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Richard: If Brady leaves New England, he should go to Tennessee or L.A.

| Thursday, February 13, 2020

Reports this week have emerged confirming that quarterback Tom Brady will enter free agency on March 18. This will be the first time in Brady’s 20-year tenure with the Patriots that he has been a free agent. Experts and the public alike are split on what would be Brady’s best move going forward: Return for year 21 with the dynastic Patriots, or depart to find a roster better equipped to get Brady his seventh Super Bowl ring?

There is recent precedent for a long-tenured quarterback to leave his original franchise to prove himself elsewhere in the latter stages of his career. In 2012, rival Peyton Manning left the Colts to join the Broncos for the last four years of his career. At age 36, Manning won MVP and led the Broncos to a Super Bowl appearance. At age 38, he captured his second Super Bowl. Brady, though 42, has been lauded through the years for the immense amount of time and resources he devotes to ensure that his body stays in the most pristine conditions possible.

By this point in his career, Brady is widely considered to be the greatest quarterback to ever play. With that said, Brady’s six Super Bowl victories are not solely attributable to his greatness; coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft have done an exceptional job at sustaining an advantage over the rest of the league through talent acquisition and revolutionary tactics. 

It would be impossible to scorn Brady should he decide to return to Foxborough for his 21st season. 

However, I believe it would serve Tom much better to explore the avenue of a new team; specifically, with the Tennessee Titans or Los Angeles Chargers.

Let’s start with the Titans. Last season, Tennessee jumped out to a 10-point lead over the Super Bowl winning Chiefs with six minutes left in the first half of the AFC Championship. They were able to do this by establishing the run game with Derrick Henry, while the defense caused Patrick Mahomes to struggle relative to his standards.

However, their undoing was an inability to move the ball down the field through the air once they were forced to abandon the run game in a deficit. Ryan Tannehill and Marcus Mariota are both set to become unrestricted free agents. For Mariota, his benching this season seems to be an indication of the Titans’ belief in his abilities moving forward. As for Tannehill, he posted 15 completions and 160 yards passing in his first two playoff games combined, and has never posted a season QBR above 65. Simply put, neither quarterback has shown an ability to lead this team to a Super Bowl.

Should Brady take the helm, he will be assisted by talent which far exceeds that of his previous year in New England. Running back Derrick Henry was perhaps the best player in this postseason, and rookie receiver A.J. Brown posted 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns in just his first year. In addition, head coach Mike Vrabel spent eight seasons as Brady’s teammate in New England and boasts a hard-nosed, exceptional defense. With the potential addition of Brady, it is not crazy to consider Tennessee as a serious title contender heading into the 2020 season. 

As for the Los Angeles Chargers, similarly long-tenured Philip Rivers has agreed to part ways with the team, leaving a vacancy for a team otherwise stockpiled with talent. Running backs Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon both have demonstrated an ability to be highly productive. Receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are quietly as good of a 1-2 pair as you will find in the league.

On the defensive side of the ball, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are both elite pass rushers, with Derwin James, Casey Hayward and Desmond King manning a shutdown secondary. Rivers’ decline in recent years has inhibited the team, and most would consider Brady an upgrade at the quarterback position even at age 42.

Furthermore, a move to Los Angeles would perhaps be most desirable for Brady’s wife, Gisele, who has very openly advocated for Brady to leave the game and enter the role of full-time husband. The family has spent a great deal of time in Los Angeles, and should Gisele concede to Tom’s wishes to continue playing, what better place to be than the West Coast for an immensely successful model, actress and businesswoman?

For New England to retain Brady, Belichick will have to demonstrate a willingness to upgrade the talent surrounding Brady drastically, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. With weapons like Gronk and Randy Moss retiring in recent memory, the 2019 offensive personnel left much to be desired outside of Julian Edelman. Additionally, it seems a pay raise will also be required for Brady, who has consistently taken less than his worth in his career to allow for more salary cap flexibility for the remaining 52 roster spots. That said, in the past few weeks, reports have emerged that the Patriots would be willing to offer in excess of $30 million, which would align him much more closely with the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL today. 

Whatever Brady decides, it will be the overwhelmingly dominant storyline this offseason. Rarely does a NFL player of this caliber reach the free agent market, especially at the quarterback position. One thing is for certain: Bet against Brady wherever he is under center at your own peril.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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