At the beginning of the new league year when free agency starts and players begin to switch teams, we allow ourselves to drift off into fantasy land. We imagine mega-trades and super deals. We also get the first glimpse of teams and their game plan for the upcoming season – some are tearing the house down and rebuilding. Others are only a piece or two away from going the distance and will use free agency to their advantage.
Looking ahead to the 2020 season and a number of teams have decided to push all their chips to the middle of the table and go all in to win this year. The phrase you will hear all over your socials is “win now” – effectively stating that the teams in question are placing a lot at stake to come out at the end of the season as Super Bowl champs. The list below visits a number of franchises who are all in on 2020.
This goes without saying really. The Bucs had rode the Jameis Winston wave all the way to shore. After finishing last season as the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season many knew the former number one overall pick was finished in Tampa. With a range of weapons on offence and a young and exciting defence the Bucs are well shaped to make a playoff run – they just need a quarterback and it just so happens that in their time of need, the greatest player to ever play the position became a free agent.
The Bucs landed Tom Brady from the New England Patriots after the six time Superbowl champ’s storied career in the north east came to a surprising end. Brady signed a two year, fully guaranteed, $50 million deal with the Buccaneers as he prepares to enter his 21st season in the league.
I don’t think there has ever been a more obvious signal of intent from a team that their intention is to place all bets on the upcoming season and win now. Paying a quarterback who will be 43 when the season starts fifty million dollars because you believe he is the missing piece to the puzzle is brave, bold and downright exciting. Football fans had become more than accustomed to the domination of the Patriots over the past two decades and often the bench mark for success was how well you could keep up with them. Brady was the reason for that success and for him to bring his wealth of both talent and knowledge – and to pair that with Bruce Arians – will do nothing but positive things for the Buccaneers organisation.
A two year window for Tampa to win it all and prove themselves as worthy suitors of Brady and his services. Brady had struggled in recent seasons with his on field production just not as good as it used to be. He now finds himself throwing the ball to a deadly wide receiver duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The pair had a breakout year last season combining for 153 catches, 2490 yards and 17 total touchdowns.
Taking into consideration their quarterback also threw 30 interceptions, it will provide a glimmer of hope to both Bucs fans and players that their new quarterback is a serial protector of the football. Brady has never thrown more than 14 interceptions in a season, half of Winston’s total for this season alone! To provide a bit of comparison, since Winston entered the league in 2015 he has thrown 88 interceptions. In the same time frame Brady has thrown just 36. The Buccaneers have improved on offence and are aiming to go all the way.
Despite no dramatic roster changes or free agency signings worth writing home about the Saints still make this list. The window is closing in New Orleans and the sun is quickly setting on Drew Brees’ historic career. Three seasons in a row now the Saints have suffered heart-breaking playoff losses. They were on the wrong side of the Minnesota Miracle in the 2017 divisional round. A disastrously bad non-call on a blatant pass interference cost them the 2018 NFC Championship game at home against the Rams and an upset loss at home to the Vikings again in the divisional round at home.
Each of those three seasons they have been legitimate contenders to go all the way. The early portions of the off season were filled with speculation that Drew Brees was going to retire but after putting pen to paper on another two year deal the gauntlet has been laid down. Everyone knows Brees deserves more than one ring to retire with and with the team he has around him now is the best time to achieve that.
Michael Thomas has become as important to Drew Brees as his own right hand. Connecting on 149 passes for 1,725 yards, Thomas set the single season receptions record. He was the equivalent of a get out of jail free card for Brees and was a third down cheat code. Early into free agency, the Saints acquired former Denver Bronco and 49er Emmanuel Sanders. This is a huge acquisition for the Saints as it means defences will have to think twice about using double coverage on either of these two star wideouts. Thomas may not see the same amount balls thrown his way this year but will definitely find himself more open than he did last season.
The defence is well primed to hold up their end of the deal in regards to a win now mind set. Totaling 51 sacks, 13 interceptions and 11 fumbles they will rely heavily on the production of key players like Marshon Lattimore, Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport.
The Sean Payton, Drew Brees Saints have been at the top of the NFC South pile for the best part of the last decade but with Tom Brady now on the scene, the competition just got a hell of a lot more difficult. This is going to be a division to keep an eye on at all times with the likelihood of producing three playoff teams.
I spoke of the Brady move and how it was a clear statement of intent from the Bucs. The Colts are in a similar situation. They signed former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to a one year 25 million dollar deal. The Colts’ were thrown into turmoil as an organisation after the shock retirement of their franchise star Andrew Luck.
With a well-built roster, and a head coach who wasn’t even supposed to be there, the Colts have maintained a high level of play and had been consistently competitive over the past couple of years. head coach Frank Reich landed the job after Josh McDaniels left the Colts’ at the altar having initially accepted the job.
Much like the teams above, the Colts’ window of success is definitely closing. Wideout T.Y Hilton has struggled to stay healthy and with Rivers only signing a one year deal, it’s somewhat of a tell-tale sign that they are putting all their eggs in the 2020 basket. Rivers’ level of play definitely declined in LA in his last number of games, but moving to a team with perhaps the best offensive line in football will give him more time in the pocket to make better throws. Paired with Marlon Mack, the fourth year running back who is coming off the back of his best ever year and his first 1,000+ yard season, the Colts’ definitely have options of versatility on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively, they traded their first round pick in this year’s draft to the San Francisco 49ers in return for former first rounder, DeForest Buckner. Buckner will line up alongside Justin Houston, Ben Banogu and Kemoko Turay to form a formidable D-line worthy of making a playoff push. In a division were the Texans are imploding under GM/HC Bill O’Brien, The Jags are a mess and the Titans who just paid Ryan Tannehill a stack of cash, there has never been a better time for the Colts’ to win the division and make a deep playoff run.