It looks like the New England Patriots have finally set a number that they are willing to pay Tom Brady. Now, we'll just have to see if they can re-sign Brady and get him some legit help.
New England Patriots fans rejoiced on Sunday because before the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl 54, Tom Brady was the top story across the NFL. This outraged San Francisco and Kansas City fans and media personalities like Nick Wright were disgusted that Tom Brady would hijack Super Bowl weekend the way he did. Chris Broussard and Rob Parker screamed at each other for ten minutes over a black and white photo that Brady released on Twitter and Instagram. We all found out Sunday Night that the photo was from a commercial he shot for Hulu. So all in all it was a pretty good day for Patriots fans until Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid beat Brady's former backup Jimmy Garoppolo.
But, some actual news came out of this weekend that gave us a clearer picture where the Patriots are standing in the Tom Brady contract situation. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning that the Patriots are willing to pay Brady $30 Million to re-sign with New England.
Brady is expected to have options when the new league year begins, however. The Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders are reportedly expected to make pitches for the 42-year-old if he elects to leave the Patriots.
An average annual value of $30 million would place Brady among the league's highest-paid passers. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan currently earns that amount and ranks sixth among NFL pivots in salary, so New England appears willing to pay its superstar top-five money despite his age.
$30 million is a hefty price tag for a 43 year old quarterback, but despite an illusion that Tom Brady declined last season, he was still playing at high levels, and at this point it appears like Bill Belichick is willing to continue going forward with the quarterback he won six championships with.
It's difficult to envision Tom Brady playing with anybody but the Patriots. Brady has spent his entire 20-year career with the Patriots, but he may be open to playing for another franchise. According to Rapoport, he wants to see the team spend on offensive weapons in free agency.
This is where things get sticky. If Brady signs a $30 Million contract, that's going to eat a lot of the Patriots salary cap and will limit how much money they can spend on weapons for Brady. Timing is also an issue. If Brady doesn't sign with the Patriots before he becomes a free agent on March 18 the Patriots will have to eat a $13.5 million cap hit because of Tom Brady's current contract that automatically voids when he becomes a free agent.
It also depends on what type of weapons Brady is looking for. There are rumors that Brady wants to reunite with former wide receiver Danny Amendola. If that were the case the Patriots should be able to get Amendola at a cheaper price then some of the other free agents available. But the Patriots also have to address the tight end situation, and if Tom Brady wants an established player like Austin Hooper or Hunter Henry, it's going to cost the Patriots a pretty penny.
One option the Patriots could explore is tight end Greg Olsen who is parting ways with the Carolina Panthers. I don't see Olsen as a great option. He will probably be a little more productive than Ben Watson was this season, but Olsen is on the decline and if people believe Olsen can recreate some of the magic that Rob Gronkowski made with Brady you'll be sadly disappointed. Olsen is not the tight end he was before he injured himself in 2017, and he doesn't produce like he did earlier in his career. But, on the other side of the argument this could be a situation where Tom Brady is able to elevate Olsen's game.
The Patriots believe Tom Brady has a couple good years left in him, and his play this year proved that father time hasn't quite caught him yet. Brady led the Patriots to a 12-4 record and their 11th consecutive AFC East title this season, but a Week 17 loss to the Miami Dolphins cost them a bye, and they fell 20-13 to the Tennessee Titans in a home AFC Wild Card Round playoff game.
Following the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and release of wide receiver Josh Gordon, Brady was left with few reliable options in the passing game in 2019 aside from slot receiver Julian Edelman and running back James White.
It appears that teammates will be very important for Brady this season, and that could mean the Patriots parting ways with Mohamed Sanu and saving the team $6.5 million in the 2020 season.
The Bleacher Report's Mike Chiari broke down the possible free agents the Patriots could target for Brady, but also warned if they didn't manage to get the job done, there are other options for Brady out there.
"In terms of free agents, the Patriots could look to sign some combination of wide receivers Amari Cooper, A.J. Green, Breshad Perriman, Robby Anderson and Emmanuel Sanders, and tight ends Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper and Eric Ebron.
Failing that, Rapoport noted that the Los Angeles Chargers are considered a major suitor for Brady's services, especially on the heels of Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reporting that the Chargers have moved on from longtime quarterback Philip Rivers.
If the Chargers re-sign Henry at tight end, they can offer Brady an allotment of weapons that includes Henry, running back Austin Ekeler and wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, which trumps what he currently has in New England."
I still think that Brady ends up with the Patriots, and even though New England seems prepared to pay him $30 million per season, I wonder if Brady would consider taking a hometown discount in-order for the Patriots to sign a top end free agent receiver or tight end.
The Patriots having a number is a positive sign. But, another positive sign is that Brady says that he has spoken with the Patriots since the season finished. That's not as common as some people may think. Normally when a player is heading into free agency they will have little to no conversation with their team. Brady wouldn't elaborate on what the extent of those conversations have been, but he does admit that he's spoken to the team.
“Yeah, I have. Yep,” Brady said. “I am not going to elaborate much more than that, but yes, I have. I think that is a pretty normal thing for me. Again, these are people who have been a part of my life for a very long time.”
Brady acknowledged his relationship with the Patriots, and though he didn't get into specifics, I'm assuming he meant with Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft.
“Yeah, what a great two decades it has been,” Brady continued. “I think they know how I feel about them and I know how they feel about me. We’ve always had a great relationship and we always will. There’s not much to say other than that. There’s a lot again — everyone needs to take some time to evaluate where they are at and evaluate the decisions they need to make moving forward. The Patriots will do that, every team will do that, the players who have the opportunity to be free agents will do that, and then when the time is right, I guess in six weeks from now, everyone will make their decisions.”
I'm sure Patriots fans are walking away with more questions than answers, but the puzzle pieces are starting to come together. The good news is, we have six more weeks to talk about this, and a very interesting off-season for New England continues to heat up.