After listening to Tom Brady talk on WEEI Wednesday morning, I don’t think Patriots fans have to worry about him playing for another team in 2020.
Brady isn’t going to Tennessee. He is not going to suit up for the Raiders or Bucs. He’s not going to finish his career as a Bronco or a Dolphin.
Patriots fans just have to worry about Brady not playing for their team in 2020, either.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Monday night that Brady is “setting it up to move on,” and the signs are all there, between Brady putting his house up for sale, his trainer Alex Guerrero putting his house up for sale, and Brady signing a contract that automatically voids in March, making him a free agent.
But Brady made it pretty clear Wednesday morning that he’s thinking about retirement, not finishing his career with another team.
“Football at this point is all borrowed time,” he said on “The Greg Hill Show.” “I never expected to play 20 years, and I am playing on a great team, and it’s just been an incredible 20 years of my life.”
Brady probably was laying it on a little thick when he said, “To play for Mr. Kraft, and Jonathan and the Kraft family and for Coach Belichick and to have so much success is a dream come true.” But it’s also true. Brady knows he has the perfect situation in New England.
Where is he possibly going to go that’s better? Where will he have a better head coach than Bill Belichick, or a receiver with whom he has a better connection than Julian Edelman, or a better offensive line coach than Dante Scarnecchia, or a better defense? Where will Brady have a better chance to win a seventh (or eighth) Super Bowl?
Brady isn’t joining forces with Mike Vrabel in Tennessee, where the coaching staff is on the hot seat and the offense is much worse than what Brady has now. Brady isn’t following Josh McDaniels to his next gig, joining a rebuilding team. He’s not going to Vegas to get hitched to Jon Gruden.
Most teams have an established quarterback, or a youngster they want to groom. But here’s a generous list of teams that could be looking for a quarterback next year: Dolphins, Bills, Bengals, Titans, Jaguars, Raiders, Broncos, Redskins, Bears, Panthers, Bucs.
Come on. Brady is not leaving the Patriots for any of these teams. He has the chance to go to the Super Bowl every year and strengthen his legacy in New England. If he goes to another team, the chances are much greater that he or the team won’t play as well, and he potentially hurts his legend. (“See, I told you it was all Belichick. Brady’s just a system quarterback.”)
And even if Brady wanted to play elsewhere, I very strongly believe that Robert Kraft wouldn’t let him. Whatever offer is out there, Kraft would match it, or come close. Kraft loves Brady too much to see him wearing another team’s laundry. And Kraft does not want to be known as the guy who let Brady leave town.
But retirement is absolutely, 100 percent in play for Brady after this season.
“One day I will wake up and I will feel like, ‘OK, that will be enough,’ ” Brady said Wednesday. “When that day comes, that day comes. I don’t know if it will be after this year. I don’t know if it will be five years from now. I don’t have to determine those things right now, either.
“That is kind of a good part of where I am at. Just take advantage of the opportunities that I have this year and do the very best I can do, and then those decisions come at probably more appropriate times.”
Retirement has been on Brady’s mind for at least a year and a half. Back in June 2018, he told Oprah Winfrey, “I think about it more now than I used to. I think now I’m seeing that there’s definitely an end coming sooner rather than later.”
Brady’s issue isn’t with the Patriots or his ability to keep playing at a high level. It’s whether he wants to keep committing to football instead of his family and off-field pursuits. At 42, he still loves football more than ever, but it’s also getting in the way of his family and the rest of his life.
“I think I am at a point in my life where there are a lot of considerations that go into playing,” he said in August. “I have a very busy professional life, I have a very busy personal life, and any decision that is made has to consider everything.”
This season could end up being a perfect bookend for Brady. It’s his 20th NFL season. He could win a seventh Super Bowl, or at least make a 10th appearance. Going out on top, while still in perfect health, would be a tremendous boost for his TB12 brand.
And the clues are all right under our nose: The house. The trainer’s house. The contract that automatically voids. The Instagram post from June: “Treat my first like my last, and my last like my first.”
It doesn’t seem like anything in Brady’s mind is set in stone. He can always sign a new contract in the spring, and he can always rent a townhouse in Boston.
But he has given himself the flexibility to move on after this season. Brady has total control over his contract situation; it voids on March 17, and the Patriots can’t use a franchise or transition tag on him.
If Brady does intend to play in 2020, the decision probably won’t drag out, but instead will likely come before March 17. This works well for the Patriots, too, as it should give them enough time to find a quarterback in the draft or free agency if Brady retires.
But right now, Brady is worried only about the 2019 season, and he seems to like that he doesn’t know what the future will hold.
“That is the great part for me — I don’t know,” Brady said. “When you commit to a team for a certain amount of years, you kind of feel like the responsibility to always fulfill the contract. For me, it’s been good, because I am just taking it day by day and I am enjoying what I have.”
It is hard to envision a future in which Brady is playing for another NFL team. But it’s not hard to picture Brady riding off into retirement after 2019.