Bye, Bye, Bye to the GOAT
I have been a Pats fan my entire life, from games at Boston College to Harvard to Schafer Stadium, where I sold souvenirs in the parking lot, and finally to the luxury suites at Gillette. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. And take it from a Pats-lifer, the greatest salary-capped dynasty in the history of sports is about to come to an end when the GOAT rides off into free agency.
A lot of people, a lot of smart sports/Patriots people, tell me that I am crazy and no way they break up the band just before the farewell tour. “No way Tommy’s leaving” has probably been said 10,000 times over the airwaves of Boston sports radio in the last month. But people, wise up.
Listen to what is being said by people close to Tom. Study the dire cap numbers. And look at the contracted roster for the 2020 season. If you add up all those things, it’s almost impossible to believe he’ll be under center in Foxboro gunning for title #7 for the Patsies.
*But I also said it was impossible when they were down 28-3 against the Falcons, so you never know.
Let’s first look at the Pats and then the contenders and pretenders in the Tom Brady Sweepstakes.
New England Patriots
Betting Odds: -250
Odds Factory % He Stays a Pat: 30%
Why He Stays in New England
It’s been home for 20+ years, and he’s achieved more in Foxboro than any player has ever achieved anywhere in the history of the NFL. There is a certain romance to playing a whole career with one team, and there are many cautionary flags posted by QBs who left the nest and regretted it (Unitas, Namath, and Montana to start out).
He’s playing for the most valuable coach in the history of the sport in Bill Belichek and probably the best OC in the NFL with Josh McDaniels. He knows the system better than he knows Gisele’s backside, and this comfort and knowledge of the system allow him, and Bill/Josh, to spend more time game-planning and not learning, giving them/Tom a huge advantage every week.
He loves Bob Kraft, and other than bringing his beloved Myra back to life and not going for a double helping of Orchids of Asia, there is nothing in the world Krafty would want more than seeing his beloved TB close out his career in Foxboro. BK will hustle to make this happen and until the ink is dry on another team’s contract he’ll keep swinging.
The Pats’ offense, which left TB frustrated and upset all season, will improve next year. David Andrews and James Develin will be back next year and give the team the oomph it was missing upfront with these two on IR all season.
N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Myers, and Mohammad Sanu will improve with a year under their belts learning the Pats’ complex passing routes and gaining Tom’s trust.
Maybe, just maybe, Gronk decides to saddle–up for another ride with TB 12.
Why He Won't Come Back to the Pats
Betting Odds: +180
Tom has said that he will not give the Pats his normal “hometown” discount.
The Patriots have $44 million in salary-cap space. Some teams out there would spend that entire amount just to sign Tom, but let’s just Tom doesn’t gouge The Pats and takes mid-value money, which would be about $32 million a year.
That leaves the Pats with $12 million in cap space and enough holes in their roster to sink a battleship.
They are in the 21st slot and have a total of 11 picks in the draft. Given the size of the total cap, they are projected to spend $9.1 million to sign those picks. That would leave the team with $2.9 million in cap space.
Joe Thuney, Kyle Van Noy, Devin McCourty, Jamie Collins, and Matthew Slater are all free agents. With $2.9 million, they might be able to re-sign Slater, but if they did, they would be completely capped out.
That means no free agents or free agent rookies of any kind.
People are screaming to get Tom Brady more weapons on the Pats and he’ll stay. People are screaming to get Tom Brady more protection on The Pats and he’ll stay. How the hell are they going to do that if they don’t have any money to spend?
No Championship Team
On top of all that, Tom’s true main protector, the greatest O-line coach in the history of professional football, Dante Scarnecchia, just retired. Dante did this once before and retired in 2013. That was the year that Brady took more hits than any year in his career and was treated like a piñata by the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
This a team that is going in the wrong direction (hard not to when you’ve been on the top for so long) and has no shot to be in the Super Bowl next year. In my mind, they would barely be a playoff team with Tom under center and all the above-referenced potential free agents gone.
