I was fully expecting March Madness, but certainly nothing like this. This month has been like nothing any of us has ever seen before, and the cancellation of anything sport's related is only a miniscule part of the big picture.
That being said, what sport's fan doesn't look forward to this time of year? The NCAA Basketball tournament (both men's and women's), the NBA season winding down and the playoffs about to begin, and the start of another MLB season. All these yearly staples, points of interest in time where cherished memories have been made, have all been cancelled or delayed for the foreseeable future. At a time where society desperately needs sports entertainment to distract us from an uncertain future and disturbing reality, to restore that underappreciated sense of normalcy, there is none to be found.
But suddenly, out in the distance, a hero emerges. The NFL rides in on it's great white steed to save the day. This act of heroism hasn't transpired without difficulty, considering the cancellation of pro days and the limitations on visitation for prospects and free agents, but the NFL off season is progressing despite the present circumstances. The multiple story lines thus far in free agency has provided we the fans with a much needed distraction from societal concerns.
The sports-starved masses had been surviving on the unsatisfying tidbits found in the random CBA update or innumerable mock drafts, anxiously anticipating the start of the NFL free agency frenzy. The initial free agent signings definitely didn't disappoint. Here are a few quick observations.
Tom Brady leaves the New England Patriots in the rear-view mirror and moves the family to Tampa Bay, eventually. Though nothing is official, reportedly Brady will be taking his talents to Tampa Bay next season to play for the Buccaneers.
This is an unbelievable scenario to me if I am being honest. I thought for sure Brady's loyalty and legacy would result in him retiring a Patriot. Somehow this whole situation doesn't feel right in the big scheme of things. Love him or hate him, nobody can deny that Brady is the greatest winner in league history. Nine times he led his franchise to the Super Bowl, walking away victorious a untouchable record six times. Tom Brady is the Bill Russell of the NFL. True greatness is measured in championships for a QB, far more than mere statistics, and nobody touches Brady in that regard.
Now, after a battle of enormous egos with Coach Belichick, Brady still apparently has something to prove, if only to himself. Was he the straw that stirred the Patriots drink, or was the driving force behind his greatness the brilliance of Coach Belichick? He appears determined to find out for himself.
Then former Los Angeles Chargers QB Phillip Rivers signs with the Indianapolis Colts. Prior to last season, the Colts were blindsided by the unexpected retirement of franchise QB Andrew Luck. Their very real championship hopes were dashed, and a cloud of disappointment seemingly hung over the franchise all season. The Colts appeared set for greatness. Coming off a hugely successful draft, the Colts were blessed with a primarily young roster, and a ton of cap space.
They were only lacking the man in the middle, the QB capable of winning the big games. Signing Rivers could be just what the doctor ordered.
The Colts offensive line very well could be the best line that Rivers has ever operated behind. That fact should help minimize Rivers' lack of mobility at this late stage of his career, and offer him ample time to utilize an impressive stable of skill position players. Rivers is still searching for that ever elusive shot at a title, and this signing could be the perfect fit for both parties.
The most head scratching transaction of the week had to be the trade of Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins for Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson, with a couple of draft picks thrown in for good measure. What makes the trade so confusing is the fact the Texans traded away arguably the best receiver in the league, one who acted as a type of security blanket for their talented young QB Deshaun Watson, for an oft injured running back who's best season happened during the 2016 campaign. Puzzling decision indeed.
Last year's off season champions, the Cleveland Browns, had an up and down start to free agency. First they overpaid for a marginally productive tight end: former Atlanta Falcon Austin Hooper, making him the highest paid tight end in the NFL. However, the Browns were able to land coveted road grader RT Jack Conklin, the talented young former Tennessee Titan. Conklin is the type of elite free agent the Browns would have had no shot of signing just a couple of seasons ago. Both players should help the Browns already impressive running game be even more effective next season, especially the human zamboni machine Conklin, at least on paper. If last season taught the Dawg Pound anything, never count your chickens before they hatch.
History will remember the free agency period of 2020 for more than just the coronavirus. The unusually high number of established QBs, a living legend and a potential Hall of Famer among them, switching teams will be the lasting memory for many.
Undoubtedly, the fabric of the NFL changed drastically with the Brady/Bellichick divorce. One would have to believe the road to the Super Bowl for any AFC contender no longer goes through Foxboro. The end of an era, finally!
Only time will tell the full impact of all this free agency frenzy. But one thing’s for sure, it sure has been distracting!