What happens if Tom Brady leaves?
Updated: Apr 11, 2020
When NFL free agency officially begins on March 18th, Tom Brady is going to be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.
No matter what Brady decides, it will send shockwaves through the league. I, for one, think it’s unlikely that he
will leave the Patriots (or, rather, that the Patriots will let him walk). But, just for a second, let’s assume that he won’t be playing in the white and blue this upcoming season.
That begs the question: what happens to the Patriots?
The first big hit they’ll take is the lack of star power. The Patriots have several big-name free agents this year and are looking to re-sign them, as well as hoping to sign some new players to improve their team.
A key part to the Patriots’ success over the years has been their ability to sign and re-sign players for next to nothing. Offensively, this is often because receivers want the chance to play with Tom Brady, and since the Patriots are perennial Super Bowl contenders, it gives every player the chance to get the ring that they don’t have yet.
Regardless of how Brady played last season, no one ever really counted the Patriots out. While I am a believer that Bill Belichick is more important to their success, it’s not unlikely that players will not want to come to the Patriots if they don’t have Brady. While they’ll still get some players who want the chance to play for Belichick, they will likely not be the same caliber of talent as players from years past.
In addition, the Patriots would need to figure out who to roll with as their quarterback. The little bit that Jarrett Stidham played last season (2-4, 14 yards, 1 interception) didn’t show much promise, but things could be different if the team game planned around him. Their other choices are to draft someone, trade for someone, or sign a free agent, but there aren’t any names that seem reasonable for the Patriots.
Maybe Teddy Bridgewater? He’s great, and would fit very well, but he’s also probably going to get a lot of money from other teams. If the Patriots are trying to retain their current core, they might not be able to afford him.
Why not Philip Rivers? He’s just a worse version of Tom Brady. He’d be cheap, but he’s too old to be a franchise quarterback--and there’s a reason the Chargers aren’t bringing him back.
How about Derek Carr? A lot of people seem to think that he’s the answer for the Patriots via trade, but they’d likely have to give up something valuable to get him. He also needs good receivers around him, something the Patriots don’t have right now.
So that leaves the draft, where the Patriots have the 23rd overall pick. Is that high enough to get one of the star QBs projected to go in round one? Probably not, meaning they’ll have to trade up to get someone like Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa. From pick 23, they could get Jake Fromm or Jordan Love, but are either of them players that Belichick wants to take?
Whatever they decide to do, they’ll have to do it fast. If they don’t have a plan in place for a quarterback, the leader of the offense, it may be hard to convince other offensive players to sign.
The other issue they’ll have to deal with is publicity. Brady is the face of the franchise, both active and all-time. But if he decides to go elsewhere, can the Patriots fill Gillette Stadium every week, or will the fair-weather fans not think it’s worth it? Will fans continue to buy Tom Brady jerseys as a memory of him, or will they burn them and call him a traitor?
If Brady retires with the Patriots, he’s a Patriot for life. If he chooses to go into coaching or into the front office, he’ll always be offered a role in Foxboro. If he retires on another team, it would be harder for the Patriots to continue to market Brady’s face on advertisements or to get him to stay with the franchise.
With all that being said, I still think Brady will end the 2020 season where he started in 2000. We haven’t seen the last game in Gillette for Brady, and we won’t for a few seasons. But that time will come eventually, and the Patriots need to be ready.