For the first time in his NFL career, Tom Brady is set to become a free agent.
After 20 years with the New England Patriots, Brady will officially become available on Wednesday, March 18, free to sign with any of the 32 teams in the league should he so choose.
Brady’s NFL future has already been one of the biggest stories of the offseason, thanks in no small part to a cheeky, cryptic Instagram post that later turned out to be a commercial for Hulu.
The moment sparked curiosity amongst NFL fans — how possible is it that Brady leaves the Patriots, and if he does, where will he land?
In one sense, it feels as though the Patriots are still the front-runners to keep Brady through the final years of his career — after 20 seasons, nine Super Bowl appearances, and six rings, it feels like the easiest path to go down would be a relatively year-to-year deal that will keep Brady in New England through his final years in the league.
But according to NFL insider Jeff Darlington, the reality of the situation is not so clear. Speaking with ESPN’s Adam Schefter on “The Adam Schefter Podcast,” Darlington said the Patriots were in his opinion, in third place in the race to sign Brady.
“We’ll call it ‘educated speculation.’ I want to be careful here,” Darlington said, one of several times he would cushion his prediction as just that. “But if you’re asking me to put odds on this thing, I say Titans and Raiders, and then I say Patriots, and then I put down the list teams like the Chargers, the Dolphins, and some of those other names.”
“It’s as if people think it’s so unfathomable that he would leave New England, and as a result, they just sit there and say that it’s not going to happen,” Darlington told Schefter. “We need to wrap our heads around the idea of Tom Brady leaving because he is considering exactly that. That is not speculation, that is fact.”
Darlington said that one of the major hurdles the Patriots would have to overcome with Brady is convincing him that they are positioned to reload the team’s offense after a disappointing 2019 campaign. Because Brady will become available at the same time as the rest of the free agents in the league, New England will have to work fast in order to show that they are still ready to win now.
“Unless they can figure it out in the next 30 days, Tom Brady is gone,” he said.
Asked directly where he believed Brady would end up, Darlington said he thought Tennessee might be the place, but again couched his answer in the fact that not even Brady knows how the offseason will play out.
“I’ll say the Titans,” Darlington told Schefter. “But I want to be so clear that that’s a guess at this point because quite frankly, Tom Brady does not even know. I know people want to assume that Tom knows at this point what he’s doing, but I cannot be more unequivocal with this fact: Tom Brady does not know right now what he is going to do.”
“The Raiders make some sense,” Darlington added. “I think the idea of Jon Gruden and the collaboration and the excitement there would be pretty fun for Tom. But I just think that the Titans, what they have right now, what they can present, the possibility of a Super Bowl. … I think he can look at that team and think, ‘I can put them over the hump.'”
The Titans are coming off of an impressive season that ended with a loss in the AFC championship game to the Kansas City Chiefs. En route to that defeat, the Titans took down the Patriots in New England 20-13 in a dominant defensive performance.
Coached by former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, the Titans look well-positioned to once again sport a solid defense, and a running game lead by wrecking ball Derrick Henry, who lead the league in rushing in 2019. It’s a blueprint not too dissimilar to that of how the Patriots started the 2019 season before falling off in the latter half of the year.
The Titans made a mid-season switch to Ryan Tannehill after Week 6, benching Marcus Mariota in favor of the former Dolphins quarterback. Tannehill was able to spark the team to a 7-3 record to close out the year, and did enough to get the Titans to their first AFC title game since the 2002 season.
With Tannehill also set for free agency, it’s possible that Tennessee front office decides to make yet another change at quarterback, with their sights fully set on a Super Bowl win in February 2021.