If Darth Hoody is as unemotional as he has been in the past and looks at his team and his cap situation, he has to let The GOAT free. This roster is not a championship roster, so take the $30-odd million you’re not paying Tommy and go out and build a team that can compete and win in 2-3 years.
It’s actually perfect for Bill. He puts his team in a position to win in the future, and he doesn’t have to be the fall guy for letting the greatest player of all time leave because the salary cap wouldn’t let him do it. “It is what it is. We didn’t have enough money to sign him. Next question please.”
The single most important thing to Tom Brady for him to come back is to get another ring (or two), and, given the roster structure and cap problems of the Pats, he has virtually no shot to do that in Foxboro.
Cue up The Backstreet Boys because it’s “Bye, Bye, Bye.”
Betting Odds: +3300
Odds Factory % He Becomes a Bear: 1%
It would be fun to see Tom at Soldier Field in Bears colors. The city would lose its mind if he came to town, but no way it’s happening.
They have $13 million in cap space, and I don’t see how they chop a minimum of $20 million off the wage bill and keep this team in order. And on the offensive side of the ball, they were awful with the 4th-worst O in the league. TB was miserable last year with the Pats’ inept offense, so there is no way he’s going to a team that was much worse.
No way he’s going to the Bears.
San Francisco 49ers
Betting Odds: +3300
Odds Factory % He Becomes a Niner: 1%
Really, people? You really think the Niners are going to blow up what they have now with Jimmy G? Unless John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have had a series of post-season epiphanies and now believe that getting rid of Jimmy GQ and replacing him with the GOAT will put them over the top, it’s not gonna happen.
Betting Odds: +2500
Odds Factory % He Becomes a Dolphin: 1%
They have tons and tons and tons of cap space, and they don’t have a QB. Gisele would be ecstatic to get out of the cold and drab Boston and move to Miami.
They also have a coach (Brian Flores) who Tom knows and likes.
One big problem – the owner, Stephen Ross, has no interest in writing TB a big check. He likes the direction that his team is going in and doesn’t want to do anything to derail it, even if the idea of beating the Pats with Krafty’s boy-wonder throwing darts for the Fish is mouthwatering to the billionaire.
Los Angeles Chargers
Betting Odds: +550
Odds Factory % He Becomes a Charger: 8%
There is no team in the NFL (and it’s not even close) that NEEDS to sign Tom Brady more than the LA Chargers.
Last year, they played at the StubHub Center with a capacity of 27,000 fans, and the crowd mix was usually 1/3rd Chargers fans and 2/3rds the opposing team’s fans. The Chargers, since moving up the 405 from SD, have been playing with a home field disadvantage and, in reality, drawing less than 10,000 Chargers fans per game.
In 2020, they won’t be playing in a 27,000-seat stadium. They’re moving into the 70,000-seat SoFi Stadium. Early reports are that the team has sold about 25,000 tickets per game and would call sales to this day “weak.” The Chargers are going into a brand new stadium, and they’re going to be at 40-50% capacity per game. Those are Miami Marlins' new stadium numbers.
There’s only one solution to that type of problem in Hollywood. You need to get a star, a really-really big star to ride in and save the day.
Why Tom Does Become a Charger
They would pay him more, much more than anyone else, to sign him (and, as a business move, the Chargers would have to be insane not to do that).
The highest-paid player in the NFL is Russell Wilson at $35 million per year. The Chargers have $51 million in cap space and would pay every cent of it to The GOAT to ensure that he would be wearing the powder blue next year.
They would also have a pretty decent roster left after backing up the Brinks truck to his and Gisele’s backdoor.
The Bolts went 5-11 last year, but their record is deceiving.
The ESPN NFL Luck Index had them rated the unluckiest team in football last year.
Even with all that bad luck, their opponents outscored them by only 8 points over the course of the season. By comparison, the two other teams in the league that went 5-11 were the Panthers, who were outscored by 130 points, and the Dolphins, who were outscored by 188.
If not for back luck and any number of Philip Rivers’ (who is now gone) brain freezes, this team could have been anywhere from 7-9 to 11-5.
