Fans need to sit back, take a breath, and realize that both the New England Patriots and Tom Brady are smarter than all these “sources.”
Early Thursday morning, ESPN insider Jeff Darlington said on television that he would be “stunned” if Tom Brady re-signed with the New England Patriots at this point.
To be clear, this wasn’t just Darlington’s personal opinion or hypothesis on the end result of this highly-publicized situation either — this was supposedly an ironclad takeaway from a respected reporter with sources very close to Brady himself.
A report later followed that said Brady is “currently operating under the belief that he will enter free agency to play somewhere other than New England next season, a sentiment the quarterback has shared with others.” Again, this statement was alleged to Darlington’s sources.
These same sources added that “while Brady has his eyes very clearly on free agency, there is still a belief in his circles that the Patriots will have their opportunity to convince Brady to stay. But at this point, Brady is evaluating the NFL landscape with the intention of departing.”
There’s obviously a lot to unpack in all of this.
The sports world immediately took the ESPN story, ran with it, and spun it a million different ways. The prevailing notion was that suddenly the tides had turned, new information had come to light, and the previously unthinkable was now all but done.
Not so fast.
Calmer heads — more rational, patient people — will note that it was only a day or two ago that Brady’s longtime agent, Don Yee, was reportedly scheduling a meeting with the Patriots. We’re still 20 days away from the new league year and the start of free agency. We’re still more than two weeks away from the start of the “legal tampering period.”
Whether or not Brady and the Patriots have made any progress in their talks regarding 2020 — in fact, whether or not they’ve even talked at all — shouldn’t be all that alarming or surprising to anyone. You’ll note the same situation is currently unfolding (or not unfolding) between the Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott, and perhaps even between the Tennessee Titans and Ryan Tannehill.
The Cowboys and Prescott are a better example though, since Tennessee is more rumored to be interested in Brady than Dallas is. It seems like some kind of deal between the Cowboys and Prescott is all but guaranteed — it would be shocking to see them move on from such a promising young star.
Obviously, the major difference between Dallas and New England’s respective situations is that the Patriots cannot franchise tag Brady, whereas the Cowboys could technically tag Prescott. But there are enough similarities between the two scenarios even still.
The elephant in the room that no one seems to be talking about enough is the potential new CBA that could get passed before free agency starts. NFL owners have already voted to approve the deal, as have union reps and leaders. All it takes now is a majority vote from the players themselves and the new CBA will kick into effect for this upcoming season.
What could that mean? Everything.
A new CBA would change not only the length of the regular season and the preseason, it would also change the playoffs. Furthermore, it would alter the complexion of NFL rosters by changing the limits on practice squads, active rosters, IR designations, etc.
It would change the nature of the financial side of the NFL as well — most pertinently to the Patriots, it would alter the way contracts can get written and the way the salary cap works.
That last bit is particularly pivotal to the Patriots as they try to figure out who to keep and who to let walk in free agency. A revised CBA completely alters the fabrics of what they can offer Brady in 2020 and beyond. If the vote doesn’t happen or if it does happen but the majority vote “no,” then the Patriots find themselves in this same situation but with significantly less leverage.
New England — particularly Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick — are essentially in wait-and-see mode right now with regards to the CBA. They’re hoping that a vote happens and that the deal passes, as it is expected to do now. If and when that happens over the next week or so, they can put the proverbial pedal to the metal and really go all-in with their pursuit to re-sign Brady.
As such, everyone should pump the brakes a little bit right now with all the hot takes and “sky is falling” thoughts regarding Brady and Belichick breaking up the band. That may very well happen still this spring, but chances are most of these reports, rumors, and “sources” right now are more smoke than fire.