Jeff Darlington

Why an ESPN reporter is convinced Tom Brady will leave Patriots

Why an ESPN reporter is convinced Tom Brady will leave Patriots

As Tom Brady's free agency approaches, the language of the reporting about him is getting stronger.

NFL reporter Jeff Darlington joined ESPN's "Get Up!" on Thursday to state quite confidently that he believes Brady will sign with another team rather than return to the New England Patriots for a 21st season.

"There are people very close to Tom Brady who are being told by Tom Brady, 'It's not going to happen. I'm going somewhere else,' " Darlington said. "That's the way we're operating here.

' ... I am now at the point where I would be stunned if Tom Brady returns to the Patriots."

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According to Darlington, Brady is looking at free agency as a way to "reinvigorate himself and do something different" by joining a new team.

Which team could that be? Joining Tom E. Curran on a recent episode of NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Talk Podcast, Darlington mentioned the Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders as favorites to sign Brady.

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Brady has familiarity with Titans head coach and former Patriots teammate Mike Vrabel, while it was reported earlier this month that the Raiders are prepared to offer Brady a two-year, $60 million contract, which may exceed what New England is willing to give him.

Not all hope is lost for Patriots fans: Darlington added that even those "close" to Brady could see Patriots head coach Bill Belichick convincing the 42-year-old quarterback to stay for another year.

But Darlington also offered this warning:

"We need to wrap our minds around the fact that it is far more likely that Tom Brady will not be back with the Patriots."

UPDATE (8:50 a.m. ET): The Boston Herald's Karen Guregian and The Athletic's Vic Tafur both followed Darlington's comments with their own reports that don't bode well for Brady returning to New England.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Are Raiders or Titans the favorites for Tom Brady?

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Are Raiders or Titans the favorites for Tom Brady?

It's the parlor game that will take us right up to the time when we'll be filling out our NCAA brackets.

It's that other March Madness - NFL free agency. More specifically, Tom Brady's free agency. Where will TB12 land?

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On Tom Curran's latest Patriots Talk Podcast, our Patriots Insider is joined by ESPN's Jeff Darlington, who explains the prediction he made earlier on his network of the Las Vegas Raiders and Tennessee Titans as the likeliest new home for the GOAT.

"To be clear, I do think that the Titans and the Raiders, if you're asking me right now, if we're putting odds on it, are the favorites," Darlington told Curran.

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"I don't necessarily see him returning to New England. That's not to say he won't, but I just don't have enough faith in the meeting that needs to occur between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to get enough done to where Brady feels like he's ready to return."  

To that end, Curran also weighed in on how Brady's perceived lack of appreciation from Belichick will impact the quarterback's decision. Curran noted that it was apparent a few weeks ago when the coach and QB appeared on the NFL Network's Top 100 players show.  

"There was a yearning from Brady to Belichick to just be appreciated," Curran said. "To be told, 'You're my guy, I love ya. Nobody else can do what you do.' I honestly think that almost informs what we're watching unfold."

Earlier in the pod, Curran's colleague Phil Perry talked about how if we reach the March 16 deadline and Brady officially becomes a free agent, "the chances of him leaving skyrocket."

To prevent that, Perry suggests that it's time for the Patriots to show Brady he'll have the weapons he needs to make a successful return at 43. And the only way to do that before signings begin in March would be with trades, as in dealing for Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. or Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper.

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus also joins the podcast to explain why he ranked the San Francisco 49ers' Richard Sherman ahead of the Pats cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the AP's Defensive Player of the Year, in PFF's list of the top 101 players. It's all in this week's Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston's Podcast Network.