We know two things about Tom Brady and his standing with the Patriots as the quarterback and team enter an offseason of questions for the first time in 20 years. One is the fact that the 42-year-old’s contract is set to void when the league year ends in March, which would make him an unrestricted free agent.
The other is that Brady wanted such freedom in 2020, which is telling.
Hours before the Patriots lost to the Titans in the wild-card round of the playoffs Saturday, a defeat that has New England haters dancing on what they believe to be the grave of the greatest dynasty in sports history, team owner Robert Kraft sat down with NBC Sports’ Peter King. Kraft confirmed Brady’s contract situation is his own doing.
“Before the season started,” Kraft told King, “it was very important to Tom that he be free to do whatever he wanted at the end of the year. You know what I said to myself? That any person who plays 20 years for this team and helps us get to six Super Bowls, and been really selfless, has earned that right. I love the young man like he’s part of my family. Blood family. Anyone who’s done that has earned the right to control his future after 20 years.
“And you know, my hope and prayer is number one, he play for the Patriots. Or number two, he retires. He has the freedom to decide what he wants to do and what’s in his own best personal interest.”
Retirement, of course, is “unlikely” for Brady based on what he told reporters after Saturday’s loss. He has said he wants to play until he is 45, and if he remains set on achieving that goal, it will take him into at least the 2022 NFL season — three more campaigns.
Brady confirmed that sentiment in an interview with King after the Titans game.
“I’ll explore those opportunities whenever they are,” Brady said when asked about his free agency. “If it’s the Patriots, great. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know. I just don’t know. I love playing football. I still want to play football. I think I still can play at a championship level. I’ve just got to go do it. I’m motivated to get back to work and training.
“The sun’s coming up tomorrow. Especially as I’ve gotten older, you realize that life goes on. I’ve been so fortunate to play for such a great owner and for such a great coach. Nobody could have had it better than me. I absolutely still do love this game. … I think a lot of other people who are great at what they do — great artists or great actors or great businessmen — they don’t have to stop what they love as they get older. I know there’s football still in here.”
While Brady’s words suggest he is willing to return to New England in 2020 and beyond, his actions suggest he is just as willing to explore other options.
Kraft, on the other hand, is crystal clear and transparent with his feelings. He recognizes a late-career Brady move to a new team would have precedent, but that doesn’t mean he would like it.
“I’m thinking of all that, of all the quarterbacks who went elsewhere,” Kraft told King, “and I just hope and believe that Tom … he is so special that he’s earned the right to do what’s best for him. … But I just hope and pray we fit into his plans.”
Which makes Bill Belichick the elephant in the room. The Patriots coach (and de facto general manager) on Saturday refused to answer postgame questions about Brady’s future with the organization. His ruthless management style leads some to believe he would be more than willing to part with an aging QB who ranked 19th in passer rating in 2019.
And let’s not forget the Jimmy Garoppolo trade of 2017. Reports indicated Belichick was willing to part with Brady sooner rather than later, thus keeping Garoppolo as the heir-apparent. Kraft reportedly preferred the opposite, and Garoppolo was dealt to San Francisco for just a second-round draft pick.
Kraft, though, might not get his way this time.
In a rare moment of transparency from the Patriots — or at least from Brady and Kraft — they are telling us the doubt is real. Nobody knows what’s going to happen in New England over the next three months.
Source: Read Full Article