Patriots

Raiders' Derek Carr knows Tom Brady represents a threat in free agency

Raiders' Derek Carr knows Tom Brady represents a threat in free agency

Derek Carr wins!

On Wednesday, the Las Vegas (it’s official now) Raiders quarterback became the first quarterback to get publicly tender about Tom Brady.

Brady’s much-discussed confab with Raiders owner Mark Davis at the McGregor-Cerrone fight last weekend and subsequent spitballing about Brady as a Raider had Carr sounding huffing with indignation.

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"I mean, there was a lot of quarterbacks at that fight," Carr said to ESPN. "And there was a lot of football players at that fight that are free agents. And it's like, every time, with my job, it's always a story. No matter what. And knowing some people that were around, I even know what the conversation was [between Davis and Brady], and it's like, 'C'mon, man, when's it going to end?'"

Brady’s first foray into free agency creeps closer. There are no concrete indications yet from the Patriots that they will keep him off the market. Brady’s signaled he’s down for whatever.

Almost every team can and will be considered a landing spot for the 43-year-old legend. And that means more quarterbacks will — like Carr — kick against the prick of insecurity that comes with hearing Brady mentioned as an option.

Some may want a verbal commitment ring. Some teams might offer up a vow of fidelity all on their own to protect the fragile, eggshell mind of their still-developing quarterback.

That’s what Buffalo GM Brandon Beane did last month when Tim Graham of The Athletic asked about Brady as a Bill. Beane gingerly praised, sidestepped, avoided all appearance of tampering then added, “I don’t think he wants to be a backup.”

That was no off-handed knock at Brady. It was Beane protecting his third-year quarterback Josh Allen from feeling threatened.

It’s going to be fascinating to find out what Brady’s market really looks like. For example, there’s no debate he’d be better than Allen in 2020. Anyone who witnessed Allen’s scatterbrained effort to “win” that playoff game in Houston would realize that.

But what about 2021 or 2022 when Brady is 44 and 45? What about the investment made so far by the Bills and their coaching staff, not to mention the draft pick spent?  Does it do a team like Buffalo — based in decidedly non-cosmopolitan Western New York — any good to make an overture to Brady if it has no shot at landing him given it could leave Allen shaken?

Dynamics similar to Buffalo exist with the Giants, Jets, Ravens, Browns, Cardinals, Bears, Eagles, Redskins, and Rams. All those teams have a first-round quarterback who's never won a playoff game.

Is it wise for the Redskins and Giants to tiptoe around the feelings of Dwayne Haskins and Daniel Jones or pursue a couple of years of Brady and all that comes with him in terms of marketing, ticket sales and overwhelming coverage?

Leave Brady and his preferences out of it for a moment. If you own a team, don’t you want your GM active and conversant on every player in the league, especially one as iconic and talented as Brady?

I mean, if Brady signs with the Bengals and Jacksonville GM Dave Caldwell never even made a call to Brady’s agent Don Yee, Caldwell should start packing his bags.

An explanation from Caldwell that he didn’t want to undercut Gardner Minshew wouldn’t really fly.

Brady’s looming availability is a case study for prospective owners, coaches and GMs in determining "what’s best for the football team." Football-wise. Business-wise. Relative to the salary cap. Relative to sales and marketing. For the locker room. For the community.

And especially for the guy who’s in place at the position that Brady’s played better than anyone who’s ever lived.

“(You’d think) everyone would be like, 'Yes, we're going the right way. Everything's getting better ... '" lamented Carr. “You would think that that would be the story. But that's not how it works. And I understand that now," Carr said.

"Especially when people are seen with certain people. It's like, 'Oh, gosh. Well, I was at dinner with [Davis] last night. Does that count for anything?' Golly. It's just funny. But I'm used to it now. But I'll say it this way: I look forward to taking the first snap in that stadium, and I look forward to taking every snap from here on out — until I'm done."

So mark Derek Carr down as the first one to lift his leg and pee on his territory relative to Tom Brady. Who’s next? Teams can't make direct contact with Brady until March 16.

How many will feel compelled to say they don't want the GOAT?

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Report: Raiders prepared to offer Tom Brady two-year, $60 million deal

Report: Raiders prepared to offer Tom Brady two-year, $60 million deal

We have an actual dollar figure attached to the swirling rumors of various Tom Brady free agency landing spots.

The Brady-to-Las Vegas speculation has been out there since TB12 was spotted chatting up Raiders owner Marc Davis at the Connor McGregor-Cowboy Cerrone fight in Vegas last month. Now, veteran NFL reporter Larry Fitzgerald Sr. (father of the Arizona Cardinals wide receiver) reports that Davis' Raiders are prepared to offer TB12 a two-year, $60 million deal.

It's interesting to note that Larry Fitzgerald Jr., like Brady, is a long-time interviewee of Jim Gray on Westwood One's broadcasts of Monday and Thursday night NFL games. 

