Patriots

Charlie Weis on Tom Brady's future: Why is he a free agent if he didn't want to look into it?

Charlie Weis on Tom Brady's future: Why is he a free agent if he didn't want to look into it?

MIAMI — Few know what Tom Brady has meant to the growth and development of the Patriots dynasty better than Charlie Weis. 

The former Patriots offensive coordinator, who's now working as a Sirius XM NFL Radio host, helped guide Brady from young game-manager to one of the game's greats. Together they refined the Erhardt-Perkins offensive system that's broken records.

On Radio Row on Monday afternoon, I asked Weis what he thinks will happen with Brady this offseason. Where will the 43-year-old quarterback, who's scheduled to hit free agency for the first time in his career, end up?

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"Let me give two answers to that," Weis said. "I'm just going over what I hope happens and then a practical answer, too. For the New England Patriots, I hope Tommy retires as a New England Patriot for their fans, for their owner, for the organization. I want it to look like when Eli [Manning] walked away the other day. 

"I want to be sitting in the front row — well, it used to be the front row, it'll probably be the eighth row now — I want to be sitting in that audience when they're having his announcement of retirement."

But Weis understands the reality of pro football. He understands the uncertainty involved when a player hits the market. He understands the possibility exists that the storybook ending may not be the ending for a quarterback who's scrawled dozens of fairy tales over the course of 20 years in New England.

"That being said," Weis continued, "Joe Montana left the 49ers, right? My only question, and it's rhetorical, but Tommy's an unrestricted free agent. If he didn't want to at least look into that, why would he be an unrestricted free agent? I'm just asking. It's a rhetorical question. We don't have to give an answer to that. That's not the answer that I hope happens, but, I mean, it's a worthy question to ask."

It is. Brady had the franchise tag option removed for 2020 when he and the Patriots re-worked his deal last summer. He invited the opportunity to have some autonomy over his future. As a result, he'll have a chance to gauge the market and see how teams value his services.

How many teams believe he's the quarterback who three seasons ago won the MVP? How many believe he's the quarterback who two seasons ago made key throws in the AFC title game and Super Bowl to win a sixth Lombardi? How many teams believe he's the middling quarterback his 2019 numbers suggest he might be?

By the time the NFL Combine rolls around next month, and as the league creeps closer toward the legal tampering period ahead of free agency — March 16 and 17 — that market will likely have crystallized. Both for Brady and the Patriots. 

It seems unlikely that, given the way 2019 played out, the Patriots would be willing to go beyond what they gave Brady last year — a one-year deal worth $23 million — when Brady was looking for a longer commitment. But last year the Patriots didn't have to compete with other teams for Brady's services. 

To what lengths will Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft be willing to go to ensure Brady is back? To what lengths would another ownership group be willing to go in order to win the Brady bid, improving their quarterback position and upping their profile? 

If Brady is still trying to make a decision well into the tampering period and into free agency, it puts the Patriots in an awkward position. As we pointed out last week, would the Patriots go after another quarterback in order to make sure they're covered at that spot?

If they wait and wait for Brady, chances are he could choose another team. And chances are, by then, the rest of the league's quarterback dominoes could have fallen, and the Patriots would be forced to go with Jarrett Stidham, a rookie, or a less-than-desirable free agent. 

It's a delicate dance. Emotions, dollars, legacies hang in the balance. But if Brady hits free agency, it's inevitable.

And if he didn't want to hit free agency, as Weis explained, then why would he be an unrestricted free agent?

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.