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

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

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.

Updated Patriots cornerback depth chart after Michael Jackson trade with Lions

Updated Patriots cornerback depth chart after Michael Jackson trade with Lions

The New England Patriots added even more depth to an elite group of cornerbacks Sunday by acquiring Michael Jackson in a trade with the Detroit Lions.

Jackson, who's listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, was a fifth-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2019. The Detroit Lions signed him off the Cowboys practice squad last season and he played in one game for the NFC North team.

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Here's an updated look at the Patriots' cornerback depth chart with Jackson in the fold:

--Stephon Gilmore
--Jason McCourty
--J.C. Jackson
--Jonathan Jones
--Joejuan Williams
--Michael Jackson
--Myles Bryant
--D’Angelo Ross

It should be noted that Justin Bethel is listed at cornerback, but most of his snaps come on special teams. 

A strong case could be made that cornerback is the deepest position on the Patriots roster. The group is led by Stephon Gilmore, who became the first Patriot ever to win the AP's NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2019. Gilmore is the league's best cornerback and has earned first team All-Pro selections in back-to-back seasons. 

He's not the only talented cornerback in the Patriots secondary, though. 

J.C. Jackson excelled in coverage last season, too, especially on passes beyond 20 yards. In fact, Jackson had the lowest passer rating allowed when targeted of all cornerbacks in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.

One of the most intriguing players in the Patriots secondary is second-year cornerback Joejuan Williams. He was a second-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2019 but saw limited playing time as a rookie.

The depth of the Patriots defense has been hit hard in recent months due to free agent departures and veterans opting out of the 2020 season amid concerns over COVID-19. One position that has remained largely intact is cornerback, and barring any significant injuries, it could be the team's most productive position this coming season.

Patriots acquire CB Michael Jackson in trade with Lions

Patriots acquire CB Michael Jackson in trade with Lions

The New England Patriots have added another cornerback to their depth chart.

On Sunday, they announced they've acquired Michael Jackson from the Detroit Lions for an undisclosed 2022 draft pick.

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Jackson was selected in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft (158th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys out of Miami. He started his rookie season on Dallas' practice squad before being signed by Detroit.

The 23-year-old played in only one game last season for the Lions.

Jackson joins a Patriots cornerback group that currently consists of Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, D'Angelo Ross, Justin Bethel, and Myles Bryant.