Brady Shakes Up NFL, Falcons Prep for New Season

The Falcons believe they can improve on last year’s 7-9 record, but they face a whole new challenge this season with Tom Brady’s decision to come to the NFC South. // Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons

While most of the sports world has gone dark during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL offseason has been in full swing over the last month. It has been an unusually busy time for the league as multiple superstars have decided to try their luck in new places while some of the top teams have added firepower in preparation for what promises to be an exciting and highly intriguing season.

Of all the big moves so far this year, the most notable one by far was the league-shifting decision by Tom Brady to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This stunning move caused sports bettors in Las Vegas to increase the Bucs’ odds of winning the title. It also opened up the question of who will be starting at quarterback for the most notorious team in the NFL for the first time in two decades. The New England Patriots have long relied on their historic quarterback, a man who has been to the Super Bowl more times in his 20-year career than any other team in the 100-year history of the NFL, with the exception of his own.

While their division rival was adding the greatest football player of all time to their roster, the Atlanta Falcons made some moves of their own, signing former U[sic]GA star Todd Gurley after he was released by the cap-strapped Los Angeles Rams. The one-year contract is essentially a bet on Gurley’s ability to recover from injuries he sustained last year, and the Falcons hope he can be the MVP caliber running back he was two years ago when he helped the Rams get to the Super Bowl. The Falcons also signed tight end Hayden Hurst from the Baltimore Ravens, a move aimed at replacing Austin Hooper, who decided to leave the team in favor of a bigger deal with the Cleveland Browns. The Falcons are hoping to rebound from back to back disappointing seasons, but they will have to deal with a rejuvenated Bucs franchise as well as the defending division champion New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.

Another surprising move this offseason was the Houston Texans trading star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick for Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick. The move was surprising given that Hopkins was arguably the best receiver in the league and had attended Clemson University, the same school as Houston’s star quarterback Deshaun Watson. The apparent reason for the trade was that Hopkins wanted a new contract with higher pay even though his current contract still had three years left on it. In an attempt to fill the gaping hole left at wide receiver, the Texans brought in wide receiver Randall Cobb, a veteran receiver who has been prone to injuries the last few years and has not been able to complete a season in over four years. 

In yet another high-profile quarterback move, the Colts brought in former Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers. The Colts, recovering from the surprise retirement from Andrew Luck, made the trade in order to have a decent quarterback on the team while they try to find a long term solution.

The defending champion Kansas City Chiefs decided to franchise-tag Chris Jones, one of the premier defensive players in the league. Using the franchise tag gives a team multiple options — everyone in the league knows that Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes is a superstar and will be paid accordingly. Giving Jones the franchise tag allows them to trade him should they not want to commit to offering him a big contract. The move comes as the team looks to bring back most of their roster to defend their Super Bowl title. With a lot of young talent, they look to be well-positioned to do just that. 

While COVID-19 has had minor impacts on the NFL compared to other sports, the threat of the virus persisting into the fall in the U.S. has begun to cast a shadow on the offseason. While filling stadiums with fans might not be possible, NFL owners remain hopeful of having games and showcasing their brand new acquisitions, even if it means playing in empty arenas.