The Tom Brady rumor mill has been full bore for a while now.
There have been rumors of at least a half-dozen teams that are interested in quarterback’s services.
With free agency set to begin on Wednesday, the smoke has started to clear. Monday marked the start of the NFL’s legal tampering period during which free agents and teams can “officially” meet and talk about contracts. With it, it seems the quarterback’s market has started to shrink.
It could be a good sign for the Patriots. It could also mean nothing.
Tennessee was seen by many as a potential leader for Brady’s services. But on Sunday, the Titans committed to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, giving him a four-year, $118-million contract. Also on Sunday, Pro Football Talk’s Chris Simms reported that the San Francisco 49ers were sticking with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, putting Brady out of the running. Simms also said that the 49ers had been Brady’s top choice.
On Monday, the Las Vegas Raiders agreed to a deal with former Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, likely solidifying the team’s outlook with starter Derek Carr in tow.
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So where does this all leave Brady?
According to the NFL Network, the Brady market is down to three teams — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Patriots.
Each situation has its pros and cons. The biggest hurdle for the Patriots right now is their salary cap. They entered this week with less than $30 million in cap space. They started to spent a good chunk of that by exercising Jason McCourty’s 2020 option, signing Matthew Slater to a two-year deal, signing Devin McCourty to a two-year deal and then placing a $14.781-million franchise tag on Joe Thuney. (Thuney’s number counts against the cap starting Wednesday.)
According to Patriots cap expert Miguel Benzan, the Pats have around $5.413 million in cap space after accounting for Thuney, Jason McCourty and Slater. Devin McCourty, by the way, is expected to take up a large chunk of cap space as well, but we still don’t know the full contract details.
Either way you look at it, the Patriots are running out of cap space.
Of course, there are ways around this. The Pats could create cap space by releasing players, extending players to lower their 2020 cap hit or by restructuring contracts to lower their 2020 cap hit.
Would Brady actually leave to play in Tampa Bay? It’d be surprising to see him in that uniform, but there are some positives about the Buccaneers. They have two star receivers in Chris Godwin (1,333 yards) and Mike Evans (1,157 yards). They also have a quarterback-friendly coach in Bruce Arians, who has reportedly allowed quarterbacks to have input in game plans.
With the Chargers, Brady would play with a handful of talented offensive players — receivers Keenan Allen (1,199 receiving yards), Mike Williams (1,001 receiving yards), running back Austin Ekeler (993 receiving yards) and tight end Hunter Henry (652 receiving yards).
The Brady speculation hasn’t ended, but his final decision should be known soon.
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