In two weeks, Tom Brady will become a free agent for the first time in his career.
Speculation about where he will end up has been frequent so far this off-season, with cryptic tweets to sightings at basketball games contributing to the controversy.
Brady is 42 years old and last season was the first year of his career that he seemed to show significant signs of aging on the field.
Brady has said for a long time that his goal is to play until the age of 45 — which is certainly possible — but looks much less likely after last year.
Brady’s agent reportedly met with several teams at the combine in Indianapolis last week, with the Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers reportedly among them.
The New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans have also been rumored as potential destinations for Brady.
It is hard to invision Brady mentoring a young quarterback at this stage in his career, so a team like the Giants seems like an unlikely fit.
With Philip Rivers reportedly not returning to the Chargers, they would be a fairly realistic fit for Brady.
Yet, it is fair to question why they would jump from one aging quarterback to another instead of addressing the future.
They do have a roster with playoff-caliber talent, which would also be true of Tennessee and possibly the Colts and Buccaneers and that would seemingly be a requirement for Brady at this stage in his career.
Tennessee is probably the best team of those rumored to be interested in Brady, with their great running game and solid defense.
They are also, ironically if he chose to go there, the team that knocked the Patriots out of the playoffs in what could have been Brady’s last game in a Patriots uniform.
A report from the Boston Herald indicated that, prior to the combine, New England hadn’t even reached out to Brady yet and that chances of a return to New England were “not looking good”.
Brady’s house in the New England area is on the market and his wife Gisele Bundchen has voiced that even she does not know if her husband will return to the Patriots or not.
“I would love to know where I’m going to be living this year but I don’t know that yet,” Bundchen said.
When asked about the Brady situation in the press, Bill Belichick, the Patriots’ head coach, has not revealed anything of substance, but there have been rumors that he would be fine with Brady moving on.
Robert Kraft, the team’s owner, has said it is his “hope and prayer” that Brady remains in New England.
Belichick is known for not giving any player special treatment, so there is little doubt that he will not hesitate to move on from Brady if he feels that is in the team’s best interest.
However, the team has no replacement for Brady, with no young prospect waiting in the wings like they had in Jimmy Garoppolo several years ago.
Re-signing Brady seems to be in their best interest if they want to compete for a Super Bowl next year, along with a lot of other improvements that would need to be made on offense, most prominently at wide receiver.
The fact that they have no replacement plan for him currently makes it very likely that they will put the necessary money on the table for Brady.
It will come down to him and where he wants to be to finish out his career.
The “Patriot way” has always entailed keeping conflict internal and not exposing any controversy to the media.
If there is turmoil in Brady and Belichick’s relationship, which has been speculated about for a long time, it may be unknown.
Brady could end up staying in New England or even just choosing to retire after all, and all the talk about him joining another team will just go down as a “what-if”.
However, it has never seemed as likely as it does right now for Brady to join a new team for the first time.
Janssen can be reached at [email protected].