Our beloved planet Earth has a gravitational pull, one that keeps us planted firmly on its surface. It keeps the moon in orbit around it causing balance and harmony to nature. However, within our celestial neighborhood, there is a neighbor with a far more significant gravitational force; our sun. It is the glue that holds our solar system together by way of its massive gravitational pull. You may be asking yourself, “what the heck does Astrophysics have to do with the NFL, and more specifically, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady?”
Going back to earlier last week, the New England Patriots said that they were going to release Pro Bowl cornerback Stephan Gilmore; social media erupted with anticipation of Gilmore coming to Tampa — that it essentially was a shoo-in. The attraction of playing with Tom Brady is more than apparent. He has the pull that gets players to come and play in Tampa just for a chance to get a championship ring. Yet, the NFL is the sun, and its gravitational pull is far more powerful. A paycheck.
Stephen Gilmore is a Defensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl Champion, All-Pro, and Pro Bowler. He is not a player that needs to do very much in the remainder of his career — aside from making money. The thought that he would not want to go to a team that would pay him the most money is a bit naïve. When it was all said and done, it was a moot point anyway, as Gilmore was traded away for some magic beans to the Carolina Panthers.
Since Tom Brady has arrived in the Tampa Bay area, suddenly, all eyes turned to the franchise, and higher profile players are now willing to come to play for the team and are even willing to taking less pay. Last season, Gronk came out of retirement to play with his long-time quarterback, and the AB rumors began and would not stop until he ultimately wound up in the building, signing papers. Leonard Fournette was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars and could not resist the chance to play with the GOAT. After the 2019 season, the return of Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul was questionable with fans at best. — until Tom Brady signed with the team. Following the historic Super Bowl Championship season, the Buccaneers kept the band together, bringing back all twenty-two of their previous starters — the Brady effect. Tom Brady’s gravity helped keep this championship team together, and in most cases, players were willing to play for less money than they would get elsewhere. The bringing back of so many players did come with salary cap gymnastics that would impress Mr. Fantastic. The injury bug reared its ugly head towards the secondary, and a phone call from Tom Brady swayed in the Bucs favor Richard Sherman.
Tom Brady and many other athletes just have this type of gravity that pulls other players towards playing with them. It attracts them like an asteroid coming too close to the Earth. It draws them into the atmosphere. It keeps players like Gronkowski firmly in his orbit for the remainder of their careers — like the moon in synchronous orbit with the Earth.
Buccaneers’ fans are quickly becoming accustomed to this type of celestial occurrence — to the point of expectation when a player is released. JJ Watt comes to mind. When he was released by Texas, the buzz surrounding him coming to Tampa was enormous. Some, however, did not like the idea — I was one of those — yet a lot of folks were in love with the idea. The general belief was that “he could sign for less money to come play in Tampa and be a serious contender for a ring. H could be a rotational guy and help an already potent pass rush be even better.” Gilmore, for many people, was a foregone conclusion when the news broke. He would take what money we could throw his way because of his history with Tom Brady.
Looming at the center of any solar system in the cosmos is a star that exudes large amounts of gravity, keeping all the planets that orbit it in line. In the NFL, that gravity for the players is the almighty dollar. In most circumstances that is the thing that players will gravitate towards. I am old enough to remember the stranglehold teams had over players and movements and earning potential back in the day and the fight for free agency. Players of a certain ilk do not have to take less. They will go to the highest bidder when the chips are down. JJ Watt, as mentioned previously, signed for a load more money with the Arizona Cardinals. Gilmore would have more than likely signed with a team that was willing to give the 30-year-old veteran an immediate multi-year deal or a good deal this season with a bumper contract in the off-season when the cap goes up. Analysts always point out the best fit for a player based on his skill set and team schemes, but NFL Defensive Coordinators are egotistical enough, in reality, to try and fit a player who has a great pedigree into their team. Simply look at trying to put Darrelle Revis into a cover two scheme when his whole career was based on coverage. He wasn’t nicknamed Revis Zone. He was nicknamed Revis Island.
Gravity plays a huge role in the universe, holding it together. In the NFL, players hold a certain gravity that attracts players into wanting to play with them; and Tom Brady is certainly one of those players. With an NFL career being, on average, the shortest of any of the major American sports, money will always have a larger gravitational pull. So the next time a big-name player is released and has some tread left on the tires or is a player that could help the Buccaneers out, in a way, please, Bucs fans do not build everyone up emphatically with expectations that the player will immediately sign with the team. Do not blow a fuse on Twitter. Do not @ Jason Licht and threaten to beat him with a spike baseball bat if he does not sign the player. Please do not arrogantly post that it is a done deal and post your photoshopped image of that player in Pewter and Red on your timeline. It is not good for your stress level when it does not happen. We all love the game and think that we know what is best for our favorite team, and believe wholeheartedly that we can build the best roster because we won our fantasy league two years running. We are still fans and just that. I implore you to keep a level head. Remember, Tom Brady has a lot of gravity but is not the center of the NFL solar system — that is still, money.