In the midst of a global pandemic, the NFL marches on with its business. The new collective bargaining got ratified early Sunday morning, with an announcement later in the day the 2020 NFL league year will begin as planned. That means we are full speed ahead on free agency.
In between the CBA news and the league year announcement, the Titans re-signed Ryan Tannehill to a four-year deal, making him their franchise quarterback. This move has ripple effects outside of Nashville, too, as it eliminates one potential destination for Tom Brady.
We’ve discussed Brady’s free agency for months now, and it should be reaching its conclusion soon. On March 17, Brady announced that his football journey will take place somewhere other than New England. So with the Patriots no longer in the picture, where does Brady end up now? I ranked the possibilities, from most to least likely.
1. Los Angeles Chargers
Throw out the news of Brady opening up a production company in Los Angeles — he can run that remotely during the season. He’s going to a new team to win, and the Chargers have pieces to do just that. They just traded their aging and oft-injured left tackle (Russell Okung) for a young Pro Bowl guard (Trai Turner). This opens up their No. 6 pick in the draft for a left tackle. This draft class is ripe with tackle talent, maybe the best in years. The Chargers could also snag themselves a right tackle in free agency to complete the upgrade on their offensive line.
The Chargers used their franchise tag on tight end Hunter Henry and re-signed running back Austin Ekeler. They have the outstanding wide receiver duo of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. On top of the weapons on offense, the Chargers have a terrific pass rush and a pass defense that’s good when healthy. The Chargers are in Los Angeles, which is an area Brady and his family would likely enjoy living.
However, the Chargers’ new stadium might not be ready to open on time. They are also the least important professional team in LA, and even less important than the USC Trojans football team. There are no Chargers fans in Los Angeles, though maybe with Brady there would be some bandwagon fans. LA loves its stars, and it’s no surprise the Chargers are interested in him.
That said, the Chargers play in a division with Kansas City, led by head coach Andy Reid and the best quarterback in the NFL. Brady played 20 seasons in the AFC East, with opposing quarterbacks who weren’t remotely as good as him. Does he want to play in a division where he’s not the favorite, has to face off against Patrick Mahomes twice a year, and is on a team that the city does not care about? It seems like a tough sell, but it’s the still the best option.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay has been a fringe destination for a while now, but it’s picking up steam with the Titans out of the mix. The Bucs can give Brady the weapons he’s always wanted, with receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The offensive line has some good pieces, while the defense is surprisingly stout.
The coaching staff in Tampa Bay is quietly one of the best in the league. While head coach Bruce Arians has been a heck of an offensive playcaller and quarterback developer over his career, I’m not sure he and Brady would be a fit. Arians is passionate about the game and puts in the work, but he’s often said that he expects his coaches to be home for dinner and to never miss a child’s event. I wholeheartedly agree with this, as I think coaches spend too much time in the facility.
This philosophy appears to be the opposite of Bill Belichick, and I’m not sure Brady would mesh well with these ideas. Maybe Brady is ready for a change, but this feels like a drastic change.
Lastly, Arians has always preferred a big-arm quarterback who can push the ball downfield. That is not Brady at 43 years old. I wonder if Arians would have to change his passing offense to something that relies on more spacing and quicker passes to accommodate Brady.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Although the Colts are a long shot, their setup is perfect for Brady. The Colts return all five of their starting offensive linemen. They have T.Y. Hilton, and the money and picks to add more weapons. It’s a WR-heavy draft, too.
On defense, they have a young, skilled core, but will need to continue to work to build up talent there. The best selling point for the Colts is head coach Frank Reich, who runs an offense that is a match for Brady: quick, precision passing game mixed with an efficient rushing attack. Brady would respect Reich, and they would fit well together. General manager Chris Ballard is aggressive and savvy. His personality would mesh with Brady, as well.
4. Las Vegas Raiders
As I’ve said before, I do not believe Jon Gruden is 100 percent in on Derek Carr. With that being said, I don’t think the Raiders are going to ditch Carr via a trade for Brady. The price just seems so steep for the Raiders when Carr just had a good season. The Raiders have the pieces on offense that would make Brady happy, but their defense is not good.
And while this didn’t matter until now, Las Vegas is shutting down over the coronavirus, which means it’s possible the Raiders’ new stadium will be delayed just like the Chargers’. I can’t see Brady going anywhere with that much uncertainty.
5. San Francisco 49ers
Never say never, but this is a never. It was reported the 49ers have moved on from Brady, but in reality, they were probably never in on Brady to begin with. It’d make sense why Brady would want to play in San Francisco, his hometown team. However, there never seemed to be the interest from the 49ers, who just got to the Super Bowl with Jimmy Garoppolo.