Patriots

Rob Gronkowski: Patriots QB Tom Brady 'deserves' chance to test free agent market

Rob Gronkowski: Patriots QB Tom Brady 'deserves' chance to test free agent market

The New England Patriots suffered a huge loss on offense after Super Bowl LIII when future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski retired, and they might have to deal with a similarly impactful exit this offseason.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's contract expires in March, at which point he would be able to hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his 20-year NFL career.

Gronkowski thinks Brady deserves the chance to test the free agent market and see what kind of offers are available.

"I really haven't talked to Tom like that. I did talk to him, though, after the game, just talked, it wasn't even all about football," Gronkowski told reporters Tuesday in Miami, via NESN.com's Zack Cox. "Some of it was about life and all. I truly believe that he deserves the opportunity to go explore and see what's out there. He's been playing for so long. Just the way that he's been playing, the level he's been playing at, he definitely deserves an opportunity to go out there and test the market. Why wouldn't you? You've never done it before in your career.

"He's going to be a free agent for the first time ever. Good for him. Test out the market, and then do what's best for himself. That's the decision he has to make -- what's best for himself, what's best for his family, what he feels like he's going to love."

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Would it be strange to see Brady in a non-Patriots jersey?

"It's always strange, no matter who the player is," Gronkowski said. "If you see a player play on a team for 10 years and then go to another team, it's always strange at first. Everyone gets used to it after a little bit. It would definitely be strange, I would say, if that happens, for a couple weeks it may be strange. Everyone adapts, like any other time it happens."

Brady has won a record six Super Bowl titles in New England since the team drafted him 199th overall in 2000. He's absolutely earned the right to see what rival teams are willing to offer him, but Grnnkowski is right: It would be strange to see him wearing a jersey in 2020 that doesn't say "Patriots" on it.

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Patriots legend Tedy Bruschi perfectly sums up dilemma facing players in CBA vote

Patriots legend Tedy Bruschi perfectly sums up dilemma facing players in CBA vote

The NFL made headlines Wednesday when it was reported that a proposed collective bargaining agreement would alter the league's playoff format by adding a seventh qualifying team in each conference.

The extra playoff spot wasn't the only interesting change that could be adopted, though. In the proposal is a 17-game regular season and a three-game preseason. The current format, of course, has a 16-game regular season and four preseason games.

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It's not a really tough decision for the owners. But the players? That's a different story.

Former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who's now an NFL analyst on ESPN, perfectly summed up the dilemma facing the players with this 17-game season vote.

It's going to be a very interesting vote for the players.

The average career for an NFL player is less than three years, per CNBC, making a 17th game check pretty valuable. The older players, many of whom have already made enough money to live comfortably for the rest of their lives, probably prefer to stick with the 16-game schedule because another game is another chance of suffering a career-ending injury. Injuries obviously are hard for older players to recover from.

Difficult votes that split the older and younger players of a union is nothing new, but it will be fascinating to see which way the NFL Players Association goes when it comes to how many regular season games will be played in the new CBA.

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Rob Ninkovich warns of Patriots domino effect if Tom Brady leaves in free agency

Rob Ninkovich warns of Patriots domino effect if Tom Brady leaves in free agency

The New England Patriots will be worse off in 2020 if Tom Brady leaves in free agency. That much is obvious.

But the ripple effects of Brady's departure may be felt for years to come.

The 42-year-old quarterback is one of several key Patriots players who will become free agents on March 18, including safety Devin McCourty and linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.

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If Brady returns for a 21st season, it's possible at least one member of that defensive trio sticks around for another Super Bowl run.

If Brady signs elsewhere? Former Patriots defensive standout Rob Ninkovich believes the dominos could fall quickly in New England.

"If Tom doesn’t come back, I don’t know if those guys are going to want to stick around," Ninkovich told the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian on Wednesday. "Because what’s the outlook for the team? Is it a rebuilding phase? What happens moving forward?"

Ninkovich also noted head coach Bill Belichick may have a harder time executing the team-building model he's had so much success with over the years, as free agents would be less likely to take a pay cut to come to New England.

“That would be a hard sell. In years past, the Patriots have been able to get guys at a bargain, because it’s an older veteran, a guy who’s looking for a Super Bowl, for a playoff run," Ninkovich explained.

“They’re approached by the Patriots, who say, ‘Look, we’re not going to guarantee the biggest contract, but we’re going to give you an opportunity to play in the playoffs and Super Bowl if you’re interested. Ninety-nine percent of the guys are ‘yeah, I want some validation for my football career.' "

But would free agents be confident that Brady's replacement -- 23-year-old Jarrett Stidham, perhaps -- could keep the Patriots in Super Bowl contention? Ninkovich isn't so sure.

"It won’t be easy without Tom. It’ll definitely be a struggle," he said.

As our Patriots Insider Phil Perry recently pointed out, time is also working against Belichick as he (and the Patriots' other pending free agents) awaits Brady's free-agent decision.

On that front, Ninkovich believes there's a real chance the six-time Super Bowl champion signs elsewhere in March.

"My gut is telling me Tom is motivated to prove a lot of people wrong," Ninkovich added. " ... So it wouldn’t surprise me if he puts up the deuces to everybody, and tries to motivate himself to prove people wrong."

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