By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots weren’t playing in this year’s Super Bowl, but based on the face time and attention given to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, you might not have known that.
In the case of the Patriots’ head coach, he made his mark on the Super weekend by lounging at Gronk Beach on Saturday.
Then on Sunday, he flashed some bling in the face of some boos.
BELICHICK WITH THE FLEX pic.twitter.com/7aGWAsbp5S
— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) February 2, 2020
Please, Bill, don’t hurt ’em!
Of course, far more attention was paid to Belichick’s longtime quarterback, one Mr. Tom Brady, who was also in Miami as part of the NFL’s All-Time Team to be honored before the game.
Pats Nation ❤️ pic.twitter.com/bcUThqGsGF
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) February 2, 2020
While it was clearly a festive occasion for Brady, the quarterback remains in a bit of a strange position right now, as he stands just a month away from hitting free agency for the first time in his life.
Now, had Brady been, say, 35 years old when he was approaching free agency, it would be a truly insane story. Still, even as he enters his age 43 season, the fact that Tom Brady might don a different uniform than the one he’s worn since 2000 counts as one of the most significant sports stories the planet has seen for quite some time.
As such, the reporting on Brady’s potential future has been coming in fast and furious. That was the case before Sunday, and it surely continued through the biggest day on the football calendar.
So, in an effort to try to condense it all to one tidy place, here’s what was reported on Sunday, followed by a brief interpretation of what each report might mean.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport: Pats Will Pay Brady $30 Million, Brady Wants Weapons
This one by Rapoport really got the ball rolling, as he said that the Patriots “are willing to pay him in excess of $30 million if that in fact is what it’s going to take to bring Brady back.”
This would be … certainly odd.
The Patriots have never paid Brady $30 million in a season, and they’ve essentially nickel-and-dimed him in recent years, forcing him to play on incentive-laden contracts. To pony up $30 mil when he’s (likely) not the same elite quarterback would fly in the face of the way the Patriots have done business for years. It also makes less sense when you remember that if the Patriots re-sign Brady, they’ll tack on almost a $7 million cap charge on top of his salary, so committing almost 19 percent of their cap space to one single player would be disastrous from a Belichick perspective.
Where this report might have come from is a good mystery. From the Patriots’ perspective, it would make sense to have this hit the public’s ears, so that in the event that Brady leaves, the team can say it did all it could to try to keep him. Rapoport’s addition that “[Brady] wants a commitment from them that they will spend specifically on weapons for this offense” would go along with this theory, because it suggests that Brady wants to have his cake and throw touchdowns to it too. (That made sense, trust me.)
On the other hand, it could have just as easily come from the Brady camp, sort of as an opening salvo to potential free-agent negotiations with any other team that’s interested in his services. If you’re not offering 30 big ones and some talented receivers, don’t bother calling.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter: Raiders Will Pursue Brady If/When He Becomes Free Agent; Pats Haven’t Talked Money With Brady
The world’s biggest football information broker obviously wasn’t going to let Sunday go by without dipping his toes in the water, and so Adam Schefter said pregame that the Raiders will pursue Brady if and when he becomes a free agent. The Raiders can’t declare that officially, for fear of tampering charges, but letting it slip to a reporter might be a workaround to such pesky annoyances.
Schefter said that Jon Gruden “admires” Brady, and that Brady would give the Raiders “instant credibility in their new city, not to mention an enormous marketing advantage that could be presented on billboards across Nevada.”
That much is kind of self-evident. The real nugget from Schefter came when he said that “the Patriots and Tom Brady have not discussed numbers yet, and the Patriots are limited to a certain extent about what they could do financially.”
This makes sense, as the Patriots — well, Bill Belichick, and Nick Caserio if he plans on sticking around — have likely been in assessment and planning mode since the season abruptly ended in early January. The time for contract proposals and negotiations has not yet arrived. It surely will soon, but as it stands right now, it looks as though Brady is unaware of what the Patriots might be willing to pay him for 2020, if the team wants him for multiple years, or if the team wants him at all.
That uncertainty could surely add some credence to the theory that Rapoport’s report came from the Brady side of matters, as Brady (and his agent, Don Yee) try to lay some basic groundwork in order to not be caught off guard once mid-March rolls around.
NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran: Pats *Will* Try To Keep Brady, But Robert Kraft Won’t Make Final Call
Tom Curran is “plugged in,” as they say, with the Patriots and with Brady. So his localized report was noteworthy in that it backed up the idea that the Patriots might be willing to spend more on Brady than they have in years past.
And most importantly: Brady will be listening.
Here’s exactly what Curran said: “There will be real effort to keep Brady in New England. And Brady will give them their shot. My understanding is the Patriots will ‘extend themselves’ financially to get Brady back in the fold.”
That’s fairly huge, and encouraging if you’re in the camp that wants to see Brady continue his career in Foxboro.
Curran added that Brady is more interested in the team building around him than he is in cashing a massive check.
AND, Curran said that Robert Kraft “won’t intercede if Belichick concludes moving on from Brady is the best course of action.”
So, that sounds like the owner is separating himself from what is in some ways a franchise-defining decision, instead leaning on the expertise and experience of Belichick to make what is a tough call no matter which way you slice it.
NFL Network’s Mike Giardi: Also Making The Point About Talent Taking Precedence Over Dollar Signs
Just prior to Curran’s story hitting the internet, NFL Network’s Mike Giardi reported the same thing about Brady being more interested in the building of a talented roster than he is about the exact number on his paycheck each week.
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) February 2, 2020
These reports are honestly much easier to believe than any that mention Brady wanting to become one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL due to a desire for “respect” or anything like that. The age of 42 years old would be an odd time for a player to completely change everything he is about.
It also brings to mind the report from earlier in the week, about a potential Tom Brady-Danny Amendola reunion. Bringing back a familiar player who knows the offense and knows how to get to the sticks and keep drives alive would have gone a long way in elevating the Patriots’ offense from mediocre to better-than-decent in 2019. The addition of Amendola plus a top-level threat — perhaps an Odell Beckam trade and/or the free-agent signing of Hunter Henry, maybe? — could theoretically be enough. We shall see.
Brady Himself: The Patriots And Brady Know How They Feel About Each Other
Sometimes, the actual player involved in a story can be the least reliable reporter. But Brady’s answers to Jim Gray in their weekly radio chat seemed sincere.
“I think they know how I feel about them, and I know how they feel about me,” Brady told Gray regarding his talks with the Patriots. “We’ve always had a great relationship, and we always will. There’s not much to say other than that.
Brady added that both he and the team need to evaluate where they’re at, and then “when the time is right — I guess six weeks from now — everyone will make their decisions.”
Brady Himself: I’m Not Going Anywhere
Brady made a fool out of all the people who got all worked up over that “cryptic” social media photo from the other day, because it was merely a Super Bowl ad.
In the ad, Brady walked on the field at Gillette Stadium to extol the wonders of a streaming video service. He concluded his spiel with a loud and clear message:
“But me? I’m not going anywhere.”
One could hear that statement while looking at Brady standing directly on the Patriots logo at midfield in Foxboro and declare that his return to the Patriots is a done deal. Signed, sealed, delivered.
Buuuuut … it’s much more a statement of Brady’s plan to continue playing in the NFL. The ad was a gag geared toward the look of a retirement announcement by Brady, only for him to declare cable TV to be dead. Meanwhile, in the days of cable postmortem, Brady is … not going anywhere.
So there wasn’t much to be learned here, but it is fascinating to wonder how much Brady was paid for the social media post and the 45-second ad. I bet he can buy a new watch with it or something.
All in all, we don’t know a ton more about the Brady-Patriots situation than we did on Saturday. The numbers reported smell a little funky, the appeal of Brady to the Raiders was kind of obvious without an official report, and Brady’s actual comments on the matter were very Brady-esque in that it involved a good collection of words without really saying too much.
In terms of meat, Curran’s report was the thickest, as it explored the mechanics of what to expect when it comes to nut-cutting time in Foxboro. Belichick is the decision-maker, and Brady wants a commitment to a team built better than the patchwork scrambling done to try to cobble together a functional offense in 2019.
And so concludes our Super Sunday Tom Brady Report Wrap-Up. You’re now all caught up … until the next report drops … which could be any minute now.