Ranking the 25 Best Moves of the 2020 NFL Offseason
Improve or regress. No NFL franchise remains static from year to year.
The league is in constant turmoil thanks to a hard salary cap, free agency, the draft and further player movement. How teams navigate a turbulent offseason can determine who is most successful during the regular season.
A year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs already had their core of talent together with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce, defensive lineman Chris Jones, etc. But the team wasn't quite a Super Bowl-level squad. The offseason additions of Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark and Mecole Hardman helped put the franchise over the top.
Well-timed additions often serve as the turning point for certain franchises.
This offseason has been unlike any other. Yet, the NFL continued to chug along and those same types of moves occurred throughout the league.
In this instance, the idea of the offseason's best moves centers around players changing teams. They don't include any changes made to other parts of the organization or retaining those already on the roster. For example, the Tennessee Titans kept quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry, but that's simply maintaining the status quo.
The following 25 moves will make their respective squads markedly better.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers Sign Eric Ebron
The Pittsburgh Steelers operate much like the tortoise racing the hare: Slow and steady wins the race.
The organization very rarely enters bidding wars for players. Instead, Pittsburgh often bides its time to get the right deal.
This year proved to be no different with the Steelers landing one of free agency's best bargains.
Two years ago, Eric Ebron led NFL tight ends with 13 touchdown receptions. He didn't produce to the same level in 2019 because of a slippage in quarterback play—the Colts abruptly transitioned from Pro Bowler Andrew Luck to backup Jacoby Brissett—plus Jack Doyle's return to the Indianapolis Colts lineup. As such, Ebron didn't garner as much attention on the free-agent market.
The Steelers waited for the first wave of free agency to subside before signing Ebron to a two-year, $12 million deal. The 2014 first-round pick will provide Pittsburgh with an actual weapon at tight end since Vance McDonald hasn't developed into a significant receiving threat.
24. Ravens Draft J.K. Dobbins
Second-round picks don't usually find their way into the best offseason moves, but the Baltimore Ravens couldn't have made a better selection than they did in Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins.
The Ravens already featured the best ground attack in NFL history, yet they could be even better with Dobbins in the lineup.
"We didn't really expect [Dobbins to be available there], I don't think anybody really did," general manager Eric DeCosta said, per ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "But we just had to take him. ... It just made too much sense for us not to take him."
Dobbins' inclusion in the Ravens lineup is a masterstroke of drafting.
According to CBS Sports' Will Brinson, the 21-year-old back finished second nationally in rushing yardage from the shotgun. This will make Lamar Jackson's run-pass option reads even more deadly. Plus, Dobbins is a difficult runner to bring down as an eventual replacement for Mark Ingram II.
23. New Orleans Saints Sign Emmanuel Sanders
Michael Thomas is the game's best wide receiver, but he could use some help. Enter Emmanuel Sanders.
Last season, Thomas broke an NFL record with 149 receptions. No other wide receiver on the Saints' roster managed more than 30.
Sanders hasn't produced fewer than 45 receptions since the 2012 campaign. Obviously, defenses will continue to roll coverage toward Thomas, but the Saints now have a target who can make them pay on the other side of the field.
"I don't know exactly what my role will be on the team yet, but whatever it is, I'm going to do the best that I can possibly do to my abilities," Sanders told reporters upon signing with the Saints.
22. Philadelphia Eagles Trade for Darius Slay
Darius Slay went to the last three Pro Bowls, yet the Detroit Lions weren't eager to retain the cornerback. Instead, the organization traded the 29-year-old to the Philadelphia Eagles for third- and fifth-round draft selections.
The Eagles haven't had a reliable top cover corner for some time. Ronald Darby never played a full season in Philadelphia and left via free agency. Slay, on the other hand, has started at least 13 games every season since he became a full-time starter his second year in the league.
Also, the Eagles haven't finished in the top half of the league in pass defense since the 2016 campaign. Slay brings a completely different attitude to Philadelphia's defense.
"I told him we win around here, we do things differently around here," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said of Slay, per Sports Illustrated's Ed Kracz. "The biggest thing for him was I know what he can bring to our team, the character, the swagger, the hard work, and the leadership."
