Tom Brady is now one month away from becoming a free agent for the first time in his Hall of Fame career, and there has been a lot of talk about him meeting with other teams and seeing what offers are out there. If he does that, however, he may be effectively bidding farewell to the New England Patriots.
Michael Giardi of NFL Network reports that Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ football operations people want to know Brady’s intentions before the official start of free agency. If Brady drags the situation out, it would place New England at a major disadvantage with being able to sign other players.
Let's try that again. On Tom Brady, football ops wants to know where his head is at before free agency, as they should. If Brady is inclined to leave, or draw this out (don't believe that's the desire) the #Patriots could find themselves handcuffed player acquisition-wise.
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) February 18, 2020
The Patriots would have to absorb a $13.5 million dead salary cap charge if Brady is not on the roster when the 2020 league year begins on March 18. That is the same day teams can begin signing free agents, so things could get complicated if Brady is committed to visiting with other teams before making a decision. Although, there is a “legal tampering” period beginning on March 16 where players can negotiate with teams. If Brady does end up returning to New England, it’s possible he could speak with other teams in the two days before the official start of free agency and then still sign with the Patriots before the start of the new league year at 4 p.m. on March 18.
It makes sense that the Patriots want to know Brady’s intentions before free agency, as they don’t want to incur an unnecessary cap charge and/or be left without a viable replacement option. If Brady does plan to return to the Patriots, there’s no need for him to put them at a disadvantage with their salary cap situation. That would make it more difficult for New England to spend money on other players, and having an improved supporting cast is likely Brady’s top priority as he heads into his age-43 season.
Brady is probably already working back channels to find out what types of offers might be out there for him, and money is almost certainly not the most important factor. Unless he is committed to leaving New England, it would be beneficial for Brady to make up his mind before free agency. The Patriots reportedly believe that only one team is a real threat to sign Brady away from them, so they may not be all that concerned about having a decision from him prior to March 18.