They have weapons in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Both receivers topped the 1000-yard mark this year and give Brady something he sorely lacked in NE – guys that can get downfield and open up the middle of the field, where Tom can still slice and dice with any QB in the league.
If Gronk is coming back anywhere, this would be destination #1.
Why Tom Doesn't Become a Charger
The fish rots from the head down, and the Spanos family has done a pretty inept job of running the Chargers for the past 35 years. The team had been fighting with the city of San Diego for decades about a new stadium. When they finally moved, they moved to Los Angeles, in what may have been the most head-scratching re-location in the history of football. Anyone from SoCal will tell you the San Diego people do not like LA. And anyone with half a brain knew that San Diego Chargers fans would never be LA Chargers fans.
The bottom line, it’s a huge step down from Krafty to Dean Spanos.
Anthony Lynn is probably one of the worst coaches in the NFL. The Chargers have done just enough stupid things under his tenure to blow close games consistently. I bet against The Chargers a lot this year, and his ineptitude was my best friend during the 2019 season.
I think it would drive Tom bat-shit crazy playing for a coach like Lynn and an undisciplined group like The Bolts. Sure, I know having Tom around will raise everyone’s game, but I don’t see him wanting to play “kindergarten cop” in LA.
Maybe if the odds were richer. The money would be amazing, but I think there are better value plays to invest in.
Betting Odds: +1000
Odds Factory % He Becomes a Colt: 8%
Gentlemen, start your hype machines. The Indy Colts have a legit shot at Tom with a gaping amount of cap space and offense that would provide him with all the tools to win that he didn’t have last year in Foxboro.
Why Tom Does Become a Colt
They are swimming in cap space with $86 million as of today, and, if they released Jacoby Brisset, they would have $95 million.
Frank Reich is a former QB and OC, so I think he and Tommy would be on the same page.
The Colts have drafted incredibly well over the past couple of years, so they have pro bowl players on the roster at cheap prices. Their current roster has much more talent than the current Pats roster (because of the Pats’ slew of free agents) and they have $40-50 million more in cap space than the Pats do.
They have a tremendous running game led by Marlon Mack (a 2017 4th round pick) who runs behind a powerful O-line, anchored by the best guard in football, Quenton Nelson (a 2018 1st round pick).
They have quality wide-outs in T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal, along with a rock-solid tight end in Jack Doyle.
If the Colts paid TB $40 million, they would still have $55 million left to go shopping. Look at the galaxy of free-agent stars on the offensive side of the ball (Amari Cooper, A.J. Green, Derrick Henry, Jack Conklin, Hunter Henry, and about 20 other top-rated players). You could put together an O that would give #12 a tremendous shot at ring #7.
The division is very winnable, with no really outstanding team to get in the way of the rampaging Colts.
It’s on Eastern Time and just a two-hour-and-change flight to the East Coast.
Why Tom Doesn't Become a Colt
It would be super weird going to Peyton Manning’s old team.
Jim Irsay seems like a bit of a clown that was born on 3rd base. I don’t see the chemistry between him and TB 12.
For football reasons alone, the Colts have to be right in the mix, but I just can’t see this one happening. There’s just too much history between these two teams and, even more so, between Tom and Mister Chicken Parm.
There a lot of good options out there, and I think, with multiple bidders, it will ultimately coming down to millimeters of difference. I believe the thought of putting on the helmet with the horseshoe will keep him from signing on the dotted line with the Colts.
Las Vegas Raiders
Betting Odds: +800
Odds Factory % He Becomes a Raider: 15%
Vegas Baby Vegas!
The Chargers may be the team that needs TB more than any other team, but I think Mark Davis, the Raiders, and the city of Las Vegas want Tommy more than anyone else.
The Raiders’ management saw how berserk the city of Vegas has gone over the Golden Knights’ hockey, and imagine the hysteria that will grip Sin City if TB 12 is wearing Silver & Black in 2020.
