For the first time in his 20-year career, Tom Brady can do whatever he wants to do. So what will he want to do?
No one knows, yet. And no one may know, for a while. In the grand scheme of things, the general options are fairly limited.
First, he can stay with the Patriots, extending his tenure to 21 years and counting. (He repeatedly has said he intends to play at least three more years, an the Patriots believe it.)
Second, he can chase the money, joining whoever offers him the most of it. (He has never shown any inclination to make decisions based on money.)
Third, he can look for a spot where he can immediately pursue a potential championship. Finding a team with all the pieces except an established quarterback won’t be easy — unless the Saints decide to move on from Drew Brees (not likely) and/or the 49ers decide to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo (far less likely).
Fourth, Brady can pursue the Peyton Manning path, going to a place where he’d essentially get the keys to the offense and then embark on a three-year effort to become as competitive as possible. At 42 and with 20 years of NFL experience (including 41 playoff games), he’d be a better coach than most coaches who have ever coached. Maybe it’s not money but employment terms like this that will get his attention.
If Brady pursues Option No. 4, the question then becomes which team would welcome him with open arms and give him the keys to the offense? Teams with young franchise quarterbacks (Bills, Jets, Texans, Chiefs, Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Cardinals, Rams, probably the Browns) presumably would never be in play. Teams with older franchise quarterbacks (Seahawks, Packers, Steelers) presumably wouldn’t be in play, either.
The Chargers should offer Brady whatever he wants, because that would be the best way for the Chargers to fill the new stadium wth actual Chargers fans. But, again, there’s no reason to think making the most money is motivating Brady, because it never has. If the Chargers tell him he can run the offense, that could be a factor.
Then there are the various offshoots of The Patriots Way, from Detroit (Matt Patricia) to Tennessee (Mike Vrabel) to Miami (Brian Flores) to wherever Josh McDaniels may end up, Brady could be interested in partnering up with some of his past partners.
Regardless of what he does, Brady will be able to do whatever he wants. And what he wants eventually will be the biggest story of the 2020 offseason.