The New England Patriots will not be in the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2015 season, and quarterback Tom Brady is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Coach and GM Bill Belichick didn’t exactly surround Brady with talent to give the offense a realistic chance to succeed in 2019. But would Tom Brady really abandon the Patriots? Here’s how TB12 would fit with each of the NFL’s 32 teams:
NOT HAPPENING: Jets, Bills, Ravens, Texans, Chiefs, Eagles, Giants, Packers, Vikings, Falcons, 49ers, Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks
All of these clubs have what they consider franchise quarterbacks in place and under contract for the foreseeable future.
UNLIKELY: Dolphins, Bengals, Jaguars, Raiders, Redskins, Lions
Miami, Cincinnati and Washington would surely welcome Brady as the starting quarterback, but those rosters are too incomplete for him to join any of the three. Jacksonville, Oakland and Detroit each have excessive amounts of money tied up in the quarterback position. Even if these teams were to make roster changes to enable a Brady signing, he’s not likely to head to these non-contenders.
A FAIR SHOT: Steelers, Browns, Colts, Chargers, Broncos, Cowboys, Bears, Buccaneers, Saints
If Ben Roethlisberger chooses to retire, this is an obvious fit. While the Steelers lack offensive weapons outside of JuJu Smith-Schuster, they have a championship-caliber defense and a strong leader in Mike Tomlin who now has a drama-free locker room.
The Browns could look to clean their hands of Baker Mayfield this offseason. Cleveland also has two dynamic receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, plus Nick Chubb, who finished second in the NFL in rushing this season.
Brady would spurn two of his former backups – Jacoby Brissett and Brian Hoyer – if he chose to join the Colts. Boasting perhaps the league’s best offensive line, Indianapolis would certainly keep Tom upright.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Bolts are certainly the media’s consensus pick to this point, but they are far from the most logical choice. Yes, the Chargers are moving to a new stadium and need to sell tickets, so they’d welcome the league’s greatest-ever player coming to town. They are loaded with offensive weapons, but have a miserable offensive line and lack overall consistency. Plus, Philip Rivers hasn’t retired (yet).
Brady could choose to follow in the footsteps of friend and former rival Peyton Manning by moonlighting in Denver. The Broncos still have a respectable defense and decent offensive talent, but would still not be the favorites in the AFC West, let alone the AFC.
A great offensive line, elite running back, two legitimate outside receiving threats and a young, athletic defense. The Cowboys are the most underrated destination for Tom Brady. The only obstacle? The Jerry Jones and Dak Prescott saga.
It is probably clear to everyone by now that the quarterback position is the only thing holding the Bears back. Brady could join a team with an elite defense and a creative offensive coach.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are not committed to Jameis Winston long-term, and coach Bruce Arians said the team could win with a different quarterback. Tampa has an improving defense and elite pass-catching weapons.
New Orleans Saints
If Drew Brees hangs up his cleats or leaves New Orleans, Sean Payton would probably jump at the chance to add Brady in order to keep the Saints’ title hopes alive. The chances aren’t high, but this scenario can’t be ruled out.
FAVORITES: Patriots, Titans, Panthers
The Panthers can give Brady a complete offense around him. Christian McCaffrey would still be the focal point of the offense, perfect for an aging quarterback trying to get accustomed to a new offense and teammates.
There is a lot to like here. Tennessee has a good offensive line, a dominant ground game with a true workhorse running back, and two capable young receivers. In addition, the Titans have a slew of former Patriots and are coached by Brady’s longtime friend and former teammate, Mike Vrabel.
New England Patriots
Sure, a new challenge and environment could energize Brady, who will turn 43 in August. Sure, the New England offense looked old, slow and stagnant for most of the year. But the Patriots have won six championships since 2001 and three of the last six, all with Brady at quarterback. The defense improved after winning Super Bowl 53, and the offensive line should improve with center David Andrews’ return, even if guard Joe Thuney leaves in free agency. Adding an outside receiver and a tight end could be all that’s needed for a Super Bowl run in 2020.
Tom Brady takes multiple visits to new teams, carefully and slowly weighs his options, but ultimately returns to New England on a deal for one or two years. The Patriots will surely add at least one pass-catching weapon this offseason, whether it be via trade, free agency or the draft. The hardest part of getting this deal done will be the money, not the duration, as the Patriots have several other key free agents to attend to.