The Patriots have been able to remain one of the top teams in the league for a couple of decades, largely based on the presence of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
But with one of them uncertain to remain in New England, the future for the team could get decidedly cloudier.
Former Patriots linebacker and ESPN analyst Rob Ninkovich told Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald that if Brady leaves, it could trigger an exodus of free agents and make it harder to lure new guys in.
“It’s going to be difficult to try and bring everybody back. I would think if Tom comes back, one of those other players comes back,” Ninkovich said of their passel of free agents. “But if Tom doesn’t come back, I don’t know if those guys are going to want to stick around. Because what’s the outlook for the team? Is it a rebuilding phase? What happens moving forward?
“That would be a hard sell. In years past, the Patriots have been able to get guys at a bargain, because it’s an older veteran, a guy who’s looking for a Super Bowl, for a playoff run. They’re approached by the Patriots, who say, ‘Look, we’re not going to guarantee the biggest contract, but we’re going to give you an opportunity to play in the playoffs and Super Bowl if you’re interested. Ninety-nine percent of the guys are ‘yeah, I want some validation for my football career.’’’
And while there’s ample reason to trust Belichick, the sales job definitely gets tougher without a known commodity at quarterback.