It’s somewhat unfathomable that Tom Brady could play anywhere but with the New England Patriots, but such is the reality that we’re presented with.
Brady will soon become a free agent and will be courted seriously by other teams for the first in his decorated career.
He can only sign a contract with another team on March 18 or afterwards, but it’s not too early to imagine where Brady will end up next season. Below is a ranking of his destinations, based on team fit and win probability, considering he’s used to the decades of unmatched success.
1) Los Angeles Chargers
This might be the most viable option, both from Brady’s perspective and among the suitor’s. In some ways, it’s an easy marriage of sorts for both parties, as the Chargers recently jettisoned their franchise quarterback, Philip Rivers, with ostensible hopes of greener pastures.
Brady wouldn’t be the fountain of youth that some Chargers fans are hoping for, but he makes sense for a few different reasons. He’ll only have Tyrod Taylor to beat out on the existing depth chart and would take over as the team’s starting quarterback immediately, while being paired with talented receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. If the Chargers elect to re-sign Melvin Gordon, he’ll have more options than he did with the 2019 Patriots, and will be re-invigorated by the challenge of trying to knock off Patrick Mahomes and the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Even if the Chargers elect to use the No. 6 overall pick on their quarterback of the future, Brady will serve as the absolutely perfect mentor, a situation not seen since Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre (who, admittedly, wasn’t thrilled to share his knowledge with his apprentice) and could pay dividends.
Do the Chargers want to pay Brady a commanding salary that Rivers would’ve demanded? Not necessarily, but the ancillary benefits of having a transcendent legend (read: ticket sales) will outweigh the existing salary cap concerns. For Brady, he’ll return home to California and might be the player to invigorate an otherwise indifferent Los Angeles market.
2) Tennessee Titans
Brady’s competitive streak is part of NFL lore at this juncture and it’s easy to see him getting worked up about joining the team that eliminated his Patriots, only to swoop in now that he’s a free agent. It wouldn’t sit well in New England, we’re sure, but there are a few reasons why Brady to the Titans ought to be compelling for both parties.
Ryan Tannehill revived his career with the Titans last season, leading the team to an unexpected AFC Championship Game appearance. Tannehill, like Brady, is also a free agent this spring and though he played the best ball of his career, it may be hard to make the case to retain him over Brady, even if the Patriots star is declining.
The ties to New England are obvious here. Brady won three Super Bowls with head coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson was with the Patriots in various roles from 2002-13. Though no organization can directly replicate New England’s success, Tennessee is trying to build an accurate facsimile.
“Tom’s a former teammate,” Vrabel said to NESN. “He’s a friend. He’ll always be a friend. And I know, like a lot of people, he’ll do what’s best for him and his family. Wherever that may be, I’m not sure.”
3) Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas reportedly offered Brady a two-year, $60-million contract. Putting aside the obvious tampering concerns for a second, it’s clear that they’re interested in signing the greatest of all-time. Whether it makes sense, however, is another story entirely.
Derek Carr and his salary cap stands in the way of bringing Brady to The Entertainment Capital of the World. If they’re going to pursue Brady, the Raiders will have to make a decision on what to do with Carr quickly. If Carr is released or traded before June 1, the Raiders will incur a $5 million cap hit but will save $16 million - which, ostensibly will be used to be pay Brady.
Patience might be a virtue here. If the Raiders wait until June to release or trade Carr, they will save $19 million, with the $5 million cap hit to be split over the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Brady could become affordable and the idea of him wearing the famed black-and-silver is Mark Davis’ dream.
Patience, however, is a double-edged sword. By the time the Raiders are forced to make a decision on Brady, he may have signed elsewhere, either with the Patriots or another suitor. It’s not a perfect scenario and the Raiders have to see whether they’re willing to commit to Brady immediately.
4) Miami Dolphins
Leaving New England to play for another AFC East opponent wouldn’t go over too well, but it has to be a viable option for Brady.
Miami boasts the most cap space out of any team in the league with roughly $93 million to mess around with and while it could be argued that money could be spent better elsewhere, prying Brady away from a club that tortured them for the past two decades would be at the very least a symbolic victory.
Money, weather, glitz and glam aside, this might not be a great option for Brady. Miami tried to unleash one of the most blatant tanking campaigns the league has ever seen, and didn’t even execute that correctly, finishing with a bad-but-not-dreadful 5-11 record. It’s hard to imagine someone so accustomed to winning joining a team that envied draft picks over everything as an ideal spot for the next chapter of his career.
5) Cincinnati Bengals
It’s easy to see why one would easily deride this option and in truth, there’s a reason why the Bengals finish dead last on this list. They’re widely assumed to be taking Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and for good reason.
In the event that Burrow refuses to commit to the Bengals - a notion that has become a hot rumour over the past few weeks - then the Bengals will be forced to find a last-ditch option. Brady is far more than that, and whether he’d want to sign with the NFL’s bottom-feeders adds another element here. Consider this the last viable option for both parties as Brady thrives off competition, and the Bengals would be coming to him here in a position of desperation.
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