It was part feeding frenzy, part circular firing squad last week in Indianapolis regarding Tom Brady‘s future. Every reporter wanted to advance the story, every reporter hoped to plant a flag in the soil that Brady eventually will call home. As the dust settles on a week that served only to fuel speculation that Brady will be leaving the only team with which he has spent nearly half his life, Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston has explained that Brady fleeing the Patriots is hardly a fait accompli.
Curran explains that, no, the Brady and the Patriots aren’t engaged in a Cold War.
“The Patriots want Tom Brady to play quarterback for them in 2020,” Curran writes. “There are financial hoops to jump through. There are personnel obstacles to clear. Understandings on both sides need to be reached. But the Patriots want to try and make that happen.”
The question continue to be when will that effort commence? Last week’s notion that the Patriots and Brady’s agent didn’t meet due to uncertainties over the CBA seemed odd at the time, and Curran agrees. There are two broad options at this point — new CBA or no new CBA — and that hardly prevented the Patriots and Brady’s agent from getting together at the Scouting Combine so that the Patriots could make it clear that they want Brady to stay. But Brady and his agent already know that, which is a far better reason for a meeting amid the hectic days and nights in Indianapolis to have been unnecessary.
The clock is now ticking, more loudly than ever. In fewer than two weeks, Brady can officially field offers from other teams. In 15 days, the absence of a new deal with the Patriots not only will allow him to sign with a new team but also will result in the Patriots taking a $13.5 million cap charge that can’t be managed via a new deal, with the dead-cap figure from past contracts becoming the starting point for whatever his cap number with the Patriots would be in 2020.
But there’s still time. Time to see whether the players vote yes on a new CBA. Time to see whether Brady and the Patriots can come to the kind of understanding that causes him to pause before yielding to the temptation to explore the precise color of the foliage on the other side of the fence. It doesn’t mean he’ll definitely stay, but the lack of activity also doesn’t mean he’ll definitely leave.
Through it all, Brady seems to be enjoying the situation. If he is, he’s earned that right, through 20 seasons and six Super Bowl wins and a career of accomplishments that has made him, in the eyes of many, the greatest quarterback who ever has played.
And so the wait continues. But the die is still days from being cast, the Rubicon half a month from being crossed. And Brady won’t lightly slam the door on returning to the only NFL organization for which he has ever been employed, starting fresh with a new team in a new city with a new coaching staff and new teammates and a new offense and new everything.
Does he want maximum money? He never has. Does he want to win? He always has. Brady consistently says his favorite ring is the next one, and above all else he’ll be looking for the place where he can get one or maybe more before Father Time finally tells him, “It’s time.”
Considering that the Patriots of the past two decades have achieved a success rate in that regard unlike any franchise in league history, he won’t take lightly a decision to abandon the familiarity of success for a fresh start, no matter how tempting it may seem before the moment he signs a new contract and settles into a dramatically altered reality that could cause him to pull his Maybach into the parking lot of a new facility, look at the entrance, and ask himself, “My God, what have I done?“