Ever see a GOAT on the move?
Make no mistake, Brady is still a baaaaa-d man, and he likely is ready to empty the tank in the twilight of his career. It just doesn’t seem like the end of his career is going to come on the team with which he won six Lombardi Trophies.
With the Patriots and Brady playing cat-and-mouse on the back pages, it seems increasingly likely that the three-time All-Pro will finish his career away from New England. Of course, that means there are countless teams ready to (reportedly) break the bank to secure TB12’s services.
But just because Brady is an option doesn’t mean he is the best option. What happened in New England last season — the Patriots’ failure to advance beyond the wild-card round of the playoffs — was equal parts lack of true weapons and Brady’s performance.
If Brady is going to be a bridge or Band-Aid QB, he is going to be the best on the market, even at age 42. But not all situations are created equally.
Tennessee Titans: Brady or Ryan Tannehill?
Rumor: The Titans are favorites to land Tom Brady, per ESPN’s Jeff Darlington.
Tannehill shocked the world in a good way after he relieved Marcus Mariota of his starting duties midway through the 2019 season. Now Tannehill is a free agent with the Titans still being his best fit across the league.
The Titans are ready to win now. Defensively, they’re among the best in NFL. While Brady could be a tantalizing piece, it feels like stability with Tannehill, while giving him a full offseason’s work as the starter, would be more valuable to this team than a move to a third starting QB in less than a year. Does anyone know for a fact Brady is an upgrade at this stage in his career?
The Brady-to-Tennessee situation comes down to one question: Is a soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback a better, safer bet than a 30-year-old QB coming off a career year? The answer seems simple — until one realizes that expecting Tannehill to replicate his successful season is like expecting Ryan Fitzpatrick to do the same.
There’s also the question of cost: Should the Titans go all-in on Tom Terrific, then how much money will be left to pay running back Derrick Henry, should they choose to re-sign him? (They absolutely should, as an aside.)
Neither QB situation is perfect for the Titans. But if continuity matters — which it does, at least a little in the NFL — and stability matters, then the Titans should bring Tannehill back on a short-term deal and see if he can finish what he and Vrabel started in 2019. Tannehill did help lead them to the AFC title game after an exceptional season, and they knocked off the Brady-led Patriots in the process.
Los Angeles Chargers: Brady, Tyrod Taylor or a rookie QB?
Rumor: The Chargers are keeping an eye on Tom Brady, per CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora.
The Chargers unceremoniously ended the Philip Rivers Era this offseason because reasons. While the Chargers’ issues run deeper than QB, the facts remain that Rivers is out and LA is in the market for a new signal-caller.
The Chargers are going to be looking at a QB in the 2020 NFL Draft, so regardless of who they pick, a veteran on the roster to help Anthony Lynn could alleviate so many issues. Tyrod Taylor is currently employed as the team’s backup, and he is well-respected around the league as a smart, capable QB.
But even if the team is high on Taylor as a quick fix at QB while the neophyte learns, wouldn’t LA rather have the QB learning behind Brady? The answer seems obvious.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brady or Jameis Winston?
Rumor: The Bucs are “a threat” to steal Tom Brady, per Boston Globe’s Ben Volin.
Jameis Winston had a season worthy of a Netflix documentary in 2019. He is the first member of the 30 TD-30 INT club in NFL, which is now officially a thing. (Side note: As entertaining as that is to watch, it’s still important to not turn the football over, folks.)
That said, the Bucs are faced with a truly impossible situation: Do they re-sign Winston and hope Bruce Arians can continue to work magic with him as QB1? Or do they attempt to sign Brady — who would almost certainly be an improvement over Winston — and squeeze the last bit of football out of his bones?
The Bucs were a fun team to watch in 2019 not just for Winston’s Banner-and-Hulk act, but also because they were actually solid in Arians’ first year as coach. Armed with defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, if the Buccaneers didn’t have to sit through the Winston highwire act, then they would have won many more games behind consistent QB play. Consistently good, that is. Not consistently mediocre.
Oakland Raiders: Brady or Derek Carr?
Rumor: The Raiders are set to pursue Brady in free agency, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The moment the clock started ticking on the second Jon Gruden era with the Raiders, it started ticking down on the Derek Carr Era with the Raiders. Now, with Brady an option on the open market, it wouldn’t be outlandish if the Raiders were to move on from Carr and bring Brady out to the desert.
Gruden has done a good job building something with the Raiders in such a short time, and while Carr hasn’t been the problem in Oakland, he won’t be the solution in Las Vegas. With QBs aplenty in the 2020 draft, on the free agent market and via trade, the Raiders and Gruden will probably do extensive work on signal-callers this offseason. Brady is the one who requires the least homework. But should the Raiders take a QB in the first round this year, learning from (or stalking) Brady would potentially do wonders for a rookie.
Brady seems to be the better bet in the short term over Carr. We’ve seen Carr’s floor, and his ceiling isn’t much higher. Even coming off a career-best year, Carr doesn’t seem to be the type of player to elevate those around him. Also, his cap number is massive, so the Raiders could stand to save some money.
A move for Brady would be about the bottom line as much as it would be about winning or losing; filling seats in a new stadium is important, after all. Brady helps sell tickets.
Vegas loves a show, and there’s no better show than watching the greatest ever.
New York Giants: Brady or Daniel Jones?
Rumor: Don’t count out the Giants as potential suitors for Tom Brady, per the NFL Network’s Mike Giardi.
Joe Judge has had an interesting start to his Giants coaching career. As of Thursday, he had yet to refer to either Daniel Jones or Saquon Barkley by name to the media, a questionable way to ingratiate one’s self with his team in 2020.
Even with Daniel Jones’ inconsistency and turnover issues in 2019, it seems short-sighted for Judge to bench him (or worse) for Brady. Jones was much more polished than many believed he would be coming out of Duke, and he showed more good than bad (even if it was a slim margin) in a lost season. While the Giants had a ton of problems in 2019, Jones was probably 15th or 16th on the list, roughly.
It would be career suicide for Judge and general manager Dave Gettleman to hitch their wagon to an aging Brady in hopes that they would make a run at the playoffs in 2020, which would almost certainly be the expectation. If Brady is going elsewhere at this stage in his career, it’s to start and win, not play babysitter and mentor. Realistically, the Giants are at least a year away from even being considered for a wild-card spot. Brady, even with the knowledge he brings to a QB room and a team in general, wouldn’t be enough to expedite that process.
Jones deservedly took the starting job from Eli Manning in 2019, and he has earned some leash under a new coach who probably took the job knowing Jones is the long-term answer.
New England Patriots: Brady or the field?
Rumor: It’s Brady and the Patriots.
While the two parties tango, we’ve heard for years that the relationship between Brady and Belichick is tenuous at best, with Pats owner Bob Kraft filling out the weird football love triangle by devoting himself to Brady. The trade of once-future QB Jimmy Garoppolo pretty much solidified that line of thinking.
While the Patriots took Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham in last year’s draft, it seems as though he will be more of a backup than a potential starter with sneaky potential.
New England got by in 2019 on two things: a strong defense and strong special teams. Offense was the problem all year, and whether that was due more to an aging Brady or a weak supporting cast remains up for debate.
But what is not up for debate is that Brady’s time in New England feels like it’s running out — or is already out. While the defense can remain a strength, there’s no guarantee Brady can fend off Father Time for another year en route to a seventh ring. It didn’t work in 2019, so there’s little reason to believe it will in 2020.
That’s the business of football. Sometimes it’s just time to move on, and if there’s anyone who can figure out the next era of Patriots football, it’s Belichick.
Verdict: The field