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While Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported on Super Bowl Sunday that the Patriots are willing to go beyond $30 million a year to retain Brady, it's unclear if New England would make a multi-year offer, since the face of the franchise, who'll turn 43 in August, essentially worked under a one-year deal this past season. 

Our Tom Curran has reported that while the Patriots will "extend themselves" financially to retain Brady, money is likely not the most important factor to the QB.

As Curran wrote Friday:

The persuasion in the Patriots pitch has to revolve around "who" and not "how much." The team that Brady plays for in 2020 won’t be the winner of a bidding war, it will be the one that provides the best ready-made landing spot to compete for a championship and have a shitload of fun while doing it.

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In Tom Brady's case, are NFL tampering rules made to be broken?

In Tom Brady's case, are NFL tampering rules made to be broken?

If Robert Kraft ever commissioned a sculptor to carve “10 Patriots Commandments” you’d be sure to find, “Thou Shalt Not Tamper With Our Employees” somewhere on that stone tablet.

Throughout Kraft’s ownership and Bill Belichick’s stewardship of the football operations, loyalty has been rewarded and betrayal punished.

From January 1997, when the Jets were monkeying around with Bill Parcells when the Patriots were getting ready for Super Bowl 31 against the Packers, through June 2019, when the Texans made their overtures to Nick Caserio, the Patriots have made one thing very clear: they aren’t going to be patsies when it comes to other teams trying to lure their people away.

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Which brings us to Tom Brady. As everything does. Do the Patriots care that a stealth parade of suitors is probably all up on him already?

Is this uber-protective organization fine with half of the league’s teams sniffing under the tail of the most important player in franchise history before they’re supposed to?

Rampant tampering with prospective free agents isn’t the NFL’s dirty little secret.

It’s not dirty since it’s somewhat necessary.

It’s not little since every team does it.

And it’s not even treated as a secret.

This week, the estimable and honorable Tedy Bruschi was asked about Brady on ESPN.
 

“I think he’s gonna see what’s out there for himself,” said Bruschi. “Matter of fact, I know he will. But I don’t think he’s going to have to wait until March 16 because you’ve got agents, you’ve got talk going on behind the scenes and I think he has an idea on the teams that are highly interested in him ... He will explore his options and he has the right to do so.”

The question then becomes what’s the league office going to do about it?

We all know the NFL’s penchant for selective rules enforcement. We all know they’ll happily string the Patriots up for transgressions real or imagined and let them twist in the wind. We all know the so-called Spygate II investigation that could have been cleared up in 20 minutes is still ongoing.

So, even if everybody’s doing it, isn’t it a little (a lot) hypocritical for the league to turn a blind eye to teams crawling up the trellis to slip in Brady’s window after dark?

Yes, it is. But a little hypocrisy never slowed the league down from doing anything.

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Besides, they might say, tampering with Tom Brady is actually a victimless crime. It actually does the Patriots a favor.

If Brady and his agent Don Yee have a sense of what’s out there before they start negotiating with New England, then the need for Brady to go on a free-agent tour is eliminated.

If Team Brady has no clue, then Yee starts from scratch when the legal tampering period begins March 16 at noon. 

There’s no way to vet each of the opportunities -- a source close to the situation figures there will be 10 teams expressing interest -- before free agency starts March 18 at 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, how are the Patriots supposed to convince free-agent tight ends or wideouts to come aboard if those players don’t know whether or not Tom Brady will be a Patriot? It’s easily argued that outside teams tampering with Brady is in the Patriots’ best interests.

Besides, if this really isn’t about the money -- and I’ve been told often enough that it isn’t -- it won’t matter if some crap-ass team is offering $70 million over two years.

The persuasion in the Patriots pitch has to revolve around "who" and not "how much." The team that Brady plays for in 2020 won’t be the winner of a bidding war, it will be the one that provides the best ready-made landing spot to compete for a championship and have a shitload of fun while doing it.

All that said, it will still seem odd to me if the Patriots -- whether it be Kraft or Belichick -- don’t somehow have their sense of honor offended by all the predicted sneaking around.

It’s always offended their sensibilities going back to January 1997 when it came to light that Bill Parcells spent the week leading up to Super Bowl 31 ringing up the Jets from his New Orleans hotel room instead of getting the Patriots ready to play the Packers.

The Krafts were apoplectic. Belichick, an assistant on that 1996 Patriots team, was pissed too.

"Yeah, I'd say it was a little bit of a distraction all the way around," Belichick told our Michael Holley for Holley’s book Patriot Reign. "I can tell you first hand, there was a lot of stuff going on prior to the game. I mean, him talking to other teams. He was trying to make up his mind about what he was going to do. Which, honestly, I felt [was] totally inappropriate. How many chances do you get to play for the Super Bowl? Tell them to get back to you in a couple of days. I'm not saying it was disrespectful to me, but it was in terms of the overall commitment to the team."

Every situation’s different, I guess. In this case, the tampering rules were made to be broken.