NFL rumors: Raiders to pursue QB Tom Brady if he enters free agency

NFL rumors: Raiders to pursue QB Tom Brady if he enters free agency

Where there's smoke, there's normally fire. 

Since Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs by the Tennessee Titans during the wild-card round, whispers have circulated that Brady, who is set to become a free agent, might be set to pack his bag and move from the New England to Las Vegas to join the Raiders. 

While it seems improbable that Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick would let Brady leave the Patriots, it appears the Raiders talk wasn't just hot air. If he doesn't re-sign with the Patriots, the Raiders plan to pursue him when free agency opens March 18, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday, citing league sources. 

However, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported that the Patriots are intent on keeping Brady and are willing to pay him over $30 million per season to stay in New England.

Jon Gruden and Brady have a good relationship and league sources tell Schefter the Raiders coach wants Brady to join the Silver and Black. Brady was seen talking to Raiders owner Mark Davis at UFC 246 in Las Vegas last month and perhaps they weren't just discussing what blackjack table they would be hitting later that night. 

Brady, 42, is coming off a season in which the Patriots failed to put the necessary offensive weapons around him to make a successful run at the Super Bowl. With tight end Rob Gronkowski retiring and wide receivers Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon being released, Brady was left with an aging and banged-up Julian Edelman as his only truly reliable target. 

The Raiders not only would provide Brady with the contract he feels he is owed after years of team-friendly deals in New England, but also new marketing opportunities as the NFL prepares for its inaugural run in Las Vegas. 

On the field, the Raiders have one of the NFL's best offensive lines when fully healthy. Brady's former teammate Trent Brown earned Pro Bowl honors in his first Raiders season, while center Rodney Hudson is the best in the game at his position. 

The offensive weapons might be the sticking point with Brady and the Raiders, though, if they ever get to the negotiating table. 

While the Raiders have a dynamic tight end in Darren Waller, a clutch slot receiver in Hunter Renfrow and a star feature back in Josh Jacobs, the Silver and Black also lack the outside weapons Brady would want. 

[RELATED: Raiders should follow draft blueprint, raid Clemson-LSU]

That, however, could change in the upcoming NFL draft when the Raiders have two of the first 19 picks. This draft class is loaded with receiver talent from Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb to Clemson's Tee Higgins and Alabama stars Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs. 

If the Raiders can lure Brady to Las Vegas, it wouldn't be surprising to see them draft two young receivers early and give the six-time Super Bowl champion the weapons he needs to make their run as successful on the field as it would be off the field. 

Las Vegas, Raiders under consideration to host 2022 NFL draft


Las Vegas, Raiders under consideration to host 2022 NFL draft

Next month’s NFL draft was supposed to represent a grand introduction to Las Vegas as the league's newest market. The entertainment hub had big plans for the three-day event on The Strip, adjacent to the site of the nearly-constructed Allegiant Stadium that will be the Raiders new home in 2020. Top selections were going to ride through the Bellagio fountains on a boat for an introduction unlike any other., with events throughout the famous resort hub. 

Las Vegas Raiders merchandise was set to debut at an event attended by hundreds of thousands.

The coronavirus pandemic cancelled all of those plans. First all NFL draft public events got shut down due to bans on large gatherings and the practice of social distancing designed to slow the spread of the possibly fatal COVID-19 disease. Then the league pulled out of the city entirely in favor of an in-studio draft with prospects joining via video conferencing technology to ensure everyone involved stays healthy and safe.

Pulling the 2020 draft out of Las Vegas disappointed the Raiders, but it was a decision they expected and agreed with during this international public health crisis.

The Raiders may not have to wait long to put on a show. The NFL is considering Las Vegas as a draft host city in 2022, league executive vice president said Tuesday on a conference call.

The NFL has committed to Cleveland as a draft host in 2021 and Kansas City in 2023, but there’s an opening that could and should go to Las Vegas after it missed out on a chance to throw a big party.

The NFL also said it plans to start its season on time and play every game on the docket. The NFL schedule will be released by May 9 at this latest.

While the NFL is considering Las Vegas for 2022, they should secure that spot for the city as soon as possible. It’s more than deserving and shouldn’t be penalized for a set of circumstances completely out of their control.

NFL votes to expand playoffs to seven teams beginning with 2020 season

NFL votes to expand playoffs to seven teams beginning with 2020 season

If the 2020 NFL season does eventually kick-off, there will be a new wrinkle for teams to consider.

Via teleconference Tuesday, the NFL owners voted to expand the playoffs to seven teams per conference, the league announced in a statement. Only one team will get a first-round bye in each conference. The expanded playoffs will begin this season.

The format will remain the same, just with an extra game per conference on Wild Card Weekend. With the No. 2 seed hosting the No. 7 seed, No. 3 hosting the No. 6 and No. 4 hosting No. 5.

Had this rule change been in effect last season, the Los Angeles Rams (9-7) would have been the No. 7 seed in the NFC and would have faced the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card round, while the 8-8 Pittsburgh Steelers would have traveled to face the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

While some might see this as a way to reward mediocrity, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport shows this is not the case.

While the 49ers wouldn't have needed the expanded field in 2019, it could have helped Jon Gruden's Raiders. The Silver and Black sat at 6-4 after Week 11 and looked primed to make a playoff push. But consecutive losses to the New York Jets, Chiefs, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars put them behind the eight-ball. They entered Week 17 needing a win and losses by the Titans and Steelers, among other things, to claim the No. 6 seed.

Had this new rule been in place, the Raiders only would have needed to win and have one of those teams lose to claim the No. 7 seed. The Raiders, of course, lost to Drew Lock and the Denver Broncos in Week 17, but only after Gruden elected to go for a 2-point conversion to win the game after the Titans had knocked the Raiders out of playoff contention with a win over the Houston Texans.

[RELATED: Why Raiders should add running back in NFL draft]

The sports world currently is on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic and many of the leading minds in epidemiology believe the fall will see a spike in cases, which could threaten the NFL season or at least see it pushed back.

Whenever football does return, there will an extra playoff carrot for all the rabbits to chase.