Tom Brady and Robert Kraft are 'hopeful,' but Patriots return more complicated than that

Tom Brady and Robert Kraft are 'hopeful,' but Patriots return more complicated than that

Of all the words Tom Brady said in his postgame press conference Saturday night, "hopefully" was one that stuck out.

Q: Is there any possibility you would retire after this offseason?
TB: I would say it’s pretty unlikely, but — yeah, hopefully unlikely.
We all get why it’s unlikely. Every time he’s given a chance to back off his stated desire to play until he’s 45, he doubles down. He loves to play. He doesn’t suck (that being another requirement for him to hang it up). There’s been no measurable physical dropoff to his agility or arm strength. He doesn’t want to retire, as we’ve reported here for months. 

But why did he feel the need to tack on “hopefully?” Because Brady knows he’s not in total control of where he plays next.

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Even though he’s the greatest quarterback in league history, he still got it in him to believe there’s a chance nobody will want him.

Maybe it comes from being a backup on a winless freshman team in high school. Or buried on the depth chart at Michigan for four years then having to platoon as the starter his senior year. Or being passed over in favor of 198 other players in the 2000 draft. Or Bill Belichick’s sincere effort to find a replacement for Brady beginning in 2014. Or Belichick’s pining for a way to keep Jimmy Garoppolo around. Or the team not giving Brady the extension he expected over the summer.

What’s that old saying? Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you?

Brady is wired to take nothing for granted. To believe he’s as replaceable as Drew Bledsoe and Bernie Kosar were. To understand that, if the Patriots could move on from Richard Seymour, Logan Mankins and all the rest with a handshake and a statement saluting their contributions, the same could happen to him.

Since the Patriots beat Atlanta in Super Bowl 51, Brady’s been hoping for a contract to take him through the 2020 season.  

Instead, in the 2017 offseason, the team kept Jimmy Garoppolo around as insurance in case Brady’s play fell off or he got hurt. When the team couldn’t get Garoppolo to bite on an extension, they dealt him to the 49ers.

Going into 2018, Brady didn’t get a slice of the money the team would have paid Jimmy G. to sit and watch Brady. Instead, Brady got a stack of five incentives that — if he hit them all — would have brought his pay to $20M. He hit none of them.

Before this past season, Brady hoped for an extension similar to the one Drew Brees got the year before — a two-year deal worth about $50M.

Instead, Brady wound up with no extension and an $8M raise to bring him to $23M — way less than the going rate for good quarterbacks, never mind legends.

The Patriots made it clear that, at this point, they want to go “year to year.”

Brady didn’t. He wanted a longer commitment. He signed but — as a chaser — got the Patriots to give up the franchise tag. And that’s the evidence that this is not "about the money.” The franchise tag for quarterbacks in 2020 is going to be about $28M. He would have gotten his raise and more than $50M if he left the Patriots the option to tag him.

Brady wants autonomy. And a little bit of leverage.

What does Bill Belichick want? Well, that’s where the “hopefully” comes in.

Brady tipped his hand a little in the postgame and with Peter King that he prefers to stay here.

“If it’s the Patriots, great,” he told King. “If that doesn’t work, I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

Robert Kraft said the same thing but replaced Brady’s “I don’t knows” with the R-word.

"My hope and prayer is number one, he plays for the Patriots," Kraft told King. "Or number two, he retires. He has the freedom to decide what he wants to do and what’s in his own best personal interest."

In order for Brady to stay here, Belichick needs to conclude the offensive dip in 2019 wasn’t about Brady, it was a lack of talent around Brady.

And to reach that conclusion, Belichick would have to agree that he and VP of Player Personnel Nick Caserio failed Brady. Alternately, Belichick can put it on Kraft for releasing Antonio Brown. Or Josh Gordon for slipping. Or injuries. Whatever.

Bottom line, if Belichick believes Brady was part of the problem or won’t be part of the solution, he’s not going to give him a big, fat raise.

