Why Tom Brady’s Retirement Could Be Good News for the Bears
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team in limbo. And the Chicago Bears should (1) see this and (2) be ready to pounce if the right scenario presents itself.
One year after watching their Super Bowl-winning coach retire, the Bucs are seeing their star quarterback hang ’em up. Tough break. Additionally, Tampa Bay is $55,031,921 over the salary cap. OOF! Only the New Orleans Saints ($60,474,996) are working out of a deeper hole. In other words, this is the type of situation the Bears should be looking to leverage. And perhaps an avenue exists for them to do so. It won’t be easy. Then again, it never is with this team.
With that being said, let’s explore how Tom Brady’s retirement could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Bears.
Another Team Enters the QB Derby
The most obvious dominos to fall in the wake of Brady’s retirement:
(1) The Bucs now need a quarterback
(2) Brady is no longer an option for other teams (one way or another), making the QB market more of a free-for-all than it was already going to be. I love a good mess.
But before you get ahead of yourself, no, I don’t imagine a Tampa Bay trade-up scenario with the Bears, even despite their newfound vacancy. The Buccaneers’ two best picks (19th and 51st overall) make it tough to cook up an amenable trade. But their mere existence as a QB-needy team could still have Bears implications.
For instance, the Bucs could take a veteran QB off the board for another team that would otherwise be looking. Jimmy Garoppolo? Derek Carr? Someone else we’re not thinking of at the moment? Ideally, the Bucs snag a bridge quarterback and leave other Bears potential trade partners in play. That seems like the most ideal scenario.
Or maybe the Buccaneers blow it all up instead of trying to patch it together is what we should be rooting for this offseason. If a teardown is on the horizon, then we can fully discuss the following possibilities below.
Trading for Mike Evans Won’t Be Easy, But…
… perhaps it might be more cost-efficient?
Mike Evans, 29, is a four-time Pro Bowl receiver who has put up at least 1,000 yards in each of his nine seasons as a pro. Moreover, four of those seasons have been 10+ touchdown campaigns. In other words, Evans is the type of WR1 the Bears should be targeting in their offseason search.
However, Evans isn’t the type of player the Bucs should be looking to trade. Then again, if they’re going to clear the decks, I imagine an older, more expensive player might be one of the first to go. And yet, part of me sees Evans’ contract situation as one that needs restructuring if a trade were to go down. That is because trading Evans doesn’t provide much cap relief. Tampa trading Evans would come with $2.302 million worth of cap savings, but at the cost of $21.3965 million in dead money. That is a sizable dead money hit that is straight-up unsavory. Then again, we saw what the Bears did this past offseason in taking on a ton of dead money in one year to clear the books. So I suppose it is possible other teams around the league see value in ripping off the band-aid with a one-year reset. After all, the NFL is a copycat league
Trading for Chris Godwin Won’t Be Easy Either, But…
… it is an idea worth exploring (just in case Tampa wants to go full rebuild).
Unlike an Evans trade, a Godwin deal is one that could create a notable amount of cap space. Moving Godwin in a trade would clear $8.75 million in cap space. And it would cost the Bucs just $15 million in terms of dead money hit. In other words, a Godwin trade would be more fiscally palatable than an Evans deal. But Godwin, 26, is younger than Evans and has also been productive in his own right. Godwin has just one Pro Bowl under his belt, but he has been a 1,000-yard receiver in three of his last four seasons. And it probably would’ve been four straight had Godwin not been limited to just 12 games in 2020. Godwin isn’t on the same tier of receivers as Evans, but would be a significant upgrade to the Bears’ receivers room. And if either were to become available, the Bears should be the first team calling GM Jason Licht’s line in Tampa.
In the End
There is a but we need to address. It is a big one. And one I keep circling back to as I try to piece together the Bears’ offseason. Why would the Buccaneers dump either of these receivers? Even without Brady, Tampa should want to keep either (if not both!) wideouts for whoever is slinging the pill next season. Throwing a rookie into the fire with suboptimal weapons would be less than ideal. Trust me on that one. I’ve seen the Bears do it too often in my lifetime. And doing it for a veteran bridge would make even less sense. Remember how well it worked when the Bears traded for Jay Cutler, then waited three years to start properly outfitting the offense? Yeah, I’m trying to forget about that, too.
Nevertheless, this is a situation we’ll monitor with great interest. Brady going 6-1 all-time against the Bears won’t be totally forgiven if his retirement gives Chicago a surprising parting gift upon his departure. But it could certainly help our relationship.