21. Los Angeles Chargers Sign Chris Harris Jr.
Scheme fit is important when it comes to choosing a new destination as a free agent.
Chris Harris Jr. understood this concept, which is exactly why he's an excellent fit with the Los Angeles Chargers.
"The coaching, the fit, being able to do what I want to do," Harris said, per the Los Angeles Times' Jeff Miller. "A lot of the other teams, they probably had around the same amount of money offered, but it wasn't going to allow me to do what I love to do."
Harris has been one of the game's best nickel corners for an extended period of time. The front office and coaching staff both told the 30-year-old he'll be covering the slot, per The Athletic's Daniel Popper.
With Harris in the slot, he'll free the trio of Derwin James, Nasir Adderley and Desmond King II to do even more thanks to their position flexibility.
20. Atlanta Falcons Trade for Hayden Hurst
The Atlanta Falcons couldn't afford to re-sign two-time Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper, so the organization quickly snatched up Hayden Hurst.
The 2018 first-round pick will serve as an important piece to the Falcons' offensive puzzle. The scheme regularly created opportunities for Hooper. The same will be true for Hurst, though he's a better overall athlete to force mismatches.
As such, a massive uptick in production should come. Hurst caught 43 passes during his first two seasons. Hooper managed at least 49 receptions in each of the last three campaigns. The Falcons traded second- and fifth-round draft picks to the Baltimore Ravens so Atlanta could add another weapon—which Hurst was at South Carolina with 92 receptions for 1,175 yards during his final two years on campus.
"That air-raid offense is an incredible opportunity for my career," Hurst said, per Sports Illustrated's Christian Crittenden. "Coming from Baltimore, we were more of a run-heavy offense. So being a part of passing offense that uses the tight end that much is super exciting for me."
19. Dallas Cowboys Draft CeeDee Lamb
The Dallas Cowboys didn't exactly need a first-round wide receiver with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup already on the roster, but owner Jerry Jones decided he couldn't pass on Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb when he became available with this year's 17th overall pick.
"Lamb prevailed," Jones said, per ESPN's Todd Archer. "We just didn't want to miss him. Those trades ultimately are supposed to add another player to be valuable, but we couldn't trump him. He was just there."
The Cowboys will have one of the league's most feared wide receiver corps after Lamb's addition.
Among this year's class, Henry Ruggs III served as the speed merchant and Jerry Jeudy brought advanced route-running. Lamb had arguably the best all-around skill set, and he proved particularly deadly after the catch.
The consensus All-American led all receivers in the 2020 class with an average of 11 yards after catch per reception, per Pro Football Focus.
18. New Orleans Saints Sign Malcolm Jenkins
In Malcolm Jenkins' case, he can go home again.
The New Orleans Saints originally selected Jenkins in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft. After five seasons, he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent.
"He's a tremendous player, and I hate that he got out of here," Saints head coach Sean Payton said of Jenkins in 2018, per ESPN's Mike Triplett. "That was probably as big a mistake as we've made here in 13 years. He's made up of all the right things, and he's a tremendous competitor."
Jenkins, who signed a four-year, $32 million deal this offseason, will replace Vonn Bell in the lineup. Bell is an outstanding defender, but the incoming 11-year veteran is one of the game's most versatile defenders.
The Saints now have flexibility within their secondary since Jenkins can be a box safety, play the deep half or deep third and serve as a big nickel covering the slot.
17. Los Angles Chargers Sign Bryan Bulaga
The Los Angeles Chargers might have gotten the deal of the offseason when the organization signed right tackle Bryan Bulaga to a three-year, $30 million contract.
To put Bulaga's contract in perspective, his average annual salary is less than or comparable to deals signed by Jack Conklin, Andrus Peat, Graham Glasgow, Ereck Flowers, George Fant and Halapoulivaati Vaitai this offseason.
Conklin was the top offensive lineman on the market as a result of his age (25), but the 31-year-old Bulaga has been one of the game's best right tackles for quite some time. The 10-year veteran is a consistent pass protector. His addition alongside Trai Turner will give Los Angeles arguably the NFL's best right side.
"They are what you want from an offensive lineman," assistant coach James Campen told reporters.
