Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be a free agent in March, able to sign with any team. And if Brady is determined to attend the Super Bowl next year as a participant not a spectator, there aren’t many spots that would give him a clear chance to do that.
One potential spot would be in the place not far from where Brady was raised, playing for the team he cheered on as a child: The San Francisco 49ers. With Santa Clara a mere 39 miles from his hometown of San Mateo — and with the 49ers currently loaded on both sides of the ball — Brady may be fascinated by the possibility of pursuing Ring No. 7 with a franchise that would match the Patriots with Ring No. 6.
So what if Brady calls G.M. John Lynch and/or coach Kyle Shanahan and makes it clear that he’s interested? (The oft-ignored tampering rules would require slightly more discretion than that, but it would be easy for Brady to send the message.) What would the 49ers say if they could swap out Jimmy Garoppolo (possibly, trade him back to the Patriots) for Brady?
It’s an intriguing prospect, to say the least. “He doesn’t fit the offense,” some will say. Others will respond by saying, “Make the offense fit him.”
Here’s the real question that 49ers fans objectively need to ask themselves: Would the 49ers have won the Super Bowl with Tom Brady at quarterback? If Lynch and Shanahan resolve that question in the affirmative, they also may think that they’d be more likely to win the next one with Brady.
However it plays out, the structure of Garoppolo’s contract gives the 49ers until April 1 to make a decision. On that day, $15.7 million of Garoppolo’s $23.8 million salary becomes fully guaranteed. Before April 1, the 49ers can escape the salary, a $600,000 workout bonus, and $800,000 in per-game roster bonuses by trading or cutting Garoppolo. The cap hit would be only $4.2 million.
So what will they do? It starts with what does Brady want to do? If he’s willing to take the same $25.2 million (plus maybe a few more bucks) that the 49ers will pay Garoppolo this year, the 49ers will have a big decision to make.