Even if Tom Brady finds his way to free agency for the first time ever, the New England Patriots should feel good about their chances of retaining him.
In case you haven’t been following the New England Patriots much since their untimely exit from the 2019 playoffs, things haven’t exactly been turning up roses for the six-time Super Bowl champions of late.
For starters, the team has a long laundry list of players headed toward free agency — including Devin McCourty, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Joe Thuney, and one Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.
Even if they manage to retain most or all of those guys, the Patriots still have significant holes they need to plug on their roster before next season gets underway (tight end, wide receiver, guard, defensive lineman, etc.).
To top it all off, they’re also expected to face the toughest schedule in the NFL next season. No franchise has a harder path back to the playoffs than the Patriots based off 2019 winning percentages.
That path gets a whole lot easier though if they don’t lose their marquee free agent this spring. Scratch that — that path gets a whole lot easier if they don’t lose the NFL’s marquee free agent this spring.
For the first time in 20 years, the Patriots’ starting quarterback could be someone other than Tom Brady.
New England had their opportunity to lock up Brady with a multi-year extension and they chose not to do so at the time, understandably just a bit apprehensive about what the future might hold if they found themselves hamstrung by a large contract dedicated to a declining legend in his mid-40s.
The problem, of course, is that here we are in the spring of 2020, and it’s painfully obvious that the best option for the Patriots at quarterback is still Brady.
Even a 43-year-old Brady with a diminished supporting cast (no Rob Gronkowski, an injury-riddled Julian Edelman, and a slew of uninspiring and unreliable youngsters) is better than any other quarterback prospect realistically available to the Pats in the draft — as well as any other veteran available in free agency.
So what’s the good news if you’re rooting for the Patriots and Brady to give it one last go-around together? Well, nothing is for certain this early in the game yet, but at least as of mid-February, it seems like the money’s still on the Patriots re-signing Brady in the end.
Why? Because Brady’s a smart man, too. Just as the best option for New England remains Tom Brady, the best option for Tom Brady in 2020 should probably remain New England.
Brady’s not going to find a better head coach in the NFL anywhere else than what he has right here in Bill Belichick. And if there was ever any truth to rumors and reports of a rift between the two men, NBC Sports’ Tom E. Curran claims that all is hunky-dory in Beantown between the two New England legends these days.
"“Something worth noting is there is very little rancor right now. The situation is what it is. The sides are going to work to make it work. Why they are here, what could have been done to avoid this, who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s to blame? I’m not sensing it. There’s been plenty in the past. Now – with Brady having the freedom to say, “No thanks, it’s been great…” and the team truly being in the “year-to-year” contractual situation they wanted, nobody seems to have an active resentment. Also, I think the gravity of what may loom – the specter of a historic 20-year run ending – has added an air of solemnity.”"
Curran also reports that the Patriots aren’t concerned about the potential financial aspects of a new deal with Brady.
Although it’s certainly not something they probably want — Brady is turning 43 before the season begins whether he stays in New England or leaves — they must know by now that he’s the best option they have for 2020… and probably for 2021 as well, depending on who they take in April’s draft.
The biggest question now becomes what can the Patriots do to prove to Brady they’ll get him a better supporting cast before September rolls around.
It’s clear they need to make some sizable moves in the draft and in free agency (probably more so the latter) to give him offensive reinforcements, but the catch-22 of the situation is they don’t really know how much money they have to work with until they know if Brady’s coming back or not.
For now, we all can at least breathe just a tad easier knowing that the two sides in this equation — the Patriots and Brady himself — appear to be in a good place as they embark on this new and unexpected journey together.