Tom Brady stated on Instagram this week that he is going to play football in 2020, but we don’t know his priorities.
If Brady’s priority is to win a Super Bowl and enhance his legacy, the best place to do it, overwhelmingly, is in Foxborough. He knows the system and he knows the players. He has the best coach, and Julian Edelman, and a great defense. He knows the facilities and he knows the owner. He can skip voluntary offseason workouts and get nothing but support from the team.
But it’s also quite possible that Brady has other motivations. Maybe the competitor in him wants to see how he would fare for another team. Perhaps after 20 years of playing for Bill Belichick and the Patriots, he’s simply ready for something else. Maybe he is willing to sign with whichever team will guarantee him two years, or the highest dollar amount.
Whatever his motivation, we have to acknowledge that Brady could play for another team in 2020. But he doesn’t have unlimited options. Most teams aren’t going to cast aside their starting quarterback, or pause the development of a young franchise player, for a 43-year-old coming off one of his worst seasons.
So let’s take a look at the teams that could possibly sign Brady this offseason, ranking them from “well, maybe” to “no bloody way he is going there”:
1. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Why he might: Everyone is talking about the Chargers, but I see the Raiders as the best fit. Jon Gruden has long been rumored to want to trade Derek Carr before the move to Vegas, and here is the perfect opportunity.
The Raiders could sign Brady to a two-year deal and use him as a marquee name as they move into their shiny new palace. Gruden loves Brady, and I’m sure he and Brady could blend their offensive systems together and make something work.
From Brady’s perspective, Gruden is a player-friendly coach with few rules, which would be a nice change of pace. And Vegas has great weather, great access to the West Coast markets for TB12, and the cherry on top is no state income tax. A black Brady Raiders jersey would be the hottest item on the West Coast.
Why he wouldn’t: Do the Raiders really want to swap a 29-year-old quarterback for a 43-year-old? Brady might struggle in a new system with new teammates. There also are questions about whether Mark Davis, perhaps the least-wealthy owner in the league, can pay Brady what he could command. The Raiders also play at Gillette Stadium next season, and Brady may want to avoid that awkwardness.
2. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Why he might: It’s LA, baby. Palm trees, sunshine, Hollywood, and a great market for TB12. The Chargers badly need a high-profile name to sell tickets for their new stadium, and it doesn’t get much bigger than Brady. Plus the Chargers have a lot of talent on offense. And if Philip Rivers retires, the Chargers don’t have an obvious fill-in.
Why he wouldn’t: For many of the same reasons that applied to the Raiders. Does Brady really want to play for head coach Anthony Lynn and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen? Owner Dean Spanos already borrowed a ton of money to pay a relocation fee, and may not be able to pay Brady what he could command. And it would be a big slap in the face if the Chargers dump Rivers, who has been a tremendous leader for that organization and helped guide it through three rough years in Los Angeles.
3. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Why he might: The Panthers are one of the few teams that could have an opening at QB; they have been mum about whether they will keep Cam Newton for the final year of his contract, and likely won’t move ahead with Kyle Allen or Will Grier as the starter. And their new owner, David Tepper, is worth $12 billion and is ready to spend to help his team win.
The Panthers also have two great weapons in Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore, and they don’t have the Patriots on the schedule.
Why he wouldn’t: Brady and Gisele aren’t moving to Charlotte. And Brady isn’t finishing his career as a Panther.
4. DENVER BRONCOS
Why he might: John Elway is feeling the heat in Denver, and likes to swing for the fences with quarterbacks (see: Peyton Manning). Denver is a great football town, and running back Phillip Lindsay and receiver Courtland Sutton are solid.
Why he wouldn’t : The Broncos seem to like rookie Drew Lock as their quarterback. Also, their roster isn’t that good, and Brady has no relationship with coach Vic Fangio. The Broncos also play at Gillette Stadium next season, which I think Brady wants to avoid. And I just can’t see him finishing his career with one of his top rivals.