Why Tom Does Become a Raider
If Derek Carr is not around, the Raiders have about $65 million in cap space, plenty of room to sign Tom and add a few missing parts to the offense. The Raiders also own the 12th and 19th picks in the first round of the draft, prime position to get the burners on the outside that the Raiders are missing.
Tom likes Chucky and Chuck loves Tom. One thing that makes Gruden go psycho is dumb mental mistakes, and having TB around would certainly decrease his blood pressure.
They have weapons. Josh Jacobs ran for over 1100 yards and might have led the league in rushing if not for a series of injuries. Darren Waller had a breakout season at TE, racking up over 1100 yards. Clemson legend Hunter Renfrow had a great rookie year and would fill the void in Tom’s life for a tough-white-slot receiver with a receding hairline since Wes Welker jilted him for Peyton Manning so many years ago.
The offensive line returns in tow and was one of the best pass-blocking units in the league ranking 5th in pass block protection.
This is a team that has all the pieces in place to win right now. They have a proven coach, a young squad on the way up, a good cache of draft picks, and enough cap space to fill in the holes.
Why Tom Doesn't Become a Raider
They have Derek Carr under contract at a reasonable amount of money. Does it make football sense to open up the vault for TB when you have a younger, fairly good QB already on the roster? At the end of the season, The Odds Factory had Brady as 11th best QB in the league and Carr at 14th, not a huge spread. You pay Tom a boatload of cash, he gets hurt, and you’ve blown up all the planning you’ve done to get here.
Tom grew up a die-hard 49ers fan, and the thought of putting on the Silver & Black may not be easy for him.
There are a lot of moving parts when a team goes to a new city, and a lot can go wrong.
Gisele is not moving the kids to Vegas.
If they decide to jump in, they have as good of odds as anyone to sign him. I’d still pass on the Raiders because I think there are equal destinations out there at better odds.
Betting Odds: +2200
Odds Factory % Tom Becomes a Cowboy: 8%
They would once again be America’s Team. That alone is enough to get Jerry Jones to splurge.
Why Tom Does Become a Cowboy
Big-big-big stage. Tom loves the eyes of the world squarely on him, and, if he did hoist his 7th Lombardi Trophy while wearing The Star, it would elevate him to turbo-GOAT status.
They have $77 million in cap space, so paying the GOAT like a GOAT would be no problem. And it would still leave them with plenty of room to re-sign Amari Cooper and fill in a few holes.
He’d be playing for a real football coach in Mike McCarthy.
The offensive line is one of, if not the best, in football. Gisele would sleep much more soundly knowing her main man was being protected by the firm of Martin, Smith, Collins, Frederick, and Fleming.
Their running game is a huuuuuge upgrade over the Pats. Zeke would be Tom’s GRBOAT (Greatest Running Back Of All Time).
Why Tom Doesn't Become a Cowboy
They have Dak Prescott. Tom might be an uptick for ’20 and ’21, but after that, the ‘Boys will have to look for a new QB. Dak also seems to be pretty well-loved by his teammates, and throwing him overboard to bring in TB might unsettle the troops.
Amari Cooper is a free agent, and top tight-end Jason Witten is flipping coins to see if he’s coming back.
Jerry World is a circus, and the “Patriot Way” is not. Might not be a perfect culture fit for Tommy.
Too many questions. The Cowboys have a shot if they want to play. But I’m not so sure Jerry is ready to shove all-in on TB.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Betting Odds: +2200
Odds Factory % He Becomes a Buc: 15%
A semi-nowhere team in a semi- nowhere place, how could TB end up in TB?
I mean, there are a handful of teams that are going to go after TB. How in the world will the man who has been the face of the NFL since 2001 end up on the Tampa Bucs, who haven’t even been to the playoffs since 2007?
If you had to rank all the reasons why Tom Brady is still playing football, #1 by a wide-wide-wide-wide margin would be, HE LOVES FOOTBALL.
In terms of football and football only, the #1 team he should be going to is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Oh yeah, also, they could pay him $50 million and still have plenty left for weapons.
