Jeff Darlington: People ‘underestimate’ how close Tom Brady was to joining Saints

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Much has been made of Tom Brady’s comments on an upcoming episode of The Shop, an HBO talk show co-produced by LeBron James and agent Maverick Carter. In an episode slated to air Friday night, Brady discussed his 2020 free agency with fellow guests Draymond Green, Kid Cudi and comedian Chelsea Handler, marveling at one team in particular that, probably against their better judgment, decided to pass on the decorated 43-year-old.

“One of the teams, they weren’t interested at the very end,” recalls Brady, who joined the Buccaneers last offseason following a 20-year stint in New England. “I was thinking, ‘You’re sticking with that motherf-----?’”

Clearly Brady, who has played with a chip on his shoulder since falling to the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft, has an axe to grind, but with who? Social media sleuths have spent the past 24 hours trying to decipher his quotes, searching high and low for clues that might unlock the final piece of Brady’s free-agent puzzle. Countless teams were in pursuit of Brady that offseason (the Raiders and his hometown Niners among them), but one previously overlooked suitor stands above the rest.

“People still underestimate how close Tom Brady was to signing with the New Orleans Saints up until he ultimately decided on the Bucs,” ESPN NFL reporter Jeff Darlington conveyed to host Mike Greenberg on Tuesday’s Get Up. “I know that’s going to be a statement people try to question. It’s the truth.”

It would have been a blast to see Brady throw to Michael Thomas, who shattered Marvin Harrison’s single-season catch record in 2019, in the Big Easy, but the Saints knew they had to do right by incumbent Drew Brees, even with their aging signal-caller in steep decline. “Ultimately, Drew Brees decided to delay his broadcasting career and come back for one more season. The Saints did the right thing by bringing Brees back,” acknowledged Darlington. “No question in my mind, the Saints, despite knowing that they did what they had to do, there is a little bit of—let’s call it regret—that Tom Brady is not their quarterback.”

As always, Brady got the last laugh, ending New Orleans’ season and, by extension, Brees’ career, by defeating the Saints (on their home turf, no less) during last year’s NFC playoffs. Brady followed that up by knocking off Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes in succession, claiming his seventh Super Bowl in 10 appearances. Meanwhile, the Saints are still sorting out their post-Brees quarterback room with former No. 1 pick Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill expected to compete for the starting job this summer.

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