5. TENNESSEE TITANS
Why he might: They have a great running back (Derrick Henry), a great receiver (A.J. Brown), and the coach (Mike Vrabel) is one of Brady’s good friends. And Nashville has enough glamour that I could see Brady’s family moving there (plus the no-state-income-tax thing). It makes a lot of sense, except . . .
Why he wouldn’t : The Titans seem to be all-in on Ryan Tannehill after he turned around their season, and reportedly are talking about an extension. It makes a lot more sense to invest in Tannehill, 31, than Brady.
6. NEW YORK GIANTS
Why he might: Brady has, like, eight homes in the New York area and would love to play in the country’s biggest market, particularly for his TB12 brand. He knows the new coach well (Joe Judge), and the Giants don’t have the Patriots on their schedule for another three years. He also gets to play with Saquon Barkley.
Why he wouldn’t : It would be the height of foolishness for the Giants to swap Daniel Jones, coming off a promising rookie season as the sixth overall pick last year, for an aging Brady. Plus Brady essentially would be replacing Eli Manning, too, and probably wouldn’t want to disrespect him.
7. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Why he might: An international city that I’m sure his wife would want to live in. Owner Stephen Ross is a big Michigan guy and would love to get Brady, and would love to needle the Patriots. Plus Brady knows coach Brian Flores and several assistants well.
Why he wouldn’t: The Dolphins seem pretty committed to bringing back Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starter for another year, and drafting a rookie to develop behind him. The Dolphins also fired offensive coordinator and former Patriot Chad O’Shea and hired Chan Gailey, who coached Fitzpatrick for five years in Buffalo and New York and brings a simpler, spread-based attack to Miami. And I don’t believe Brady would play for one of the Patriots’ division rivals.
8. DALLAS COWBOYS
Why he might: Jerry Jones loves him some star power. And who doesn’t want to play quarterback for America’s Team? Brady would get to play home games in a dome. And the Cowboys don’t play the Patriots for the next three years.
Why he wouldn’t: First, there’s no way the Cowboys would swap Dak Prescott, a 26-year-old, ascending quarterback coming off a 4,900-yard season, for an aging Brady. Plus the Cowboys just hired Mike McCarthy as coach, and his offensive system is a poor fit for Brady.
9. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Why he might: Great weather, and a team that maybe doesn’t want to ride the Jameis Winston roller coaster anymore.
Why he wouldn’t: The Bucs do seem to want Winston back. And Brady, who has never been good at throwing the deep ball, would be a terrible fit in Bruce Arians’s offense.
10. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Why he might: The Vikings may decide that Kirk Cousins can’t get them over the hump. Plus Brady would get to play in a dome, with great skill players.
Why he wouldn’t : Cousins isn’t going anywhere. He just won a playoff game, and the Vikings owe him $29.5 million guaranteed next season. Also, Cousins probably is better than Brady at this point. And Brady and his family aren’t moving to Minnesota, even if he did spend summers there as a kid.
11. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Why he might: The Colts may have doubts about whether Jacoby Brissett is their answer at quarterback. Plus they probably would love to stick it to the Patriots by signing Brady. From Brady’s perspective, he’d get to play in a dome, and with T.Y. Hilton and a great offensive line.
Why he wouldn’t: He’s not moving to Indianapolis. And he’s not playing for his biggest rival for more than a decade.
12. CHICAGO BEARS
Why he might: Because they need an upgrade on Mitchell Trubisky. And Chicago would be a great market to introduce TB12 to the Midwest.
Why he wouldn’t: Coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace are both tethered to Trubisky. Brady also would be a horrible fit in Nagy’s offense. And Chicago is where quarterbacks go to die.
13. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Why he might: Baker Mayfield took a big step back this season, and owner Jimmy Haslam might want to make a big splash. And the Browns have great talent with Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and Nick Chubb. They might even have Josh McDaniels.
Why he wouldn’t: It’s Cleveland. It’s the Browns. Not happening. And they’re not giving up on Mayfield, either.
14. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Why he might: They probably need a quarterback. Also has nice weather and good golf.
Why he wouldn’t : Brady is not finishing his career as a Jacksonville Jaguar.