For exactly one more month, the Patriots officially have exclusive negotiating rights with quarterback Tom Brady. It would be foolish to assume that, unofficially, other teams already aren’t making their proposals known to Brady and/or his agent, Don Yee.
But the only team that has the right to talk to Brady about a contract for 2020 and beyond isn’t. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, there has been no movement between Brady and the team he joined 20 years ago in April.
So here’s what likely will happen over the next two weeks. The whispers and chatter regarding Brady’s future will accelerate into yes-it’s-tampering-but-no-one-cares face-to-face meetings between Yee and interested teams in Indianapolis, when the Scouting Combine gets rolling on Monday the 24th of February. By the end of the week in Indianapolis, Yee will know: (1) every other team that wants to pursue Brady; and (2) the general terms of their expected financial offers.
At that point, fully aware as to who and what is lurking behind Door No. 2, Yee and/or Brady can try to work something out with the Patriots before seeing the unofficial discussions pivot to something firm and official as of March 16, when teams can contact agents to make offers and to strike deals in principle.
If the calendar gets to March 1 without a new New England deal for Brady, it’s time for Patriots fans who want him to stay to start getting nervous. If March 5 rolls around with no news of a new deal to stay in New England, it makes sense for Pats fans to get more nervous. With each passing day that no new deal is leaked or announced, the likelihood of Brady making his currently unofficial free agency official increases.
It still remains to be seen whether Brady will embark on a full-blown free agency tour. Regardless, if he becomes a free agent, the chances of him staying with the Patriots plummet — especially if the Patriots decide to join the looming game of quarterback musical chairs, in search of a veteran on whom to spend money that otherwise would be paid to Brady. If, on the other hand, the Patriots decide to ride with 2019 rookie Jarrett Stidham, they could in theory welcome back Brady after he looks around and realizes that the grass really isn’t any greener elsewhere.