With all the conversation percolating at the NFL combine about the assembly line of great quarterback prospects, there’s been subtext about another notable player whose destination will eventually surpass all others in terms of sensationalism and news value.
Does a day ever go by without someone wondering whether Tom Brady will still be playing for the New England Patriots next season?
The subject of Brady vs. the Patriots has been big news again this week because a number of news outlets – the Boston Herald, in particular – have written speculative stories indicating its becoming increasingly clear Brady is headed elsewhere for 2020 and likely beyond.
By the way, it’s becoming increasingly clear because Brady is apparently telling people close to him he’ll be headed in a new direction.
Of most significance, the Patriots themselves are preparing for Brady’s likely departure and that’s the first time since this process began that eventuality has been acknowledged.
NFL free agency begins on March 16 and until then no one really knows what’s going to happen. But Brady and his representatives have apparently taken a great interest in researching possible alternatives, either for their own edification or perhaps to just tickle Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft.
Brady cannot begin negotiating with other teams until the NFL clears the way for conversation. ESPN reported the other day the Patriots and Brady do not even have a scheduled meeting to this point. We wouldn’t put too much importance in that. You figure Brady and Belichick have each other’s cellphone numbers and finding time for each other won’t be a major problem.
“They know how I feel about them. I know how they feel about me. We’ve always had a great relationship. We always will,” Brady said earlier in February.
If you’re looking for a reason why the Patriots and Brady have not spoken, it’s because no one in the league is sure what the business climate will be for the 2020 season. The NFL Players Association is scheduled to vote soon on a new collective bargaining agreement that would extend labor peace for the next decade.
Until the CBA is ratified – or not – there’s no sense in teams talking financials because how a future contract might be constructed fully depends on the details inherent in a new labor deal.
“Without knowing about the CBA, that talk can’t happen,” a source told ESPN.
The point is, Brady is aware there is great interest in his services for at least the next two seasons and he might actually be able to make more in those places than he could in New England. At the very least, Brady will be able to leverage any deal he negotiates with the Patriots knowing he will make as much, perhaps more, with another team.
What’s certain is Brady will be 43 when the 2020 season begins. Will some team be willing to pay him $30 to $35 million a year for two years in hopes the four-time Super Bowl MVP, who threw for 4,057 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2019, still has more to give?
Not only does Brady thinks so. He knows so.
So who are these other teams in pursuit? Well, there are a number of teams badly in need to a transfusion at the position. But the Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders seem to punctuate every sentence.
Look at it this way: The longer the Patriots go without even trying to use back channels to communicate their interest in retaining Brady, the more interest Brady is certain to have in those not afraid to express their affection.
If you want to be truly cynical about it, its conceivable to think the Patriots might even expect Brady to extend them a hometown discount by accepting an offer that might come in a few million below what other teams are willing to pay him.
Is Brady’s affection for the comfort and safety of an environment he knows so well worth him leaving $8 to $10 million over two years on the table? Why should it.
What Brady does will likely kick off a chain reaction that will include the signings of other veteran free agent QBs like Philip Rivers, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston.
“When you think of Tom, Tom’s always going to be a New England Patriot,” Broncos general manager John Elway told The Athletic. “He’s at that time in his life he still wants to play. It’ll be interesting for him to kind of explore and see what’s out there. I’m sure that’s exciting to him to kind of look around and see what’s available.”
Apparently, even Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, is uncertain where she’ll be having coffee in the morning come September.
“I would love to know where I’m going to be living this year,” she said on an Instagram story. “But I don’t know that yet. Hopefully somewhere nice and wherever my husband is happy playing, so we will see.”