Turner's addition could have made this list, but his acquisition created a void at left tackle since Russell Okung went to the Carolina Panthers.
16. Miami Dolphins Sign Kyle Van Noy
The Miami Dolphins spent lavishly this offseason. The organization rebuilt its secondary, defensive line and offensive line. Yet, a linebacker might be the most important piece among the franchise's free-agent additions.
Kyle Van Noy's varied skill set brings a different dynamic.
"I kind of view myself in the Tyrann Mathieu mold," Van Noy said prior to free agency, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. "... I can play on the ball, off the ball, I can drop into coverage, I can rush the passer, I can do every single thing you want."
Flexibility is important within Brian Flores' system. Not only does Van Noy bring a familiarity with the Dolphins head coach dating back to their days together with the New England Patriots, but the 29-year-old veteran can serve as a locker room leader and on-field example of what works.
Miami might have spent more on cornerback Byron Jones, but Van Noy will be the team's defensive tone-setter.
15. Browns Sign Austin Hooper
Kevin Stefanski's offensive approach is rather simple.
"You can never have too many tight ends," the Cleveland Browns head coach said during Episode 3 of Building the Browns 2020.
The Minnesota Vikings employed two-plus-tight-end sets 57 percent of the time with Stefanski calling the plays last season, according to Sharp Football's Warren Sharp.
But the Browns didn't have a true starting-caliber tight end on the roster thanks to David Njoku's inconsistencies.
As such, Cleveland targeted the top available tight end in free agency.
Austin Hooper, who earned two consecutive Pro Bowl nods, signed a four-year, $42 million contract. The structure of the deal is quite manageable since Hooper's salary-cap hit won't exceed $10 million until the 2022 campaign, per Spotrac.
The 2016 third-round pick will now be a featured part of the Browns offense as its Y-tight end. Over the last two seasons, Hooper caught 146 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns.
14. Washington Redskins Draft Chase Young
There's no such thing as a no-brainer when it comes to the NFL draft. Thousands of hours are spent evaluating prospects and deciding how they fit into certain situations.
With that said, the Washington Redskins' decision to select Ohio State defensive end Chase Young with this year's second overall pick is as close to a no-brainer as it gets.
The 6'5", 264-pound edge-rusher is powerful and explosive with refined technique. He consistently disrupted opposing backfields at the collegiate level.
"The best toolbox I've ever seen coming out of the draft," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio told reporters when asked about Young. "I haven't seen a guy come out with that many tools. I've seen talented players come out, but not with a complete toolbox like he has."
The defense now features a fearsome front with Young, Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis.
Washington didn't overthink things and should benefit from the decision for a long time.
13. Las Vegas Raiders Sign Cory Littleton
The Las Vegas Raiders knew they couldn't go into another season without seriously addressing the linebacker position. The black hole found in the middle of their defense was easily one of the biggest positional weaknesses throughout the league, until free agency started.
General manager Mike Mayock attacked the position with gusto by signing Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski.
Littleton is the crown jewel of the organization's free-agent class, because he gives the Raiders a leader in the middle of their defense and provides them with a true modern-day linebacker.
"Cory Littleton covers as well as anybody in the league," Mayock said, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Vincent Bonsignore.
According to Pro Football Focus, Littleton posted the second-best coverage grade among linebackers over the last two seasons.
The 26-year-old will be well worth the franchise's three-year, $35.25 million investment if he remains an every-down player and posts 125 or more tackles each season, as he did the previous two campaigns.
12. Indianapolis Colts Sign Philip Rivers
Certain matches make too much sense not to happen.
Once the Los Angeles Chargers decided they wanted to move on from longtime franchise quarterback Philip Rivers, the Indianapolis Colts become the 38-year-old's logical landing spot on account of his previous work relationship with offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who was Rivers' quarterbacks coach in San Diego.
"One thing about Philip is, he knows how to create big plays in the play-action game, and on the trend that we're on, I just think he's the playmaker and leader that can help take us to the next level," head coach Frank Reich said, per ESPN's Mike Wells.
Rivers' fit extends beyond his personal connection with Sirianni. The Colts feature one of the league's best offensive lines to help protect the statuesque quarterback. Furthermore, Rivers won't have to carry the unit because the run game will be prominently featured.
