Of all the potential Tom Brady destinations, the one that’s been bandied about this week is by far the most fascinating.
During an appearance Tuesday on Sirius XM’s “Mad Dog Sports Radio,” Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston said he believes the San Francisco 49ers are a legitimate player in the Brady sweepstakes.
“To me, it’s either going to be New England or Tennessee, with the 49ers closing hard on the outside,” Curran said. “I think (there’s interest) from both (Brady and the Niners). I think there’s an appeal.”
— Mad Dog Sports Radio (@MadDogRadio) March 3, 2020
Curran wasn’t the first media member to float that notion, either. Deion Sanders, Peter King and Mike Florio all have done so in the wake of last week’s NFL Scouting Combine. No concrete reports, but plenty of speculation.
“It?s smart to keep one eye on the Niners as March 18 approaches,” Florio wrote Monday in a ProFootballTalk column titled “Will the 49ers make a play for Tom Brady?”
For Brady, who will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time if he does not re-sign with the New England Patriots before March 18, San Francisco’s allure is obvious. He’s a Bay Area native who grew up a diehard 49ers fan. The current-day Niners boast one of football’s brightest offensive minds in head coach Kyle Shanahan and a loaded roster that includes:
— A top-tier defense
— A dominant running game
— A dangerous receiving duo (Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders, though the latter will be a free agent)
— The closest thing the NFL currently has to Rob Gronkowski (All-Pro tight end George Kittle)
Brady’s buddy Wes Welker also is on Shanahan’s staff.
The Patriots half of this equation is equally enthralling.
Brady joining the 49ers would create an avenue for Jimmy Garoppolo, whom Bill Belichick begrudgingly traded away three years ago, to return to Foxboro. Garoppolo played well this season and steered the Niners to the Super Bowl, but his performance in the fourth quarter of their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs (3-for-11 with an interception and a bad miss on a deep ball to Sanders) has led some to question his bona fides as a true franchise quarterback.
The Garoppolo trade — the QB for a 2018 second-round draft pick — was a steal for the 49ers. Would John Lynch, who inquired about Brady before swinging that deal, return the favor, shipping Jimmy G back to New England at a discounted rate if his team landed Brady?
Lynch and Shanahan both have publicly backed Garoppolo in the weeks since the Super Bowl, but thanks to the setup of the megadeal he signed in 2018, the Niners would be on the hook for just $4.2 million in dead money if they cut or trade him before April 1. It would take some finagling, but the Patriots would be able to fit Garoppolo’s $25.4 million under their salary cap.
How realistic is this whole scenario? That’s not clear at this point. But if the 49ers brain trust believes a 43-year-old Brady would give them a better chance to win a championship than his former backup would, it could make sense for both sides.