Yo, I think we can all agree that this has got to be one of the strangest days we’ve all been participants for in a while. There is a worldwide pandemic virus travelling around, and they’re telling us to stay away from each other. Quarantine is a term that feels like something I’d expect to hear in a movie. Travel and nightlife may be the next operations to be further restricted or shut down altogether. We haven’t seen the plans of the entire world altered so much by one factor in quite some time. You’d be surprised by the amount of time I spent today contemplating life and listening to old Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. OK, maybe that’s everyday me anyway ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
While Coronavirus is cancelling everything around us (thankful for this Tweet), The National Football League, we can all be sure, will attempt to keep the upcoming season on track as much as liability will allow. These people love what they do and will make sure to get that guap in all ways possible. In the absence of most sports and entertainment, a ton of eyes will be on the impending news about 2020 Free Agency and the NFL Draft.
Many dominoes fell today. The NFL Players voted to pass the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (part of which allows the use of only the franchise tag in negotiations), The Jacksonville Jaguars initiated “Project Dolphin Tank” and The Tennessee Titans (as I predicted, as you’ll see at the bottom) chose Ryan Tannehill over everybody out there. That ‘everybody’ includes the G.O.A.T., Tom Brady. Tommy boy will be 43 this season, but why won’t this old man tell us where he’s going?? Chris Simms and his dad, along with most other people are dismissing the idea entirely that Brady would ever leave the team he’s played 20 seasons for. I’m here to tell you that we will not see him play in a New England Patriots jersey ever again! EVER.
Whatever the reason(s) may be, Tom’s play has declined statistically over the last 3 seasons. That is undeniable. We were already wondering if he would leave last year. This season felt like a definitive breaking point. Brady had his worst second half of a season ever (in completion percentage, passing yards per attempt as well as passer rating). You can make all of the excuses for his play that you want: he dealt with injuries, he misses Rob Gronkowski, Edelman missed time, his young receivers could not get open, the running game regressed, etc. It’s easy to forget, however, that this is Tom freaking Brady that we are talking about! Those excuses used to not even matter. His whole thing used to be that he worked with no-name guys and castoffs on offense and made them into playmakers and stars. The list includes Reche Caldwell, Jonas Gray, Brandon Lloyd, Laurence Maroney, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis, Troy Brown, Shane Vereen, Kevin Faulk, David Givens, Julian Edelman, Wes Welker and Deion Branch (sore subject as a Hawks fan) among others as guys that were dangerous in championship games and seasons in New England but accomplished little else at future or previous stops.
Tom Brady is one of the most competitive athletes in the league, and may be one of the greats who can’t accept mediocrity or his own susceptibility to Father Time. It kinda feels like Brady wanted the Patriots to do more for him this year. You better believe that the chip on this former 6th rounder’s shoulder got bigger after the narrative he faced this season. He will be highly motivated to pull a #WashedKing and prove everyone wrong. Fascinating.
That being said, let’s look at things from the Patriots’ perspective. As bizarre as it is to admit, Brady is one of the weak links on this team. New England had a strong defensive showing this past season and has the reigning DPOY. Since he is paid as a quarterback, that is not a great disparity for the team to have. The fans in us (whether we love or despise him) can’t believe that New England would let their franchise icon leave for another team… look at how the Giants let Eli stay until the wheels fell off. You know that these are the Patriots that we’re talking about, Jack?!
New England is cold-blooded and calculating. They are notorious for getting rid of players a year too early vs. a year too late. If these QB dominoes weren’t in danger of falling at any second, I would do a deep dive on the history of that idea in New England. Names like Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Randy Moss, Lawyer Malloy and Darrelle Revis immediately come to mind. That’s one way that they’ve been able to stay on top for so long: they don’t play when it comes to business decisions. They are the anti-Cowboys (Jerry Jones LOVES his star players and will do a lot to keep them).
You can argue their level of competition early in the year, but heading into the playoffs, the Patriot Defense was the 4th team in the last 25 years to allow 20 or fewer offensive touchdowns and intercept more than 25 passes. The previous three teams to accomplish this all went on to win the Super Bowl. The Patriots did not… DO YOU THINK BILL BELICHICK WILL LET THAT STAND?? He was most likely already hot that Robert Kraft made him keep Brady last year over Jimmy Garoppolo.
Enter the young Los Angeles Chargers. They are already behind in a fight with the Rams for the loyalty of L.A. Ask the Clippers how important that factor is. They have made every move imaginable this offseason to build a comfortable and cushy landing spot for TB12. They extended a great satellite back (Tom has been known to make magic with these kinds of weapons) in Austin Ekeler. They made hard decisions to open up cap space in dumping the contracts of older, yet still effective players in Thomas Davis and Brandon Mebane. They already have a great route runner and a downfield threat in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, respectively. Keenan Allen’s presence in particular makes this a crucial potential fit, as he is a maven in the slot. Brady has been a major catalyst in the chemical process of making slot receivers boom throughout his career. Oh yeah, the Bolts have a young threat named Hunter Henry who would give Brady the best tight end he’s had since Gronk. Ya’ll seeing this? I think Tom would love to be at the controls here, walking around with WMD‘s at his disposal, walking around L.A. with his Uggs in search of avocado ice cream.
