BOSTON (CBS) — Before we even begin, let’s make it clear that this is 100-percent pure speculation, pure opinion, made entirely from the cheap seats with nothing more than a pair of binoculars. I haven’t talked to anybody. Nobody has told me anything. I don’t have inside info.
But in 2017, it’s starting to feel like the Patriots are throwing Tom Brady a going away party.
In case you missed it, NFL insider Adam Schefter was at it again Thursday, this time on a podcast titled Just Talk Football. Months after first indicating that the Patriots had no intention of trading backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo before, during or after the 2017 draft, Schefter is now going so far as to say that the Patriots have no intention of losing Garoppolo… ever.
“Now again, going forward, how is that going to operate and how is that going to work – will the Patriots risk losing Jimmy Garoppolo? My own sense is no,” Schefter said. “They are going to figure out a way, one way or another, to keep him there – whether that means signing him to an extension, or franchising him, or making it work. We’ll see how that plays out. I don’t think they are going to lose him. I don’t think they want to lose him. I think they recognize how good they think he is. Many of us don’t know that right now because we haven’t seen him play on a consistent basis. They have. They’ve watched him practice. They’ve seen him in practice. They know what he is and isn’t capable of. They are big believers in him.”
All of which brings me back to this line:
They are going to figure out a way, one way or another, to keep him there – whether that means signing him to an extension, or franchising him, or making it work.
Or making it work.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but “making it work” sounds like code for “saying goodbye to Tom Brady.” Crazy, right? Only it isn’t. We all know how Bill Belichick operates. Adam Vinatieri. Ty Law. Richard Seymour. Logan Mankins. The list goes on and on. You play and then you move on. There really isn’t a point in getting emotional about it. Belichick and the Patriots have a team and business to run, and choosing any emotional tie to Brady over the longer-term health of the franchise is just foolish. Brady has been paid handsomely during his time in New England. The Patriots essentially have had an unprecedented run of success. It’s been win-win for everybody.
But honestly, deep down, we all already knew that. The real question is when, which brings us to this Patriots offseason, Brady’s approaching 40th birthday and the final year of Garoppolo’s contract. And anyone who thinks those things are unrelated isn’t paying attention.
In all seriousness, take a good, long look at the avalanche of moves and acquisitions the Patriots have made this offseason. The Pats retained linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive tackle Alan Branch. They signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a blockbuster contract. They traded a first-round pick for Brandin Cooks and sacrificed additional selections for tight end Dwayne Allen, defensive end Kony Ealy and running back Mike Gillislee. They even brought in running back Rex Burkhead.
And then there were these: one year after being forced to trade a seemingly disgruntled Jamie Collins in the final year of his contract, the Pats are bringing back a seemingly disgruntled Malcolm Butler for a final year as he approaches unrestricted free agency. (We’re not blaming them for it or complaining about it.) And then earlier this week, news broke that the Patriots had needlessly restructured the contract of tight end Rob Gronkowski to give him the chance to earn more money in 2017, without any real business benefit to the team.
Now, say what you will, but we all understand the importance and magnitude of Gronk. When healthy and fully committed, he is, quite simply, the best red zone weapon in the NFL. During the five seasons in which he has played 10 games or more, Gronk has 61 touchdowns in 73 games. Additionally, he has nine TDs in 10 career postseason games. For Brady, in particular, there has been no greater weapon during his incomparable career, which should bring you to a very simple conclusion.
If you’re going to throw Brady a going away party, you had better make sure Gronk is on the VIP list, that he is a full and willing participant in all events and ceremonies.
In the deepest, most secretive corners of Gillette Stadium, there is simply no way to know what is really going on in Foxboro these days. There has never been any real way to know exactly what Belichick is thinking. But three years ago, when Belichick drafted Garoppolo in the 2014 draft, he used a higher selection on a quarterback than he has ever used in his career. He spoke of Brady’s age and “situation.” And he certainly seemed to suggest that an inevitable change was at least on the horizon.
Now, here we are a few years later, and Garoppolo’s value and promise only seems to have gone up. Brady’s legacy has been further forged. Elements are converging for what appears to be one absolute barnburner of a 2017 Patriots season that feels like Foxboro’s version of Senior Week, stacked and stocked with keg parties, clambakes and black-tie affairs.
But sooner or later it will end.
And when it does, we will all be left to deal with one whopper of a hangover.