Patriots

How Drew Brees' return impacts Tom Brady, Patriots and NFL free agency

How Drew Brees' return impacts Tom Brady, Patriots and NFL free agency

The New Orleans Saints should feel confident at least one of their three quarterbacks will return for the 2020 NFL season.

Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees announced Tuesday on Instagram that he's coming back for what will be his 20th pro season. Brees didn't explicitly say he's returning to the Saints, but the language in his Instagram post makes it sound like New Orleans is the likely destination.

How does Brees' decision impact Tom Brady and the New England Patriots as free agency nears? Let's take a look.

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1. Will Teddy Bridgewater and/or Taysom Hill leave the Saints?
It's unreasonable to expect Brees, Bridgewater and Hill all to be back in New Orleans next season. The Saints, according to OvertheCap.com, have the sixth-lowest salary cap space in the league and we don't yet know what Brees' 2020 salary will be. 

Bridgewater went 5-0 and played quite well in Brees' absence in 2019. He deserves to be a starter somewhere, and according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, there could be a robust market for the young quarterback.

Hill has been used in a variety of roles for the Saints, including quarterback, running back and wide receiver. He's among the most versatile players in the league and should receive a nice raise from whichever team signs him this offseason. It should be noted Hill is a restricted free agent, so it's a little easier for the Saints to keep him. Bridgewater is an unrestricted free agent.

Brees and Hill coming back, with the latter having a larger role in the offense, probably is the best-case scenario for the Saints. They should again be among the top contenders in the NFC as long as Brees is healthy next season.

2. Teddy Bridgewater is an intriguing Tom Brady replacement
Bridgewater would be among the best options for the Patriots if Brady were to leave in free agency. Brady, after the spending the last 20 seasons with the Patriots, has the ability to be a UFA for the first time in his career in March.

Brady obviously would be the best quarterback available if he reached the open market, but he'll be 43 years old in August. Teams looking for a more long-term answer at quarterback now are likely to have another good option in Bridgewater, who's only 27 years old.

Bridgewater completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 1,384 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions in nine appearances for the Saints in 2019. Two of his wins as a starter came against quality opponents in the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys.

He has not been a full-time starter since 2015, one year before he suffered a major knee injury. That said, Bridgewater is still young and ranks among the most accurate quarterbacks in the league. The resiliency he's shown to bounce back from a horrific injury and become a starting-caliber quarterback again has been quite impressive.

3. Cross one name off the top free agent QBs list
The 2020 class of free agent quarterbacks is pretty strong, even if Brees returns to the Saints.

In addition to Brady and Bridgewater, other players who could be available include Jameis Winston, Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota, Philip Rivers and Case Keenum. Teams looking to upgrade at quarterback in free agency should have plenty of options to consider once the market opens in March. 

4. NFL record books
Brady and Brees had a good duel in 2019 for the most regular season touchdown passes in league history, and with both quarterbacks set to play in 2020, that battle will resume in September. 


Click for the top free agent QBs in 2020

Bills WR gives Patriots bulletin-board material after Tom Brady departure

Bills WR gives Patriots bulletin-board material after Tom Brady departure

Is the AFC East officially wide open now that Tom Brady is no longer a member of the New England Patriots? At least one Buffalo Bills player thinks so.

Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie was ecstatic to hear the news of Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That comes as no surprise, as the ex-Pats QB is an absurd 32-3 against Buffalo in his 20-year career and New England has won 11 straight division titles with Brady under center.

During an interview with WROC in Buffalo last week, McKenzie expressed his excitement about Brady leaving while giving the Patriots some bulletin-board material.

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“The Brady situation, I cheered,” McKenzie said. “He’s a great player. Our team is stacked. The last two years we’ve been giving him a run for his money, but now that he’s gone, it’s going to kind of be the Bills’ time to take over.”

McKenzie's confidence isn't unfounded. The Bills made a big splash earlier this offseason by trading for star wide receiver Stefon Diggs, giving Josh Allen another dangerous weapon opposite John Brown. With Brady and several other key contributors leaving in free agency, the Patriots may have their work cut out for them next season.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane sang a much different tune than McKenzie on Thursday, saying it's "funny and comical how people are writing off the Patriots in the AFC East." Still, it's safe to bet McKenzie's words will be remembered in Foxboro when the 2020 campaign kicks off.

Scott Pioli: Why Bill Belichick, Cam Newton are 'like oil and water'

Scott Pioli: Why Bill Belichick, Cam Newton are 'like oil and water'

At various points this offseason, the New England Patriots have been connected to some of the free-agent quarterbacks on the open market. And after they lost Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, speculation increased that they could add a veteran to compete with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer in the quarterback room.

One guy that has been mentioned quite a bit is Cam Newton. The 2015 MVP was released by the Carolina Panthers this offseason but has yet to sign with a team.

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Newton has been tied to the Patriots mostly by betting odds, which does make some sense. After all, Stidham is inexperienced and Hoyer has been an average-at-best starter during his time in the NFL. Newton has a history of high-level play when healthy, so perhaps he'd be worth the gamble for the right team.

But will the Patriots actually pursue him? One of the team's former personnel executives doesn't think so.

In a recent interview with Zach Gelb of CBS Sports Radio, Scott Pioli, who worked in the Patriots front office from 2000-2008, spoke about Newton's connection to the Patriots. And ultimately, he doesn't think that Bill Belichick and Newton would be able to coexist.

"With Cam Newton, the Patriots thing is interesting because I've heard a lot of people talk about that. In my mind, having spent as much time with Bill as I did, I don't see those two coexisting together," Pioli said. "The personalities and beliefs of how the game should be played and is played, it seems like oil and water."

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Pioli joked that the Patriots will probably go right out and sign Newton after hearing these comments. But he ultimately just thinks Belichick and Newton wouldn't mesh well.

"I just see them as being very different personalities and having very different approaches to the game," Pioli said. "Bill believes in football more than entertainment. Cam believes that football and entertainment are almost equal partners. And in this day and age, it is, but Bill has the soul of a football man. I couldn't see that one working out too well. And if I did, it would probably have to be for one season."

Pioli makes some good points and perhaps that is why the team hasn't shown a lot of interest in Newton so far. Given that the team seems to believe in Stidham, it probably wouldn't make sense for them to bring in Newton to compete for the job if they're worried about how he might fit with the team.

Patriots fans should have a better idea of what the quarterback room will look like once the 2020 NFL Draft comes and goes. The Patriots may take another young player at the position to compete with Stidham and Hoyer. If they do, that would likely fully eliminate the possibility of them adding another veteran quarterback, if that option isn't already off the table.