Why Tom Does Become a Buccaneer
The Bucs have more total cap space than any team in the league, with $84 million in place to sign free agents and rookies. $84 million, that’s a lot of money to spend. And one of Tom’s biggest gripes of playing for Belichick is that he gets practically no say in any personal decisions. The Bucs, with all that space and wanting to land Tom, would not only be able to dangle the cash, but also let Tom go shopping for whatever he wants.
You'd think that, with all that cap space, the cupboard would be bare in Tampa, but it’s far from it. The roster they have in place is dramatically better than the one he would be leaving in Foxboro.
They have a legit #1-receiver in Mike Evans. He would be the best big-play receiver that Tom has played with since Randy Moss. They have two solid tight ends, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, who would flourish with Tom under center.
The O-line is not great, but far from awful. They actually ranked equal with the Pats in pass-block protection last year. But the Pats just lost the greatest O-line coach of all time and their best lineman, Joe Thuney, to free agency. Tampa’s line will be more than adequate and have plenty of cap space to upgrade where need be.
Bruce Arians is a QB coach, and Tom has always spoken fondly of him. TB would lose Josh McDaniels, but replacing him with Arians wouldn't be so bad.
They are in a fairly easy division, which would become the worst division in football if Drew Brees leaves The Big Easy.
Tampa is on East Coast time and is a short flight home to Greenwich/Brookline, so Tom can have family time during the season.
Gronk loves warm weather.
Why Tom Doesn't Become a Buccaneer
It’s Tampa, and the Bucs haven’t been to the playoffs since 2007.
There’s nothing iconic about the Bucs, and it would be super weird seeing him in Tampa orange.
The Glazers are OK owners. Are they Dean Spanos? Not that bad. Are they Krafty? Not that good.
They are in a small market with a fan base that is more concerned with the SEC than it is with the NFL.
Bet on The Buccaneers.
This is the #1 football, “I want to win another ring” place to go. At odds of 20-1, it is a massive value play. And you should be putting down some action on TB going to TB.
Betting Odds: +1300
Odds Factory % Tom Becomes a Titan: 15%
Can you see Tom rolling down the streets of Nashville in cowboy boots and hat going out for a night of line dancing and the Grand Ole Opry with Gisele and the kids?
At first thought, hell no.
But when you start to dig under the surface and remember all the things Tennessee has to offer on the football field, the optics begin to fade and the logic begins to settle in.
Why Tom Does Become a Titan
They have a hell of a football team on both sides of the ball. Of all the teams that have a legit shot at getting Brady to sign, the Titans probably have the best team on paper. I mean, they almost made it to the Super Bowl with Ryan Tannehill under center. If they had Brady on the ‘19-‘20 Titans, I don’t think there would have been a parade in KC this year.
Having Mike Vrabel, his former teammate and current compadre, as head coach won’t hurt the Titans’ cause.
Add close to $50 million in cap space, and Music City becomes more and more appealing.
They had the 4th-highest-rated line for pass blocking and the best line in football for run blocking, opening gaping holes for NFL rushing king Derrick Henry. Along with the Cowboys, the Titans have one of the truly elite O lines in football. The run/pass mix with Tom’s ability to play-action fake would make the Titans a very tough team to stop.
The play-action pass and throws over the middle, which Brady excels at, will not only flourish because of the blocking but also because of A.J. Brown on the outside, who is keeping the safeties back with his blazing speed and big-play ability.
Brady’s most effective route of all time was a seam route to Gronk. Vrabel and the Titans have all the elements in place to create a revival of the play that disappeared for the Pats in 2019.
The fact that Nashville is only a two-hour flight from Tom’s family/home in Greenwich/Brookline makes this a very appealing prospect for the Brady Bunch.
Why Tom Doesn't Become a Titan
It’s Tennessee. It could be good, no distractions. It could be bad, too small a stage.
Derrick Henry and Jack Conklin are free agents. I don’t think the Titans will have enough left in the cookie to re-sign both or even one of them if they go in big for Brady.
In all likelihood, another team can and will offer him more money.
It’s 1 or 1A for football.
Well worth a shot at those odds, and having two horses in the race at long odds is not the worst strategy.