As it turns out, this wasn’t just posturing. Tom Brady stunned the football world on Tuesday morning at 8:44 a.m. ET with a social media post announcing that his football future would continue somewhere outside of Foxborough, Massachusetts. For the first time in 20 years, Brady is not a Patriot.
We’re looking at a long day of news ahead, but here is what we know so far….
• It seems Brady’s options are the Buccaneers and Chargers. NFL Media reported that both made the 42-year-old substantial, $30-plus million offers. Signings made by other teams (Titans/Ryan Tannehill, Raiders/Marcus Mariota) would prevent most other teams from hanging in the race, though there’s always a chance Brady wasn’t bluffing about the robust nature of his market and another team is lurking in the shadows (Chicago? Miami?). It has been no secret that the Buccaneers have made especially strong overtures to Brady and are hoping to land him. At the moment, it would seem they have the best slate of corresponding pieces: One established star wide receiver and a strong, complementary second piece, two solid tight end options, a workable offensive line and a head football coach with experience working with veteran quarterbacks.
• The Patriots are off to find Tom Brady’s successor with roughly $7.8 million in cap space. While that number can always be manipulated and shifted, it would be stunning to see Bill Belichick go with Jarrett Stidham and Cody Kessler off the bat. Andy Dalton could be acquired via trade and Teddy Bridgewater is available via free agency. With common sense placing Philip Rivers in Indianapolis, those, at the moment, are the Patriots’ best options for 2020. Other free agent quarterbacks on the market: Jameis Winston, Blake Bortles, Chase Daniel, Colt McCoy and Mike Glennon.
• I think that while the Patriots have always thrived on being a machine in perpetual motion, they may have underestimated the raw emotions that will be attached to whomever tries to replace Tom Brady on a permanent basis. This will be the ultimate test of Belichick’s ability to place everything in a vacuum and make each individual week about the upcoming opponent. Brady’s steady presence has allowed this to happen for so many years and has taken so many difficult decisions off Belichick’s plate. Imagine, for example, the pressure on someone like Stidham taking an opening night snap at Gillette Stadium.
• On that same note, imagine the pressure on Brady to succeed. He is, without question, one of the game’s fiercest competitors and now faces life away from the militant operation that provided him with the best preparation in football. There is no other place like the Patriots. Brady cannot go somewhere and recreate the New England Patriots.
• We are, at the moment, floating without precedent. The most incredible aspect of the Patriots dynasty was that, for 20 years, all three major stakeholders (owner, coach and quarterback) tolerated and worked with one another. A majority of American marriages cannot sustain themselves with two major stakeholders. In the immediate aftermath, plenty of people were brushing off the inevitable separation by name-checking Montana and Namath, who both ended their storied careers in different uniforms. This, however, feels like something more culturally transcendent. There are 20-year-old kids in Massachusetts entering their senior year of college who know nothing outside of Brady under center.
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