By John P Tougas Jr
The New England Patriots have been the model franchise of the NFL for two decades. They have amassed a whopping 6 Super Bowl Titles in that span, tying Pittsburgh for most all-time, and have dominated the AFC East nearly every year. They have been able to do this with the unthinkable 1-2 punch of having the Greatest Coach of All-Time at the helm, and pairing him with arguable the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time. The marriage of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady seemed to be one of destiny. Many columnists and media analysts, and myself, all predicted the same thing, that Belichick and Brady would ride off into the sunset together as the greatest of their positions. But as the 2020 league year approaches, it seems more and more likely that the two will divorce rather than simply letting the record books tell their story. Is Tom Brady really going to leave New England?
There are plenty of factors at work in the background as Tom Brady prepares to enter free agency for the first time in his NFL career. First, and one that cannot be ignored, are the changes Brady has made in his personal life. The major note here is that at the beginning of the 2019 NFL Season Brady put his mansion in Brookline, MA on the market. He simply played this off as being ahead of the game because of how long it takes to sell a house for almost $40 million dollars. Granted, he and his wife are house hunting in the western Connecticut and New Jersey area, which if you have been to New England, you are aware that those areas aren’t all that far from Gillette Stadium.
The next major factor in this saga is the comments from Tom Brady himself. In the weeks following the Patriots shocking week 17 and wild card loss to the Dolphins and Titans, respectively. He has been quoted saying he will not offer New England a hometown discount, and that he will openly meet with other teams once free agency starts. Historically, these types of comments do not indicate a return is in order, however, they don’t rule it out either. At this point, Brady has even been linked to the newly minted Las Vegas Raiders after attending a UFC match where he seemed to be very friendly with Mark Davis.
Despite all the comments and speculation though, the biggest factor in The Brady Question lies in the New England Patriots’ front office. While owner Robert Kraft has publicly stated he wanted to bring back Brady at any cost, his GM and HC, Bill Belichick might have different plans. Looking at this from a numbers perspective, it cannot be denied that Brady seems to have found the edge of his proverbial cliff. He saw a huge decline in his numbers from a season ago, although admittedly he did not have the offensive weapons he’s accustomed to. But those aren’t the numbers that matter right now. As it sits, New England claims $46M in cap space. With that cap space, New England has 15 other free agents hitting the market this year, including players such as Devin McCourty, Kyle Van Noy, and Joe Thuney who will all seek top-of-their-position salaries. The final number we care about is the fair market value for Tom Brady. According to sporttrac.com, Brady’s fair market value is approximately $33.7M for a 1 year contract. Analyzing these numbers, it makes it hard to believe that Tom Brady will return to New England for one more season.
The New England Patriots are in a precarious position this off-season. They are losing a ton of free agents and are uncharacteristically cap-strapped. Their franchise QB is flirting with a departure, should the Pats come in under fair market value. Do the Patriots and their GM abandon the “Patriot Way” and the model of running a franchise they have built over the past 20 years and resign an aging QB for one last shot at their 7th title. Or do they stick to their ways and let him walk, proving that their model is solid enough to survive even the most surprising of separations. My prediction: the 2020 NFL Season will feature Tom Brady in a uniform other than New England’s. What’s yours? Sound off!