Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have hard choices to make in the coming months. For both, there’s no magic answer to the questions ahead.
The New England Patriots have no easy fix. Tom Brady has no simple choices.
Regardless of the decisions each make in the upcoming months, the dynasty faces its toughest challenge ever. Essentially, how do the Patriots remain in the title conversation as the roster simultaneously has aged and eroded?
Brady will be 43 years old in August. He’s easily the most high-profile free agent in New England, but there are myriad others who matter. Kyle Van Noy, Devin McCourty, Elandon Roberts, Jamie Collins, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras, Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel are all important pieces. They’re also all set for unrestricted free agency.
Looking at the full picture from Bill Belichick’s perspective, he has two choices.
Option 1: With his projected $49 million in cap space, he can potentially sign Brady with more than half that figure before attempting to retain maybe one or two other names from the aforementioned list. After that, it’s fliers, filler and draft picks. The bet here is Brady gains chemistry with Mohamed Sanu and N’Keal Harry, the rookies impress and the defense can stay strong.
Option 2: Let Brady walk. Draft a quarterback in the first round — think Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm, etc. — and rebuild the offense. Fix the offensive line, add some speed on the outside and retain a couple of his own free agents. The bet here is a rejuvenated roster and a young, athletic quarterback can seize the day.
Neither option is great. Both are rife with issues. It comes down to whether Belichick, at 67 years old, is taking the short or long-term approach.
Onto Brady. Brady has known nothing but the Patriots throughout his 20-year NFL career. He’s the most decorated player in league history, winning six Super Bowls and reaching nine. Even if long-time offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels leaves for a head-coaching gig, there’s ample familiarity with his surroundings and teammates.
However, does Brady see this as a natural break? The Patriots are falling behind the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens in the AFC. Both teams figure to only become stronger in the coming years behind dynamic, young quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, respectively. Both teams are set up for today and tomorrow.
With McDaniels likely leaving and the roster somewhat rigid if Brady signs for market value — think two years and $60 million — does largely running this back appeal to him? It seems unlikely, even if staying put is the easiest move in many aspects.
Should he legitimately seek a new landing spot, he’ll have a wave of interest. The Los Angeles Chargers would come calling, hoping to sell tickets in a tough market. The Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders and Chicago Bears might also have interest. Would any of those situation entice Brady? Impossible to say.
We won’t know what Belichick and Brady are truly thinking until deadlines approach. Free agency’s tampering period begins March 16, which will spur action if none has already been taken. Until then, it’s speculation, dot connecting and guesswork. Anybody saying or writing otherwise either has a direct line or is lying.
For Brady and Belichick, there is no easy fix. There are no simple choices.