More likely, it will be, “See what’s out there, Tom.”

Which means Brady is then tottering over the threshold, blinking up into the bright sun and staring at the void that is unrestricted free agency.

And what if nobody wants him? Most any team would have bumped their guy aside for Tom Brady at 36, 39 or even 42. A 43-year-old whose team went 4-5 down the stretch and lost to the Dolphins and Titans to close out the year?

What if he doesn’t want the teams that want him? If Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry drove Brady nuts even with Josh McDaniels there as a buffer, where is the new city with new teammates, a new offense and new coaches that’s going to make life easier for Brady?

Does he then come back and stand in front of Belichick and make like Richard Gere from An Officer and a Gentleman?

Absurd scenario, right? Or is it? If it were, if Brady himself had an idea what the hell’s going to happen the next two months, he wouldn’t have tacked on that word Saturday night that gave a lot of insight if you’re paying attention.


Why Jason, Devin McCourty decided not to opt out of Patriots' 2020 season

Why Jason, Devin McCourty decided not to opt out of Patriots' 2020 season

The New England Patriots have a league-high eight players opting out of the 2020 NFL season due to concerns about playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pats defense was impacted most with safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Dont'a Hightower deciding the risk of playing this year outweighed the reward. There was some speculation Devin and/or Jason McCourty could follow suit after Devin criticized the NFL for moving up the opt-out deadline, but both are set to play this season.

On Friday, Jason McCourty explained why he and his twin brother never seriously considered opting out.

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“Me and Dev have both spoken a lot about our stance on everything that goes on — I don’t think either one of us ever thought about actually opting out," McCourty said on a video call with reporters. "The opt-out itself just wasn’t worth it. I think for us, the love of the game and the ability to go out there — we didn’t really have a lot of issues that other people have, whether it was newborn kids, whether it was things that put them in high risk or close family members that put them in high risk.

“So for us, it was strictly from a family standpoint, we felt like it was worth it to give it a try and see what we were up against. And being able come into the building, seeing the things that would be done (to protect players), I think we thought it was necessary to go through that process.

"And I think us, like anybody in our society right now, if it was something that was at an extremely high risk to you or your family, of course you wouldn’t continue to do it if you could stop it. But I think for all of us right now playing that are in our building — I can’t speak for everybody, but I think we’re comfortable with the protocols and the measures that have been taken. I think all of us are in this thing together."

While they're a bit shorthanded for 2020, the Patriots defense still is positioned to be one of the best in the NFL. That especially applies to the secondary, where the McCourty twins will aim to help maintain the unit's reputation as one of the best positional groups in the league.

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NFL Rumors: Details of Lamar Miller's Patriots contract revealed

NFL Rumors: Details of Lamar Miller's Patriots contract revealed

The New England Patriots have signed another former Pro Bowler for pennies on the dollar, it appears.

Running back Lamar Miller officially signed a one-year contract with the Patriots in free agency Thursday, and now we know the reported details of that deal, thanks to ESPN's Field Yates.

Miller will make $1.05 million in base salary in 2020 with $200,000 guaranteed. He has an additional $1.5 million in incentives, per Yates, meaning he can earn up to $2.55 million this season. 

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That's a pretty steep discount for the 29-year-old running back, whose four-year, $26 million contract with the Houston Texans (with $14 million guaranteed) expired this spring.

Miller made the Pro Bowl in 2018 and has two 1,000-rushing-yard seasons under his belt but missed the entire 2019 campaign after tearing his ACL in the preseason.

Miller actually has the same base salary as Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, who took an even bigger pay cut to join New England in free agency. Newton's contract has more incentives, though: The three-time Pro Bowler can earn up to $7.5 million this season.

Starting running back Sony Michel is still recovering from ankle surgery and may not be ready for Week 1, so Miller has the opportunity to revive his career in New England, while the Patriots are hoping to find value in another talented player coming off an injury.