have a history of smart decisions regarding QBs:
“Here’s all you need to know about Tampa Bay’s track record with quarterbacks: In the Bucs’ 43-year history, they have NEVER drafted a quarterback and then signed that quarterback to a second contract. They didn’t sign Doug Williams to a second contract because they were too cheap and then he went on to win a Super Bowl with the Washington Native Americans. They should have signed Steve Young to a second contract, but they thought he was a bust and he went on to become and NFL Hall of Famer in San Francisco.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………