Patriots will 'extend' to keep Tom Brady, and he's willing to listen

Patriots will 'extend' to keep Tom Brady, and he's willing to listen

MIAMI – “He’s gone, isn’t he?”

I can’t tell you how many conversations about Tom Brady this past week in Miami ended with the person I was talking with making that tentative declaration.

That may have felt like the case because of all our speculation about “best fits” and “motivated owners.”

But by late Friday night, indications I’d gotten were that there will be real effort to keep Brady in New England. And Brady will give them their shot.

My understanding is the Patriots will “extend themselves” financially to get Brady back in the fold. Whether that means they’ll go “in excess of $30M” as Ian Rapoport from NFL Media reported Sunday morning is unknown. Presumably, that’s in excess of a $30M salary in 2020 which would be up from his $23M in 2019.

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That would be a leap, especially since there would likely be $6.75M in dead money from Brady’s voided deal added on to the $30M, bringing his cap number to $36.75M in that scenario.

Regardless, Brady hasn’t drawn a line through the Patriots on his list of possible destinations. Not at all.   

It was reiterated to me, however, that this isn’t about the money for Brady. It’s about appreciation for what he’s done and can still do.

That appreciation can be shown as much by getting experienced, high-level talent around him as it can with a dollar amount. But the timing for that will be tough for the Patriots.

The past two seasons, the Patriots did little in the offseason to staff the offense around Brady. There were a variety of reasons for that but the final result was an offense that was frustratingly and increasingly punchless.  

Meanwhile, Brady was underpaid relative to his peers. If he re-signs before free agency opens, he’ll again be taking on faith that the Patriots will get a surrounding cast that allows the offense to perform at a high level. The departure this week of legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia didn’t start things off on the right foot.

Free agency begins March 18. On March 16, the Patriots can start negotiating with prospective free agents. They’ll have two days to make headway on bringing in reinforcements.

It was indicated to me that this is for Bill Belichick and Brady to work out for themselves. When the Patriots agreed last August to not use the franchise tag on Brady in 2020, that was to ensure that any decision Brady made to stay was of his own volition. Why keep him against his will? He’s earned the right to decide to stay or leave if that’s what he wants.

It was reiterated that this decision – like the call to trade Jimmy Garoppolo in 2017 – is one that will ultimately be Belichick’s. There’s a presumption that owner Robert Kraft will swoop down from the rafters and overrule Belichick if the head coach decides it’s time to move on from Brady. That belief is fed by the lie that won’t die, the urban legend that Kraft forced the Garoppolo trade.

That didn’t happen and nothing’s really been done to correct the record.

The owner has declared many times he wants Brady to remain a Patriot. But my understanding is that, just as he wouldn’t force Brady to stay under a franchise tag, he won’t intercede if Belichick concludes moving on from Brady is the best course of action.

While Brady is more than open to remaining a Patriot if things seem destined to improve, the lure of being a free agent is there as well.  There are about 10 teams – including the Patriots – that could be attractive landing spots or possible suitors.

Even though I spitballed the other day that the market may be bleak, I’ve gotten more indications that it’s going to be really robust.

If there’s a team with a lot of cap space, a decent crop of foundational players and room for a legend at quarterback, Brady could go there and then that team may become a destination for other free agents. That’s one scenario, at least.

But the other – Brady and the Patriots finding a way to get him to Season 21 as a Patriot – is not dead yet.

Ex-Patriots WR Randy Moss reminds everyone of his TD record in great Twitter flex

Ex-Patriots WR Randy Moss reminds everyone of his TD record in great Twitter flex

Randy Moss is the NFL leader for touchdown receptions in a single season, and the legendary wide receiver reminded everyone of that fact Friday.

The former New England Patriots wideout posted a tweet early in the morning showing the single-season touchdown receptions leaders, with his name appearing a total of four times. He set the record in 2007 with 23 touchdowns during his first season catching passes from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

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Check out Moss' flex in the tweets below.

He's not wrong -- touchdowns do win games. 

Only one wide receiver in league history has found the end zone more than Moss. San Francisco 49ers legend Jerry Rice holds the record with 197 career receiving touchdowns. In fairness to Moss, who has 156 career TD catches, he played in 85 fewer games than Rice and didn't spend the majority of his career with quarterbacks as talented as Joe Montana and Steve Young.

Moss was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018 in his first year of eligibility. He's one of just six wide receivers to go in on the first ballot.

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Steelers star echoes a popular belief for why Tom Brady left Patriots

Steelers star echoes a popular belief for why Tom Brady left Patriots

No one aside from Tom Brady knows why the quarterback left the New England Patriots to join a historically inept Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise.

But there's a popular opinion among current and former players for why Brady skipped town.

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was the latest player to weigh in on Brady's free-agent decision Thursday on ESPN's "First Take."

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Here's Fitzpatrick's take:

I honestly wasn’t surprised. I think Tom is a competitor and I think he kind of wanted to prove that he could go somewhere else and do it, you know what I’m saying? 

... I just think he wanted to prove, not just to himself, but to the fanbase and the world that he could go somewhere without the great coaching, without the great defense the Patriots had and still have the same success.

If that answer sounds familiar, it's because guys like former Patriots Wes Welker and Willie McGinest, current Patriot Devin McCourty and retired New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning all saw the same thing: that Brady wanted a new challenge and a chance to prove he can be successful without Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Brady insisted to our Tom E. Curran that proving the doubters wrong isn't his first motivation in Tampa Bay, but it's hard to believe that's not part of the equation.

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The 42-year-old still carries a chip on his shoulder from being passed over 198 times in the 2000 NFL Draft, and despite his incredible achievements in New England, he's undoubtedly heard the snarky comments that he can't succeed without Belichick by his side.

If Brady can lift the moribund Bucs to prominence in the NFC, he'll certainly silence his few remaining critics. As for Belichick's Patriots? They have plenty of bulletin board material of their own.