Tom Brady is leaving the New England Patriots. That, we know.
Where is he going? That remains a mystery.
Brady’s farewell message to New England will be the only announcement the star quarterback makes Tuesday, according to multiple reports. He plans to take time to weigh his options before deciding which team he’ll be joining for the upcoming season.
Two clear front-runners have emerged in the battle for Brady’s services, with other suitors potentially lurking.
THE TOP CONTENDERS
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brady to the Bucs? Really? As unlikely as that pairing sounds, Tampa Bay is making a very serious push for the 42-year-old. The Bucs have telegraphed their interest in Brady for weeks and can offer him a solid offensive line, top-tier weapons (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard), a laid-back coach in Bruce Arians who’d afford him considerable freedom and input and, oh yeah, a whole lot of money. Tampa reportedly made a “strong offer” for Brady worth at least $30 million per season, and Florida has no state income tax. Brady joining a perpetually mediocre franchise that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2007 would be an anticlimactic end to a storied career, but Arians’ club wasn’t terrible in 2019, going 7-9 despite 30 Jameis Winston interceptions. Bucs general manager Jason Licht, a former Patriots exec, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter his team is awaiting Brady’s decision.
Bucs' GM Jason Licht acknowledged there is interest in free-agent QB Tom Brady, the two sides spoke Monday, but there has been no conversation today and there is no deal in place. "We're waiting to see what Tom decides just like everybody else," Licht said.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 17, 2020
2. Los Angeles Chargers
The other team that reportedly made Brady a “strong offer” in the $30 million range, the Chargers can provide one thing Tampa cannot: the humungous L.A. market, which would be an ideal launching pad for the expansion of the TB12 brand. The Chargers also boast an impressive collection of skill-position players in receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, tight end Hunter Henry and dual-threat running back Austin Ekeler, but their O-line struggled in 2019 and now will be without left tackle Russell Okung (though the Okung trade landed them standout guard Trai Turner).
THE WILD CARDS
3. Miami Dolphins
Miami owner Stephen Ross and head coach Brian Flores both acknowledged Brady wouldn’t want to join a rebuilding team, but the Dolphins could surprise some people this season. They won four of their final nine games in 2019 and have been on a free agent spending spree, adding linebacker Kyle Van Noy, cornerback Byron Jones, defensive end Shaq Lawson and guard Ereck Flowers in the last 24 hours. But the Dolphins likely punted on a potential Brady pursuit when they fired offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea — a Patriots alum, like Flores — and hired Chan Gailey, who runs a simpler, spread-based scheme that wouldn’t jibe with Brady’s preferences. Still, a report from ESPN’s Dan Graziano on Tuesday indicated Brady-to-Miami remains a possibility.
4. Indianapolis Colts
From a football standpoint, the Colts would make sense as a Brady landing spot, considering their overall roster talent and plentiful salary cap space. ESPN’s Ed Werder reported they’re “not in the market” for Brady, however. They appear to be zeroed in on Philip Rivers. Plus, Brady might not be interested in joining the franchise that kicked off Deflategate.
5. Las Vegas Raiders
If the Raiders planned on going after Brady, why would they have agreed to terms with Marcus Mariota? While it’s true that contracts can’t be made official until Wednesday, Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden changing course at this juncture seems unlikely.
THE HIGHLY UNLIKELIES
6. Chicago Bears
Brady would be an upgrade over Mitchell Trubisky, but he’d be an awkward fit for Matt Nagy’s offense, which explains why the rumor mill never has linked him to Chicago. The Bears couldn’t afford him, anyway, without some significant salary cap finagling.
7. San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco would be an ideal destination for the Bay Area native, but NBC’s Chris Simms — who’s tight with Niners coach Kyle Shanahan — reported that isn’t happening. They’re sticking with Jimmy Garoppolo.
8. New York Giants
ESPN’s Jeff Darlington mentioned proximity to New York City as a draw for Brady as he mulls his next move. The Giants’ new head coach, Joe Judge, came from New England, as did quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski. Daniel Jones had an OK rookie season but wasn’t so impressive that New York wouldn’t possibly consider sitting him for a year or two if the right starter came along. The MMQB’s Albert Breer reported two weeks ago the Giants were not expected to pursue Brady, so this scenario would require a change of heart.