Life isn’t going the way Tom Brady or the Patriots would like without one another right now.
The Patriots are currently battling just to grab a wildcard spot in the AFC at 6-5 with a bottom-10 offense in the NFL. Meanwhile, Brady’s Buccaneers are leading the NFC South at 5-6 because the rest of the division is terrible and not at all because they look like Super Bowl contenders.
So the most natural thing for the two sides is to get the band back together, right?
The Athletic’s Jeff Howe put that idea forward on Wednesday while breaking down the possible free-agent scenarios for quarterbacks like Brady and Aaron Rodgers, suggesting the “mutual respect” Brady and Bill Belichick still have for one another could make the Patriots a dark-horse candidate to sign the quarterback next off-season.
“Maybe it’s a long shot. There might be better situations for Brady. But just when you think you’ve got Belichick figured out, he does something no one sees coming,” Howe writes.
Putting aside the cascade of implications for Mac Jones for just a moment, former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light told WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” Wednesday morning that a reunion shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
“Listen, I wouldn’t put anything past him. Look, the guy wants to win, and he knows how to do it with a guy like Belichick,” Light said. “I think he’s seen the differences now. He’d only played for Bill, then he goes down to Tampa. He’s had a couple head coaches down there now. He could conceivably come back and want to be with a proven winner. That would not shock me at all.”
Okay, now let’s do a reality check.
The Patriots almost certainly do not have an offensive scheme or play-caller that would appeal to Brady right now, so that would have to change immediately. Brady’s one of the smartest men ever to play the position, but he can’t be expected to call all his own plays.
New England would also have revamp their offense, especially their skill positions, for what would be a Super-Bowl-or-bust campaign, all while paying Brady more than $20 million a season. If Belichick didn’t want to do that a few years ago to keep 43-year-old Brady around, why would he do it for Brady going into his age-46 season?
Then there’s Jones. Though you wouldn’t argue Jones is even in the same conversation as Brady at the moment, it seemingly wouldn’t make sense to torch your investment in the young quarterback, who’s showed promise in his two seasons, for one year of Brady. Howe’s suggestion that New England could theoretically opt to let Jones sit for a year behind Brady if the team can’t recoup a first-round pick for the young quarterback would simply be a waste of a crucial year of a quarterback’s rookie deal. It’d be shocking to see the value-driven Belichick do that.
To sum it up, as much as Belichick and Brady have won together, the Patriots just aren’t the best situation Brady could choose if he wanted to continue playing next season. Too much has to change, and there’s no guarantee Belichick would spend the $50 million worth of cap space on the elite supporting cast needed to make such a move work.
If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, the ship has sailed. Everyone’s moved on. If Brady signs another deal with the Patriots, it might be a one-day deal to officially retire in Foxborough if he’s into that kind of thing.
Stranger things have happened, but Brady actually returning to the Patriots probably still won’t.