Patriots

2020 NFL free agency: What if Tom Brady's market just isn't there?

Patriots

First, Tennessee went with Ryan Tannehill. That meant Nashville was scratched from Tom Brady’s destination list.

Then, less than two hours later, word came down that the Niners were out.

A source told me the end came on Sunday when the lone wolf keeping the possibility of Brady in San Fran alive finally folded his tent. No matter how much Brady wanted to land there, no matter how great it all looked in the mind’s eye, it wasn’t going to work. Too much risk.

The Niners weren’t real likely in the first place.

But the Titans? They were. So what cooled them on Brady? And is what happened there a sign that the real market for his quarterbacking services isn’t what the folks around him imagined?

A couple of days before the Super Bowl, I wrote from Miami about the possibility of Brady finding no appealing landing spots.  

Within a day, I was told that wouldn’t be the case. Interest was so high, Brady himself was surprised.

In the month and a half since, I’ve kept hearing from one side the market is hot, hot, hot while the other side keeps saying, “I’m not seeing it…”

With the legal tampering period beginning Monday at noon, everybody’s got a chance to make a run at Brady before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

 

We’ll find out if the handful of teams said to be interested in bringing aboard the 43-year-old Brady really were or if most of them were just musing about the possibility.

Less than two weeks ago, my friend Jeff Darlington from ESPN said as many as eight teams would be in the running. Four teams were very serious, Darlington said.

Now we’re at the point where some of those teams have to put their money where their mouth is. How many will?

The bigger question? How do things unfold with the Patriots if — by Wednesday at 4 p.m. — it’s clear there is no league-wide bidding war?

For Brady, it would be a crushing development. He looked forward to being a free agent for the first time in 20 seasons. After playing in nine Super Bowls, winning six and becoming the greatest to ever play his position, imagine finding out teams would rather have Ryan Tannehill or Teddy Bridgewater?

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Make no mistake, Brady is a free agent because he grew fed up with the Patriots’ eternal low-balling and refusal to contractually commit.

If he gets mild to minimal interest, going back to the Patriots for more of the same haggling over a new deal will not be appetizing.

And what will Bill Belichick do with the knowledge that Brady is without leverage? Brady was paid $23M last year.

Is Belichick going to bid against himself so that Brady saves financial face?

Or is he more likely to say, “Gee, we just signed Devin and Matthew over the last couple of days and that $13.5M in dead money you’re carrying hurts us too. We can only give you $20M. Let us know what you want to do!”

And then what’s Brady’s move?

Sources in Foxboro say they hope Brady leads with his head.

If there’s no option out there that’s better than New England, they hope he won’t cut off his nose to spite his face. Suck it up. Stay. Because, even if there are aspects to staying that he finds unacceptable, leaving just to leave is the wrong approach.

And one that sources believe Brady will regret.