Patriots

When will Tom Brady make free agency decision? Key NFL dates to know

When will Tom Brady make free agency decision? Key NFL dates to know

It seems like every day brings a new rumor about where Tom Brady may play in 2020.

But when will Brady actually make his decision?

That question is worth revisiting as the New England Patriots quarterback inches closer to becoming a free agent. So, we'll get right to the point: Here are four key dates you need to know, and how they'll impact when Brady chooses to either remain with the Patriots or sign elsewhere.

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Thursday, March 12 at 4 p.m. ET: Deadline for teams to designate franchise or transition players.

How it impacts Brady: The Tennessee Titans reportedly are a serious suitor for Brady but have a decision to make about their own quarterback: Ryan Tannehill is set to become an unrestricted free agent and is eligible for the franchise tag.

If Thursday's deadline comes and goes without Tennessee franchising Tannehill, it means the Titans very much are in play for Brady. If Tennessee uses the tag on Tannehill, it likely takes New England's top competitor for Brady off the board.

Saturday, March 14 at 11:59 p.m. ET: Deadline for players to cast their votes approving or rejecting a new collective bargaining agreement.

How it impacts Brady: If a new CBA gets ratified, it provides clarity for all 32 teams entering free agency and could facilitate negotiations between Brady and the Patriots. If the players reject the new CBA, it's possible Brady's decision gets pushed back as the league and the NFL Players' Association work out a temporary solution. (NBC Sports' Peter King provides good context on the CBA vote here.)

Monday, March 16: The NFL's legal tampering period begins. Teams are able to contact and negotiate with players who are set to hit unrestricted free agency.

How it impacts Brady: As our Tom E. Curran reported, Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick already have been in touch. But Monday is the unofficial beginning of free agency, with the league allowing Brady and his agent, Don Yee, to talk with any team he likes.

If Brady has his ducks in a row, we could know where he's playing by Monday after he does due diligence with his top suitors.

Wednesday, March 18 at 4 p.m. ET: The NFL's 2020 league year officially begins. All 2019 contracts expire, and Brady officially becomes a free agent.

How it impacts Brady: If Brady isn't a member of the Patriots by Wednesday at 4 p.m., it doesn't bode well for New England, which would have to compete for the QB on the open market while deciding what to do with other key free agents like offensive lineman Joe Thuney, safety Devin McCourty and linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.

If you're a Patriots fan who wants Brady back in 2020, you're hoping for Brady to announce his return sometime in the next seven-to-nine days. Either way, this should be the last full week we go without a Brady decision.

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NFL rumors: Salary details of Cam Newton's Patriots contract revealed

NFL rumors: Salary details of Cam Newton's Patriots contract revealed

The New England Patriots aren't spending a whole lot of money to bring Cam Newton to Foxboro.

Reports surfaced Sunday night that the Patriots and the veteran quarterback had agreed to a one-year, incentive-laden contract worth up to $7.5 million. 

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Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported Wednesday the financial breakdown of Newton's contract with the Patriots, including the base salary, guaranteed money and incentive totals.

The Patriots didn't have much salary cap space before this move. In fact, they recently had the lowest amount of available cap space in the entire league. So, for them to be able to acquire Newton and not have to spend a ton of money or cap space is pretty extraordinary.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Newton's contract is that the Patriots could franchise-tag the 31-year-old quarterback next offseason. It gives New England more options in the event Newton has a strong 2020 season.

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There's not a ton of risk with this move, and it could end up being one of the best roster additions of Bill Belichick's 20-year tenure in New England if Newton is able to stay healthy.

Newton is a former league MVP (2015) and has been one of the most exciting quarterbacks to watch throughout his nine-year career. The last time he played close to a full season was 2018, when the former No. 1 overall draft pick threw for 3,395 yards with 24 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. Newton also ran for 488 yards and scored four rushing touchdowns in those 14 games.

If he produces similar or better statistics in 2020, the Patriots should have a strong chance to extend their playoff appearance streak to 12 seasons.

NFL rumors: Week 1 and Week 4 of 2020 preseason schedule to be eliminated

NFL rumors: Week 1 and Week 4 of 2020 preseason schedule to be eliminated

The NFL preseason could feature half as many games as we're accustomed to seeing.

ProFootballTalk reported Wednesday that Week 1 and Week 4 of the 2020 preseason will be eliminated.

Here's an explanation from PFT's Mike Florio:

The move was driven by two primary factors. First, teams who will be playing preseason games on the road won’t want to move that many people. Second, given that no teams had on-field practice sessions in the offseason, coaches would rather have the extra time to work with their teams, and that will happen if they don’t have to worry about two extra preseason games.

The NFLPA has yet to sign off on these moves, according to NFL Media's Mike Garafolo:

These cuts make a lot of sense as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the United States and the rest of the world. The pandemic has forced all offseason activities so far to be held virtually. Training camps are scheduled to begin July 28, and the league announced earlier this week that it's sticking to that date

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What would these preseason changes mean for the New England Patriots? It's not yet known if teams will just play their Week 2 and Week 3 preseason games, or if any opponents and/or dates will also be changed.

Here's the Patriots' original preseason schedule that was announced a few weeks ago:

  • Thursday, August 8 at Lions, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, August 17 at Titans, 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, August 22 vs. Panthers, 7:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, August 29 vs. Giants, 7:30 p.m.

The most intriguing matchup on the Patriots' preseason schedule is with the Panthers, especially after New England reportedly agreed to sign former Carolina quarterback Cam Newton

Newton spent nine seasons with the Panthers before being released in March. He was a free agent for several months before finally landing in New England. This preseason matchup would be Newton's first time playing against the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2011.

It sounds like both the league and NFLPA still have some things to work out regarding the preseason. In any event, playing the full four-game schedule doesn't make a ton of sense given the current COVID-19 situation.