Why upcoming NFL Combine could provide clarity on Tom Brady's future

Why upcoming NFL Combine could provide clarity on Tom Brady's future

Tampering happens.

You can't stop it. You can only hope to contain it if you're the NFL.

That job becomes next to impossible in a few weeks when the entire league descends upon Indianapolis for its annual scouting combine from Feb. 23 to Mar. 2.

The city will of course be littered with future draftees, as well as scouts and coaches. But Indy will also be teeming with agents and front-office personnel who understand that the start of the new league year and the kickoff to free agency drops on Mar. 18. To that end, the last week in February can matter as much or more to veteran players looking for new contracts as it does to the incoming rookies hoping to clock good 40 times.

Though agents are not permitted to negotiate for their clients with other teams until the legal tampering period on Mar. 16 and 17, people will be talking in Indy. Feelers will be placed. Markets will be gauged. Even if deals aren't struck, certain players will have a clearer sense of where they stand in the eyes of prospective clubs once their reps have returned from the Hoosier State.

Tom Brady will be a talking point in Indy for the first time since he was drafted.

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Brady's dive into the free-agent waters is unprecedented. He's never reached free agency before. No one who's come close to accomplishing what he has -- only two seasons removed from an MVP year and one season removed from a Super Bowl title -- has hit the open market at his age. Even Peyton Manning, who was released by the Colts in 2012, doesn't compare. Because of his break with Indy, he had almost two weeks to tour the league and settle on a best landing spot for his late-30s playing days.

Not only are Brady's representatives banned from negotiating on his behalf prior to the legal tampering window, but Brady himself is not allowed to make visits to or speak directly with interested clubs until his contract with the Patriots expires on Mar. 18. 

Here's why the combine matters: While the tampering may have already started to some extent, Brady may not get his first real whiff of the details of his market until people who matter are mingling in bars, restaurants, hotels and convention center nooks and crannies in Indianapolis.

Are there a half-dozen teams who could feasibly compete with Brady aboard -- the Colts, Bears, Chargers, Raiders, Bucs and Titans would all fit that description -- who are willing to offer him a lucrative multi-year deal? Or is the number of teams truly interested in investing in Brady smaller than that? Are there only a couple who are willing to take on a 43-year-old, go all-in from a roster-building perspective, and give him the leeway to import his offense?

That's the type of information that could be gleaned, if it hasn't been already, when the combine hits.

It comes as little surprise then that Brady and the Patriots have not yet taken part in contract negotiations, as our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran has noted and ESPN's Mike Reiss reiterated this week.

Brady wants to hit free agency. We learned that when he had the franchise tag option removed from his contract last offseason. Why would Brady's team and the Patriots begin talking numbers now if Brady -- who wants to get to free agency to see what's out there for him -- doesn't have a concrete understanding of what other clubs would be willing to offer?

Once the combine comes and goes, then it would make sense for the two sides to talk. Is there common ground to be reached? Are the numbers thrown Brady's way from other franchises going to be so exorbitant that the Patriots would quickly move on?

Hard to know right now. But that information is coming. People talk. Tampering happens. Especially in Indy.

Rob Gronkowski set to compete in virtual beer pong tournament

Rob Gronkowski set to compete in virtual beer pong tournament

Who knew virtual beer pong was a thing? 

Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski apparently is set to compete in a virtual beer pong tournament hosted by Post Malone to raise money for coronavirus relief efforts, according to TMZ Sports. The tournament will be live-streamed on the @ballinacup Instagram over eight days and the winners will receive a trophy and wrestling belts. 

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Gronkowski will be partnered with his girlfriend Camille Kostek, and they aren't the only familiar faces in the tournament. Former Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola and former Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin also will compete in the competition. 

The first round kicks off on Friday with Gronkowski and Kostek taking on Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson and USWNT star Mallory Pugh. Amendola will take on Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on Saturday and Seguin will take on New York Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman on Monday, April 6. 

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It's no surprise Gronkowski signed up to compete in this tournament -- he loves to party after all. 

This definitely is something out of the ordinary, but it should be pretty comical to watch Gronkowski, Amendola and Seguin compete to see who the king of beer pong is. 


Patriots have dominated this category since turn of the century

Patriots have dominated this category since turn of the century

The New England Patriots have been an unstoppable force over the course of the past two decades. The team has won six Super Bowls, 17 division titles, and hasn't logged a losing season this century.

One of the reasons for their success? They have been insanely good in one-possession games.

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According to Boston Sports Info (@BostonSportsInf), the Patriots have the best winning percentage in one-score games since the turn of the century. They are one of just two teams that have won greater than 60 percent of those contests. Here's a look at the numbers:

While several teams have more wins than the Patriots in these contests, it's still remarkable that the team has won two-thirds of their one-score games in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. It takes great decision-making on the parts of players and coaches to maintain such a strong record.

With Brady no longer on the Patriots, It looks like we're going to figure out just how much he has mattered to the Patriots' ability to win close games. Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer are the two quarterback options on the roster after Cody Kessler was released on Thursday, so Belichick will have his work cut out for him with either option.

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Meanwhile, Brady's impact on the Buccaneers may be notable depending on how much they improve in this area. The Bucs have the third-worst winning percentage of the century in one-possession games, coming in at 40.2 percent. They have the second-most losses overall with 98.

Last season, the Bucs were 3-6 in nine one-score games with Jameis Winston at the helm. If Brady can help to improve upon that record by making fewer late-game mistakes than the turnover-prone Winston did, then the Bucs may have a chance to progress well as an overall team.

Either way, we'll soon see how Brady's presence impacts the Bucs and if the Patriots can continue their winning ways in close contests.