Patriots

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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Tom Brady's heartfelt thank you video is sure to give Patriots fans chills

Tom Brady's heartfelt thank you video is sure to give Patriots fans chills

It appears that Tom Brady has finally found the words to officially say goodbye to the New England Patriots and their fans.

Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier in the offseason, ending a 20-year run with the Patriots that saw the team make it to nine Super Bowls and win six. But as Brady explained in a piece on The Players' Tribune, he's ready for a new challenge. And there were rumors that after the magnificent two-decade run, he was simply "Belichick'd out".

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And in addition to all this buzz, Brady was finally able to put together a video goodbye addressed to the Patriots and their fans. Here's a look at the heartfelt farewell, per his official Twitter account.

Surely, that will give fans chills and afford them a chance to relive some of the best moments of Brady's time with the team. And it was nice that Brady officially gave credit and thanks to Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft as well, including a clip saying the following:

It's really just about the relationships, you know? It's about the people that I play for. The people that I play with. I think I came into a great situation here. I think there's been a great coach, a great owner, and great teammates.

And not to mention, great success. The Patriots put together one of the greatest dynasties of all time with Brady and Belichick at the helm. And Brady's video brings back the amazing memories and championships that came over the course of those 20 years.

But now, they'll go their separate ways. Belichick will try to rebuild without Brady. And Brady will give Tampa Bay his all as the 42-year-old continues to provide further evidence that he's the greatest player to ever play the game of football.

Pete Carroll gives candid comments on pain of Super Bowl XLIX loss to Patriots

Pete Carroll gives candid comments on pain of Super Bowl XLIX loss to Patriots

It's difficult to find a more heartbreaking way to lose a championship than what happened to the Seattle Seahawks at the end of Super Bowl XLIX.

The Lombardi Trophy seemed firmly in their grasp as running back Marshawn Lynch drove the ball to the 1-yard line with less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks were in complete control, and it looked like their opponent, the New England Patriots, could do nothing to stop the inevitable. But instead of giving the ball to Lynch to finish the job, Seattle ran a pass play and quarterback Russell Wilson was intercepted by Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler. Butler's game-saving play secured New England's fourth championship and crushed Seattle's hopes of back-to-back titles.

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The loss was absolutely excruciating for Carroll, and in a recent interview with NFL Media's Mike Silver, he talked about the difficulties Seattle faced in recovering from that defeat.

"It was such an emotional way to lose for everybody, and we had to rebuild everybody's brain," Carroll said, per Silver. "We just bludgeoned our way through that. I tried to just make sure that I was unwavering. So, that was the challenge: To allow for the grieving and all of that, and then see what the issues were, and then put it back together. Yeah, that was hard. It was a hard challenge. It was really hard on some players. And some of us will never get over it."

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It's hard to blame any Seahawks player, coach or employee who will never get over the pain of Super Bowl XLIX. The Atlanta Falcons players who blew a 25-point lead and lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI two years later probably will feel the same way the rest of their lives.

But unlike the Falcons, who are still searching for their first championship, Carroll and the Seahawks have the joyous memories of Super Bowl XLVIII and a shiny Lombardi Trophy to help forget about their painful loss to the Patriots. 

There are few challenges in sports quite like rebounding from a horrific loss in a championship setting. Carroll has done about as well as the Seahawks could've hoped over the last five years, while Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has overcome plenty of adversity (and two Super Bowl losses) himself over the last decade.

So it was hardly a surprise when it was announced Monday that Belichick and Carroll were the two head coaches named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2010s.