The difference lies in the veteran's creativity and willingness to push the ball down the field after the Colts struggled to manufacture offense with Jacoby Brissett leading the way.
11. Denver Broncos Trade for Jurrell Casey
The Denver Broncos decided to build on a strength this offseason instead of concentrating on potential weaknesses. As a result, the organization traded for defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and cornerback A.J. Bouye.
"That's why we decided to go that way," general manager John Elway said, per ESPN's Jeff Legwold. "We played good defense last year and we'll continue to play good defense this coming year."
Of the two, Casey gets the nod as the better offseason move based his level of play, what the Broncos spent to acquire his services and how he improves the unit.
The Broncos gave up a measly seventh-round pick to acquire the five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman. His performance should provide a significant upgrade over last year's defensive front, whereas Bouye will be replacing four-time Pro Bowler Chris Harris Jr.
"It'll be incredible," Von Miller said of Casey's inclusion. "I'm looking forward to it. [Casey] is a great player, five-time Pro Bowler. We can do all sorts of things together. He can rush with me, rush with [Bradley] Chubb."
10. Browns Sign Jack Conklin
The Cleveland Browns fielded the league's worst pair of offensive tackles during the 2019 campaign. Both Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard graded in the bottom third of the league last year, according to Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo. As such, new general manager Andrew Berry set about drastically improving the position.
Jack Conklin, 25, entered the new league year as the top available offensive tackle. Cleveland made sure to secure his services rather quickly, and the franchise didn't pay a premium after Nate Solder and Trent Brown reset the market in each of the last two offseasons.
Instead, the Browns signed Conklin at a reasonable price. His $14 million annual salary doesn't even rank among the league's eight highest-paid offensive tackles.
Plus, the 2016 first-round pick is an ideal addition for head coach Kevin Stefanski's zone-heavy offensive scheme.
"You talk about a system fit," offensive line coach Bill Callahan told reporters last week. "You couldn't get a more perfect tackle in free agency than Jack. He fits the mode for the wide zone game and his pass protection sets, how he short sets and he jumps at the line of scrimmage, which is a tough skill to acquire."
9. Baltimore Ravens Trade for Calais Campbell
The Baltimore Ravens were the NFL's best team during the 2019 regular season, but the squad wasn't particularly strong against opposing ground games.
In fact, Baltimore tied for 20th by allowing 4.4 yards per carry.
When an opportunity arose to acquire Calais Campbell, the Ravens weren't reticent to flip a fifth-round draft pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for the five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman.
Campbell has been one of the game's best all-around defenders for years, though his sack production dipped in each of the last two seasons. His performance at the point of attack is where he brings exceptional value.
Pro Football Focus named Campbell the 2019 Run Defender of the Year. The 33-year-old lineman consistently disrupts blocking schemes and resets the line of scrimmage. His addition alongside Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe should make Baltimore one of the league's most difficult fronts to move.
"We've had a lot of success with players like this," general manager Eric DeCosta said on The Lounge podcast (via Clifton Brown of the Ravens' official site). "... Trying to find players that really just care about one thing—and that's winning. They are at the stage of their career where they're playing for the ring."
8. San Francisco 49ers Trade for Trent Williams
The San Francisco 49ers made the best of a potentially bad situation.
Joe Staley didn't finalize his decision to retire until the week of the NFL draft. The 49ers had to address left tackle. Fortunately, they were able to swing a deal for the disgruntled Trent Williams.
"Joe Staley, we knew there was an opportunity or a chance that he wasn't going to be with us and that was going to be tough, but we were able to pull something off for Trent Williams, which I think was the cherry on top of this draft," 49ers general manager John Lynch said during an interview of NFL Network's NFL NOW.
Williams missed all of last season over a dispute with Washington Redskins management. Prior to sitting out a year, the seven-time Pro Bowl blocker was one of the league's best tackles. Now, he'll enter a familiar situation having already played for Kyle Shanahan.
"Under regular circumstances, it'd be extremely challenging [to switch teams], it'd be next to impossible to be as effective as you want to be without having a proper offseason," Williams said, per the San Jose Mercury News' Cam Inman. "In this case, I literally can go line up in that huddle and go run a play today.