The kicker in this whole situation may be the potential strength of the O-line, which they navigated perfectly to improve so far. They flipped their left tackle, Russell Okung, in order to gain a strength at offensive guard with Trai Turner from the Carolina Panthers. They most likely did this with the fact in mind that they pick 6th overall in the upcoming NFL Draft and are in position to take one of the elite tackle prospects in the draft to solidify their line. Believe it or not, this is a team that lost 10 of their games by one score or less. The Chargers are a team that is within striking distance of competing for the ‘ship if they can get modest gains in contribution from the quarterback position (and if Derwin James can regain form after his injury).
If you check out all of the public forums and social media comments, nobody thinks Vader is leaving the Empire. What if he does? What if he helps to bring balance to the league? Tom even already announced that he’s headed to Hollywood. Get ready for the inevitable Tom Brady and LeBron James commercial if you live in the LA Metro area. We already heard that there was a phone call (!) between Bill and Tom that didn’t go well… if they break up, there were enough cookie crumbs along the way for a potential 30-for-30 episode.
Tom Brady switching sides to the Chargers to continue (and attempt to further legitimize) his legacy apart from Bill Belichick would be a riveting and sensical storyline all 2020. It would be especially intriguing to see which QB Bill will pick to replace Brady and lead his team. Belichick and Brady would be in a race to win a Lombardi without the other. I think most may underestimate the ego and level of petty involved here with two competitive living legends. If we can all stay inside for a bit, we may be in for some fire this year.
Below is my crack at how the giant game of QB musical chairs will play out across the league in this scenario (and my random notes). This may be the first year that I can remember where a lot of teams can end up with either a starter or backup who they believe in long-term. I made this list days ago, but when I saw that Ryan Tannehill signed, I decided to not let any more of my thunder be stolen:
– Philip Rivers to the Colts > (Brissett as backup + draft someone like Jeudy) Frank Reich worked with Rivers in San Diego.
– Ryan Tannehill back to the Titans > (Re-sign Henry and get rid of Mariota) Historic, deadly efficiency in 2019. If it ain’t broke… Vrabel knows Bill Belichick would be salivating to sign R.T. if Brady leaves. Next Alex Smith?
– Tom Brady to the Chargers > (Tyrod Taylor as backup + draft an OT) Focal point vs him going to the Titans as an ancillary part.
– Andy Dalton to the Patriots > (Stidham as backup and potential heir?) This fool has put up points in his career. Bill knows that and banks on his veteran savy to help stoke Belichick’s legacy apart from Tom Brady.
– Teddy Bridewater to the Bears > (Starts off as backup to Mr. Biscuit?) Window of prime defense could shut FAST in Chicago. He is a smart player who can compliment a dominant defense, protect the football and impress at times.
– Cam Newton stays with the Panthers > (For now? Traded when healthy?) Sam Bradford style trade when there is an opportunity? Grier🗑, Allen-1yr contract. Tepper willing to play long game.
– Justin Herbert to the Panthers > (Backup to Allen and Cam for a hot sec) Rhule O great for spread QB? In perfect position. College to NFL coaches have wealth of knowledge from scouting and recruiting their first couple draft classes.
– Derek Carr stays with the Raiders > (Draft CeeDee Lamb) Gruden
finally gets the elite WR that he missed in A.B. that lets him test his QB’s worth.
– Jalen Hurts to the Raiders > (Backup to and competition for Carr) Gruden
would love this kid’s confidence, understanding of the game and leadership abilities. His 10 year contract let’s him wait on sunshine. Steez.
– Joe Burrow to the Bengals > Magical season.
– Tua Tagovailoa to the Dolphins > (Backup to Fitzpatrick until fully healthy) Their guy. Accurate thrower. 9 picks in 1st or 2nd rounds next 2 years, can make it happen.
– Jacob Eason to the Lions > (Backup to Stafford) Rumors of DET divorce.
– Jordan Love to the Buccaneers > (Backup to Winston) Too much alike?? Arians is the QB whisperer… wants Rivers, but will take “poor man’s Mahomes”.
– Jake Fromm to the Broncos > (Insurance that won’t hurt Lock)
– Marcus Mariota to the ‘skins > (Insurance behind Haskins) Brings the mobility that Rivera is used to.
– Josh Rosen to the Steelers > (Backup and heir after Big Ben’s final season) Let’s get this guy behind a functional O-line and see what ol’ boy can do! Rosen a major upgrade to the bummy QB play we saw from Pittsburgh last year.
– Case Keenum to the Browns > (Backup, mentor and stabilizing force for Baker) Stefanski connection from Vikings.
– Joe Flacco to the Bengals > (Mentor to Macaulay Culkin) Skinny’s revenge on Baltimore!!
– P.J. Walker to the Seahawks > (Long term backup to Russ?) XFL MVP. Yessah!