There was nothing joyous about Monday night, unless you’re a Cowboys fan or the most ardent Tom Brady hater. Even knowing that eventually we were going to see eventually see Brady hit rock bottom, there was something profoundly sad watching him hopelessly cock his arm back 66 times, throwing the ball without impact like a punch drunk boxer throwing off-target haymakers at his own double visions.
It was far from the worst game of Brady’s career, but it was punctuated by facing the NFL’s most prominent team, on national TV, in the playoffs. There was nowhere to hide, no place to shrink away from the limelight — and for as much Schadenfreude as Brady has earned, for all the jokes about TikTok Witches, seeing it actually play out was just so damn sad.
Is this how Tom Brady’s career will end? Possibly. Will it be? Maybe not. The conversation now pivots not only to whether Brady will retire once more, but which teams might be interested in signing him.
Brady is now a free agent
As part of the restructured deal Brady signed with the Buccaneers in 2021 to help them with cap space, he also ensured a “no tag” clause was added to his deal. This means that as it stands there’s no way the Buccaneers can retain Brady, outside of negotiating with him as a free agent — and while that remains a possibility, TB12 addressed the local media with an air of finality after the loss on Monday night.
Here's the video of how Tom Brady ended his press conference tonight: pic.twitter.com/bUHKJgSOmY— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) January 17, 2023
Tampa Bay is in a weird spot moving forward, and it’s probably best for all parties to just go their separate ways. The team achieved its goal to win now, took home a ring, but as constructed it’s impossible to imagine that running back at the brick wall in 2023 with the same roster will have a different result, or even if there are significant changes that this team could fix its myriad issues to the point they could make a serious playoff run.
If we assume Brady’s pseudo goodbye was more to Tampa Bay than the NFL, this is actually a pretty damn good time to be an aging but effective quarterback seeking a new home.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders have become a big name mentioned as a possible home for Brady, because every aging entertainer needs to do their stint in Vegas.
There’s a lot of reasons this could make sense. Obviously there’s years of familiarity between Brady and Josh McDaniels, which means the two know how to work together — and there’s a solid offensive cast here, especially with Davante Adams and Darren Waller.
That said, I don’t really know what the expectation is here other than putting butts in seats. The arm strength isn’t there anymore to make the most of Adams, and while he might fit in what McDaniels is trying to install in Vegas, namely a short passing, YAC-based offense — do you really want to build all that around Tom Brady at this age?
Finally, if you’re Brady then why would you want to walk into the buzzsaw which is the AFC West? Is that really where you want to go and try to end this?
New York Jets
Hook this directly into my veins. If you want a move that would be dripping in acrimony and angst there would be nothing better than Brady returning to the AFC East and facing off against the teams he dominated for years.
This actually makes a ton of sense. If you watched the Jets this year you know this team was a quarterback away from making a serious playoff run. Their defense is as good as any unit in the NFL. There’s a solid offensive line, and with Breece Hall returning from injury they have the running back.
All the Jets need is a QB who can make the throws. That’s it. There’s nothing complicated about their offensive playbook — just short to intermediate routes to move the chains, ideally thrown by someone who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.
If Brady wants to win, and potentially contend for a Super Bowl — only New York can offer him that. The question remains whether Brady would want to deal with the scrutiny that comes from being a quarterback in NYC, or if he’d be comfortable being an agent of chaos and going against Bill Belichick twice a year, potentially making him hated in New England in the process.
San Francisco 49ers
Let’s get a little wild here. So, Brock Purdy has been playing incredible football — and there is absolutely no denying that he’s making strides towards becoming a franchise QB. However, this was never the plan. Signing Brady would be a major turn, but it also makes sense.
The Niners both have too many QBs and not enough QBs. Jimmy Garoppolo will be a free agent. Trey Lance had the utmost faith from the front office, but poor performance coupled with injury and rounded out by Purdy’s emergence has put him in a weird spot. Should San Francisco choose to trade Lance and recoup some draft capital they need a new QB ... enter TB12.
I’m assuming the role here would be as a one year starter, but also someone who could help mold Purdy moving forward. As explosive as Mr. Irrelevant has been, there’s still some bad tendencies which need to be ironed out. He’s a little too free with his arm sometimes, and has thrown a fair share of Hospital Balls to his receivers that are way too risky for the NFL.
It wouldn’t be benching Purdy as much as a vote of confidence in him. Asking him to take a small step back to the bench for a year, so he can jump forward and claim the job in 2024. The byproduct would be that a Brady-led Niners team not only offers than hometown familiarity, but a place he could contend for a title.
New England Patriots
I know this is the feel good story to have No. 12 make a triumphant return to New England, but who really wants this? The Patriots need to rebuild, which is what Belichick understood when Brady left before — and even if Mac Jones isn’t the guy long term, going back to Brady just delays that process.
Please leave the past in the past. Let Brady’s time with the Patriots be largely flawless. Coming back and getting beaten down by the Bills is appealing only to fans in Buffalo.