It's amazing how a non-move can be so impactful for one team, but that's exactly what the non-loss of Tom Brady was for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, Tom Brady
Brady never left the Buccaneers' roster, never turned in paperwork, and never actually said he was retiring.
Yet, when he announced he'd be back for 2022 with the Bucs - essentially proclaiming, 'Hey guys, I'm honoring my contract!' - the sports world exploded.
That's the pull a guy like Brady has in the world.
If he were to announce publicly that Headlines Barbershops was his favorite spot to get lined up, you'd never get a same-week appointment again.
So, the 'return' of Brady as it were, is also a big reason so many view Tampa Bay's offseason as a huge success. Despite the losses of starting safety Jordan Whitehead, right guard Alex Cappa, and the actual retirement of left guard Ali Marpet.
"Tom Brady reversing his decision to retire so that he could return to the team was one of the single biggest wins any franchise had this offseason," says PFF while giving the Bucs an overall letter grade of B for the entire offseason. "Without Brady, the Bucs were facing a massive challenge at quarterback, which left them talking up Blaine Gabbert‘s prospects, but instead, they can look forward to another year of contention in the NFC."
It's a little disrespectful of PFF to assume the Buccaneers would just fall into obscurity without Brady, but they aren't the only ones who thought that would be the team's future, including some fans of the franchise itself.
Having stared into the void of football life after Brady, the offseason turned towards setting up the franchise's own retirement plan of sorts.
Now, with new contracts for receiver Chris Godwin, running back Leonard Fournette, cornerback Carlton Davis III, and center Ryan Jensen, there will be plenty of talent on the roster to help incorporate whoever has the unappealing job of replacing the greatest quarterback in the franchise's history.
The Bucs' 2022 NFL Draft class will also be a part of that foundation.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers first round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Logan Hall
"To offset the...losses at guard, they traded for Shaq Mason and drafted Luke Goedeke — a college tackle who likely kicks inside to guard at the next level," says PFF. "Goedeke posted a 92.2 PFF grade last season and didn’t allow a sack in 10 games for Central Michigan. Trading back out of the first round once there was a run on guards was a good process, and Logan Hall should immediately contribute to the defensive line rotation."
For the draft, PFF gives Jason Licht and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a letter grade of B as well, and labels the team's free-agency grade with additions like receiver Russell Gage and safety Keanu Neal as, "Above Average".