You may have noticed we’re pretty much going All Brady, All the Time between now and whenever this thing gets resolved.
Wearing your ass out with this stuff? I know. Some days, I feel your pain. Last Wednesday’s “Gisele is in Nashville!!!” panic? Prime example.
But we agree that the Patriots are the greatest dynasty in NFL history, that Bill Belichick is the league’s greatest coach and Tom Brady is its greatest quarterback and perhaps its greatest player, yes?
Then our shop can’t be out here hand-wringing about “over-covering” what's unfolding.
If a line of fire engines go tearing down the street, we can’t sit on the front porch and wonder what all the hubbub is. We’re gonna check it out. And we’ll do our best to confirm whether it’s just smoke, a real fire or a false alarm.
And we’ll tell you.
Over 22 years for me and 10 years for Senator Phil A. Perry, we’ve gotten to know the landscape and the people we cover — Brady, his agents Don Yee and Steve Dubin, Bill Belichick and the Kraft family — as well as anyone.
When we report something, you can trust it’s well-vetted. When we offer an opinion or analysis, you can trust it’s not plucked from the ether. It’s based in something — on or off-the-record conversations, past observations, the institutional knowledge you get when you’re immersed in something for a long time.
There are small items we’ll report — Brady’s Brookline house going on the market, for instance — that may seem to some as being gratuitous or inconsequential.
We aren’t here to convince you otherwise. Put as much or as little stock in the small things as you like, but believe that we are going to try to find out the deets. Last week, our DJ Bean debunked the Nashville rumor within an hour or two of it growing legs. Didn’t kill it completely. But we were giving you the facts first.
A big part of the next month-plus is going to be proofreading other people’s reporting to separate fact from rumor. If we’re hearing something different, we’ll say so. Feelings get hurt when that happens but in the end, what are we getting paid for? Are we supposed to get the right information out there or are we supposed to shrug?
We have a really good grip on what’s been going on with all the dynamics, but we don’t have an exclusive hammerlock on the facts. There are a lot of talented, hard-working, well-connected reporters on this beat as well as nationally. This is the No. 1 offseason story in the NFL, maybe in American sports. It matters.
As it stands right now, very little is going on. Financial negotiations haven’t begun. None of the three principals — Brady, Belichick and Robert Kraft — know how this is going to play out.
Brady is open to coming back under the right circumstances. Same goes for Belichick. But their circumstances are at cross-purposes.
Kraft wants Brady to stay — he’s on the record saying that. But he removed the team’s ability to force Brady to stay when he agreed to wipe away the franchise tag in 2020 because he didn’t want Brady to stay against his will.
And while my understanding is that the Patriots are willing to extend themselves financially to keep him, Belichick will receive no edict from the owner on what to do.
The Sunday report that the Patriots were willing to go north of $30M (presumably for one-year’s salary) to keep Brady, which came from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, has been a source of irritation for the team this week.
My understanding is no parameters have been set. That number is now an albatross to the proceedings.
The proceedings themselves? They will have to get underway soon, because the timeline for negotiations is a huge wrench in this process.
Here are the particulars for the “legal tampering period.”
“Teams are allowed to negotiate with the agents of prospective unrestricted free agents durng a two-day period beginning March 16 at noon ET and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. on March 18. In the two-day window, prospective unrestricted free agents can’t visit teams or have direct contact with team employees except those from their current clubs. A player’s ability to re-sign with his current club isn’t affected by the rule.”
As we’ve reported, the biggest issue from Brady’s perspective is commitment on the part of the Patriots. He’s wanted an extension prior to the 2017 season. He never got it. The Patriots have preferred to go “year-to-year.”
In choosing that route, the feeling Brady’s gotten is that he’s somewhat of a stopgap until a better solution taking the team into the 2020s emerges. Meanwhile, the offensive talent around Brady has fallen off for a variety of reasons and he’s been left holding the bag.
How can the Patriots show Brady that 2020 will be better? They can’t. The Patriots have two days in March to convince the representatives of prospective free agents that New England is right for their guy.
Meanwhile, how can prospective free agents even know Brady is going to re-sign? Another meanwhile? If Brady doesn’t re-sign before free agency, $13.5M in dead money hits the salary cap on March 18 at 4 p.m.
A final meanwhile? It’s crazy to think Brady’s going to negotiate to have the franchise tag removed for 2020, get to the cusp of free agency then fold his tent and come back to the same old, same old. Not after he spent last year ducking and chucking and shaking his head.
I truly don’t know how the Patriots are going to thread the needle to keep Brady. Because once he gets to the market, one thing you can bet on is that Belichick isn’t going to sit with his hands folded waiting for Brady to decide if he’s staying or going.
Really, this was so avoidable. It was indicated to me last August that if the Patriots offered Brady a two-year, $50M deal similar to the one Drew Brees got from the Saints in March of 2018, that would have worked.
Now? There’s no deal, dead cap money is hovering and the whole league is on Brady Watch.
My advice to you? Strap in and stick with us! We ain’t going anywhere!