"That's how familiar I am with the offense. The learning curve is a lot shorter."
7. Miami Dolphins Draft Tua Tagovailoa
The Miami Dolphins undertook an expansive "Tank for Tua" plan, and it worked out in the team's favor.
Technically, the squad didn't intentionally tank with a 5-11 record, but the organization's decision to move on from Laremy Tunsil, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kenyan Drake showed its willingness to strip the team of young, talented performers as a way to acquire a war chest of financial and draft assets.
Also, the draft broke in Miami's favor when Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa fell to the Dolphins with the fifth overall pick. Granted, Tagovailoa's unfortunate hip dislocation almost certainly played a role in his draft slotting, but Miami didn't let the signal-caller's injury history affect its projection.
"He fit a lot of the criteria that we talk about at the quarterback position. Good player, good person, leadership qualities," head coach Brian Flores said, per ESPN's Cameron Wolfe. "We're very happy with this pick. We felt very comfortable that he would be a good fit here."
Injuries aside, Tagovailoa displayed a franchise-caliber skill set. His natural feel and efficiency in the passing game is outstanding. According to Pro Football Focus, the second quarterback taken in this year's draft posted the best single-season performance from a clean pocket of any collegiate quarterback.
Miami might have finally found Dan Marino's replacement.
6. Buffalo Bills Trade for Stefon Diggs
The Buffalo Bills have done what every team should do after it invests a first-round pick in a quarterback prospect: Continue to build a better cockpit around their franchise player.
Last offseason, the Bills signed wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley while investing heavily in the offensive line.
However, Buffalo's offense lacked a true No. 1 wide receiver. The Bills found their top target when general manager Brandon Beane traded first-, fifth- and sixth-round picks in this year's draft as well as a 2021 fourth-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for Stefon Diggs and a seventh-round selection.
Over the last two seasons, Diggs accumulated 165 receptions for 2,151 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.
"I think when you look at the production that Stefon has experienced over the course of his career that speaks for itself," Bills head coach Sean McDermott told reporters. "... He's had big roles in [big] games and so we believe that it's been shown and proven to this point that people are able to come to Buffalo and become the best version of themselves."
The latter point is vital, because the Bills are now considered the AFC East favorites in the wake of Tom Brady's departure.
Diggs gives the Bills an immediate threat defenses must account for at all times.
5. Buccaneers Trade for Rob Gronkowski
Sometimes, a reset is necessary.
Rob Gronkowski was beat up and burnt out by the Patriot Way. So, he retired. Tom Brady's decision to leave New England and sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaxed the best tight end in the game's history to return.
"I wouldn't come back unless I'm feeling good, feeling healthy. This is the time," the 31-year-old veteran told NFL Network's Michael Giardi.
"My body, 100 percent, needed a rest."
The Patriots traded the five-time Pro Bowler and a seventh-round draft pick to the Buccaneers for a compensatory fourth-round selection.
Some will inevitably argue a year away from the game will hurt Gronkowski's standing yet ignore the fact he's still in his prime, is healthier than he's been in years and his body didn't drastically change during last year's layoff. Gronkowski told Giardi he's currently 250 pounds after previously playing somewhere between 260 and 265 pounds.
The number of offensive weapons the Buccaneers now feature is downright ridiculous. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate were a formidable quartet before any other addition, let alone an elite tight end.
Furthermore, Tampa Bay now has a motivated Gronk. If he returns to form, he'll challenge the San Francisco 49ers' George Kittle as the game's best two-way tight end.
4. Indianapolis Colts Trade for DeForest Buckner
Certain players change the entire complexion of a defense. DeForest Buckner is one of those individuals.
For all of the attention multiple players from last year's San Francisco 49ers defensive line received, Buckner served as the unit's leader and top performer.
The 49ers weren't in a position to re-sign him long-term, though, and the Indianapolis Colts took advantage of the situation by trading a first-round pick for the defensive lineman's services.
"I said, 'At least you know what you're getting with DeForest, exactly what you’re getting,'" Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus told reporters. "You're getting a Pro Bowl talent, a high-level player that's dominated his position."
