Tom Brady and the New England Patriots may be inseparable in the hearts and minds of football fans, but the 42-year-old quarterback is a free agent this summer and negotiations to bring him back for a 20th season have reportedly not yet begun.
Brady is ‘open to coming back under the right circumstances’ according to reports from Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston, a sentiment that is reportedly echoed by head coach Bill Belichick.
That qualifier of ‘the right circumstances’ is the key piece of information to focus on. Patriots owner Robert Kraft wiped away the possibility of signing Brady to a franchise tag in 2020, removing the option to keep Brady on the team against his will or choice.
Kraft has publicly said he wants Brady to stay, and while they are reportedly willing to use a significant amount of financial might to do so, Belichick has been given no orders regarding the matter.
Specifics of a deal have reportedly not been set, and the timing for the team to iron out a deal, with the man who brought them six Super Bowl trophies, is a very short one.
Teams are allowed to negotiate with their prospective unrestricted free agents starting March 16th at noon through March 18th at 4 pm. During that time, players can’t negotiate with team employees aside from their current clubs. If the Patriots can’t convince him to sign by that date, $13.5M in dead money will hit the salary cap for the coming season.
Year-by-year questions about Brady’s future with the team have become commonplace in the latter years of his time with the club, with the player seeking but not receiving a multi-year extension as far back as 2017. Once Brady officially hits the market, it is a fairly safe bet that any number of teams with question marks at QB would come calling for the 14-time pro bowler, and that the notoriously ruthless team builder Belichick wouldn’t simply sit and wait for his incumbent quarterback to make a decision.
Coming off three straight trips to the Super Bowl, the Patriots were knocked out in the wild card game by the Tennessee Titans last season. Despite a 12-4 record, the offense struggled for stretches, and both sides will have to prove to the other that they are better off together than they could be in a different situation.
As odd as it may be to think of seeing Brady play in a different uniform, a scenario where he sees a better opportunity to win in a different city and the Patriots decide they need to a new quarterback for the first time in two decades is potentially closer than ever before.
More NFL coverage from Yahoo Sports