You’re not going to like it.
But sometimes assuming long-term health takes some sacrifice, humility, and, ultimately, making some pivotal, difficult decisions.
Indeed, watching Tom Brady play for somebody else in 2020 is going to hurt. The vision of your No. 12 jersey tucked away in your closet will give you pangs of sentimentality. Brady will be doing what he did here for so many years with somebody else, and the torment of witnessing the neighbor’s grass growing will be palpable, all while you’re just trying to plant seeds.
Brady will always be your first love. But he’s one who is already bordering on becoming a dangerous relationship.
The quarterback will be 43 years old by the time the 2020 NFL season begins. It’s an age that won’t be especially old based on the satisfactory (albeit, over-excused by friends and family in the Patriots media cartel) performance he gave the Patriots at age 42. Yet, it’s also one that should give anybody pause based on both the decline of his play in the second half of 2019 as well as the portly purse he’s sure to demand as a free agent.
The Patriots would be extraordinarily foolish to give it to him.
Non-committal in the immediate wake of last weekend’s wild card loss to the Tennessee Titans, Brady sounded a bit more convinced on Wednesday that he would be returning to football. The six-time Super Bowl champion wrote in an Instagram post that he has “more to prove,” which is sort of like Da Vinci fearing that his legacy wouldn’t uphold the tests of time, but whatever.
In a perfect world, that final year of his career would come here in New England. Maybe the Patriots can reload at positions where they lacked this season (offensive line, wide receiver, tight end) and make one final push for their future Hall of Fame quarterback to go out on top — or at least with something other than a pick-six.
Then what? Go through this whole charade once again a year from now when Brady insists he wants to play at age 44?
According to Sportrac, Brady’s calculated market value is $34.14 million for next season, and he could potentially receive more than $68 million for a two-year deal. That would put him on par with the highest-paid quarterbacks in the game, including Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Jared Goff, and Aaron Rodgers. Someone will probably give it to him. It’s Tom &*^%$#@ Brady.
The Krafts won’t.
Nor should they.
Considering Brady may have saved Bob Kraft upwards of $100 million by continually taking hometown discounts to play in Foxborough, that thought of cashing in has to be more enticing for him than attending OTAs to work with N’Keal Harry. With the Patriots expected to have somewhere between $42 and $49 million in cap space, handing Brady some $30 million just to stay the status quo would essentially be sacrificing the greater good for the greatest good, albeit with the latter already in the rear-view mirror.
Bringing Brady back at the money he figures to receive means pennies left over for the likes of Devin McCourty, Ted Karras, Joe Thuney, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Matthew Slater, and Elandon Roberts. Rather have Brady back over that entire crew. Fine.
The Patriots still won’t have the proper funds to pull off any magnificent “reload” like they managed to accomplish in 2007.
In any case, this isn’t even really a financial debate, at least as far as the Patriots are concerned. It’s about finally moving forward without dedicating too much money to former glory. Giving Brady the money he’s going to want this time will handcuff the Patriots in looking beyond. He is the horizon to the sunrise of potential somewhere beyond.
Anybody really want one more year of what we just had? Brady was miserable pretty much the entirety of the season, or at least he was following the fleeting presence of Antonio Brown. It’s not going to work here. It’s time for him and Bill Belichick to go their separate ways. It’s time for the head coach to start figuring out exactly what kind of team he’s going to leave to whomever is in charge once he finally decides to hang up his whistle.
Is Jarett Stidham the solution? Like, really?
It’s an answer we’re never going to receive as long as Brady is around, declining in talent. Maybe Belichick already has his eye on the next guy in the draft. After all, for all his drafting guffaws over the years, his quarterback recognition (Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett) has been spot-on as of late.
You have to think about the future at some point. It’s not something Patriot fans want to even try and fathom after the past two decades, but it is a reality. If you’d rather struggle for the next two decades but have Brady around until he’s tooling around Patriot Place in a mobility scooter, can we remind you what life was like for the Celtics post-Larry Bird?
The Patriots have a chance to void that sort of drought by preparing now. If Brady gets $64 million from someone — Mike Vrabel might start pounding on his door once his Titans fall to the Ravens this weekend — it’s a number that Kraft would never match. Ever. Even for Thomas Edward Brady.
There are better things to do with that money. Build for the future. Without holding onto the past.
You’re going to hate it. Letting go hurts.
So, too, does swimming against the tide, trying to put a pause on time.
It’s been fun. But it’s time. Tom Brady is going to be playing elsewhere next season.
You should be happy about what that might mean for the New England Patriots.
It’s just going to take some time for us all to understand that.