Buckner has consistently been one of the league's better defensive linemen since he entered the NFL, and the Colts paid him as such with a four-year, $84 million contract extension. The 26-year-old defender will now be the focal point of an Indianapolis defense that lacked punch the last two seasons, especially along the interior. He'll serve as the unit's 3-technique (defensive tackle who lines up on the outside shoulder of the guard).
"The 3-technique is the engine that drives the D-line, and it drives the whole defense," Eberflus told reporters.
Draft picks are great. Defensive difference-makers are even better. Bucker is a true difference-maker.
3. Cincinnati Bengals Draft Joe Burrow
The impact of a franchise-caliber quarterback prospect on an organization shouldn't be downplayed.
The Cincinnati Bengals' semi-recent stretch of playoff berths (2009-15) only to bow out in the first round in all six appearances is the franchise's high point over the last 30 years.
But Joe Burrow could change everything because he's that good.
The previous statement is founded on what Burrow accomplished during the 2019 campaign, which proved to be the best individual performance in college football history.
His 60 touchdown tosses and 202 passing efficiency set new FBS records. His 76.3 completion percentage ranks second all-time. Those are just numbers, though. Burrow showed a level of pocket presence, anticipation and ball placement previously unseen from recent quarterback prospects.
Plus, he'll move into a system perfectly suited to his skill set.
"[LSU] ran an NFL scheme as far as drop-back passing," Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said in February, per Geoff Hobson of the team's official site. "We have very many common concepts."
The Bengals needed to move on from the Andy Dalton era and did. Dalton played well and helped make Cincinnati a competitive squad for multiple years. Burrow's natural ability is simply superior in every way.
"He's as advertised," head coach Zac Taylor said, per ESPN's Ben Baby. "All the things we heard about him, we saw from our first meeting with him and as we've gotten to know him over the last couple weeks."
2. Arizona Cardinals Trade for DeAndre Hopkins
The thought of the Arizona Cardinals swindling the Houston Texans by acquiring four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round draft pick for running back David Johnson, his albatross of a contract, a second-round pick and 2021 fourth-round pick remains baffling.
Kudos to the Cardinals for being proactive and stealing one of the game's premier targets.
Hopkins immediately enters the lineup as Kyler Murray's new No. 1 target. His mere presence should improve Arizona's offense.
"I think it'll take pressure off of everybody," future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said, per Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official site. "It takes pressure off our defense, special teams. ... Everyone gets better when you have good players around, especially unselfish good players like he is."
Fitzgerald would know better than anyone.
More importantly, the Cardinals improved Murray's surrounding cast. Hopkins creates a ripple effect throughout the wide receiver corps. Fitzgerald no longer has to be the team's security blanket. Christian Kirk is now the unit's third target. Last year's draftees—Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson—won't be thrust into prominent roles if they're not ready.
Overall, a considerable amount of talent exists among the Cardinals' top six receiver options with Hopkins leading the way. Murray, who is the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, should take a significant step forward in Year 2 as a result.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sign Tom Brady
How could this year's No. 1 spot possibly belong to anyone else?
Tom Brady brings instant credibility—both on and off the field—to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization.
The Buccaneers are now considered contenders, which is no small feat since the team hasn't made the postseason since the 2007 campaign.
Brady is a living, breathing legend. While his six Super Bowl championships, four Super Bowl MVPs, three NFL MVP awards and 14 Pro Bowls don't transfer from New England to Tampa Bay, the mentality the 42-year-old signal-caller brings certainly does.
"Doing whatever I can to help younger players evolve as people and players matters a lot to me," Brady wrote in an open letter on The Players' Tribune. "I've learned so much during my 20 years in New England—and I want to bring those things to a new team.
"Right now, though, I have things to prove to myself."
Is Brady the same quarterback today he was just a few years ago? Of course not. That's OK. He doesn't need to be with the supporting cast the Buccaneers have in place.
But the future Hall of Famer's ferocious competitive spirit, understanding of the game and willingness to make everyone better should lift the franchise beyond its previous standing.
"I've never been around somebody in the huddle where you just knew—you just knew there was no way we were gonna lose," former teammate Damien Woody told ESPN's Jenna Laine. "He was so prepared. His drive, his will to win—it was [Michael] Jordan-like."