For the first time in his 20-year career, Tom Brady is poised to become a free agent.
On March 17 at 4 p.m., his contract with the Patriots will expire. On the last day of the 2019 league year, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent.
Beginning March 16, teams are allowed to contact the agents of players who will become free agents upon the beginning of the new league year.
Here’s a very simplified version of what could happen:
- Brady re-signs with the Patriots before his contract expires. He avoids free agency and it allows the Patriots to spread the $20.25 million signing bonus he agreed to last August over three years (2019, 2020 and 2021), which helps with salary-cap ramifications.
- Brady re-signs with the Patriots after March 18. If the contract is allowed to expire, the $13.5 million Brady was to be paid would be accelerated to the 2020 season, meaning the Patriots would need to have that money included in his new contract.
- Brady signs a deal with a new team.
- Brady changes course and decides to retire.
We’re tracking each move and development between now and March 17, or when Brady signs a contract — plus anything else you might need to know.
Friday, Feb. 21 | 25 days until March 17
The Tennessee Titans could be the new favorite in the race for Tom Brady, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter is just as surprised as everyone to hear it.
On the Rich Eisen show, Schefter said ESPN’s Jeff Darlington appeared on his podcast earlier this week, and offered up his odds as to where Brady will play next year: Tennessee, Vegas, or New England, in that order.
“I was like, ‘Whoa. OK. I knew that Tennessee was an option,’” Schefter said. “But he made it out to be more of an option than I realized it to be.”
— Rich Eisen Show (@RichEisenShow) February 19, 2020
“Tennessee has to be considered one of the bright spots when you consider what Tom Brady is looking for in free agency,” Darlington said on Schefter’s podcast. “Whether it is the team itself and what they possess personnel-wise, whether it’s the ability to potentially collaborate with the head coach and have some say in game planning and personnel, I quite frankly think the Tennessee Titans make a lot of sense for Tom Brady.”
Tuesday, Feb. 18| 28 days
With exactly four weeks to go until March 17, other prominent Tom Brady fans are starting to get concerned. Appearing on ESPN’s “Get Up,” Ben Affleck said that he and Matt Damon texted Brady to ask what his plan was. The response?
A shrug emoji.
“I hope he stays. I think he’s fabulous,” Affleck said. “By the same token, he’s given up a lot of money to play for that franchise over the years that he well deserves. The New England Patriots didn’t sacrifice any money winning all those Super Bowls, selling all those tickets, selling all that merchandise. I pray and hope that he stays. It would break my heart if he left.”
Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston said he’s hearing that Brady won’t stage a coast-to-coast free agency tour – rather, he’ll set up at one location and have interested teams come to him. NBC Sports analyst Mike Florio thinks its a great idea.
“I love it,” Florio said on NBC Sports. “It’s the ultimate boss move and it tells me that if they’re even having this conversation, there’s enough interest in Tom Brady where you have to have the conversation, right? If it’s crickets, you don’t even have this. You’re thinking, ‘All right, what are we going to do here?
“There are teams interested. Are we going to go criss-cross the nation or are we going to have them come to us?’ I think that’s my big takeaway. There are enough teams interested in Tom Brady for him to even have that deliberation as to how he’s going to handle his free agency tour.”
Tuesday, Feb. 11 | 35 days
Just more than a month removed from the start of a new league year, there’s still no news on Tom Brady’s future. But Sports Illustrated’s Peter King has an idea of when there might be some.
“I don’t think that in this particular case anything is set in stone,” King said on NBC Sports. “But I do have a pretty good feeling that we’ll probably get to March 12th or 13th and know if there’s any chance he’s going to go back to the Patriots.”
Mike Florio, appearing alongside King, said he believes that if Brady and the Patriots haven’t reached an agreement by March 16th, when the quarterback can begin communicating with other teams, that means there won’t be one coming.
“Is he going to go back to the Patriots? That’s phase one,” Florio said. “I think as a practical matter, that’s the ship that has to sail before March the 16th. You either sign with the Patriots or you embark on the Reggie White, Peyton Manning free agency tour.
“I don’t think the Patriots are still in play once the boat is out of the harbor.”
Monday, Feb. 10 | 36 days
Patriots owner Robert Kraft is the one that can prevent Brady from walking away, but according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, he might not want to.
According to Rapoport, Kraft feels that Brady should test free agency, then return to New England to negotiate a new deal once he learns what his options are. Similarly, a break would give Bill Belichick a chance to see what is out there were he to replace his quarterback.
“After all this, after going through everything, it will mean that it’s basically meant to be, and that it’s the best thing for all sides [to let Brady test free agency],” Rapoport said. “Kraft wanted them to get apart, to see what’s out there, and try to come together in the middle.
“And the hope is, if that works out for 2020, that everyone will be happy they went through the process.”
In addition, Tom Brady, internet troll, is back again, this time “liking” an NFL Instagram post announcing Philip Rivers’s decision to enter free agency after 16 years with the Chargers. It remains to be seen whether he was showing support, or liking the fact that the Chargers are in need of quarterback.
Friday, Feb. 7 | 39 days
One of latest teams to enter the Brady conversation is the Dallas Cowboys, and rumors swirling gained some traction when NFL Network’s Michael Irvin appeared on WEEI. Irvin, who played for the Cowboys, said he “had a conversation with people” about the Cowboys putting the franchise tag on Dak Prescott, then trading him and signing Brady.
“I’m trying to lean in [Robert] Kraft’s ear like, ‘You can’t let this happen. You gotta keep Tom somehow in New England and let him finish his career.”
The rumors died down a bit when Irvin jumped in on Twitter to clarify that it was not a member of the Cowboys organization that was involved in that conversation, but Dallas still remains linked to Brady, for now.
Thursday, Feb. 6 | 40 days
One thing is for certain: Tom Brady has had plenty of time to up his social-media game as of late. On Friday, he didn’t let the chance go by to take a shot at former rival Peyton Manning and his golf game.
Which begs the question: Is Tom Brady becoming a certified Internet troll? Chad Finn lays out the facts in a column from this week.
Wednesday, Feb. 5 | 41 days
Tom Brady took to Instagram to answer some questions about his fitness routine. Fans took the opportunity to ask about his future. (He didn’t take the bait.)
Tuesday, Feb. 4 | 42 days
Maybe this will convince Tom Brady?
Monday, Feb. 3 | 43 days
The Daily Mail spotted moving trucks outside the Brookline home of Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen. Brady and his family are reportedly spending part of the offseason in New York City while they try to sell their Massachusetts mansion.
Sunday, Feb. 2 | 44 days
Tom Brady may have had some veiled references to his upcoming free agency in a Super Bowl commercial he appeared in for streaming service Hulu.
“But me? I’m not going anywhere,” he spoke to the camera after making his pitch for consumers to sign up for Hulu.
Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots still dominated the conversation in Miami on Super Bowl Sunday. A number of former players were on hand for the NFL 100 pregame celebration.
After the Chiefs’ win in Super Bowl LIV, oddsmakers immediately began looking to next season.
Many sports books have odds on where Brady will end up, and Sports Betting Dime put it at 2-3 — the mostly likely scenario — that Brady remains a Patriot.
Thursday, Jan. 30 | 47 days
Tom Brady to the Titans?
Hearing that Tom Brady is in town, visiting Montgomery Bell Academy with his son
— Michael Gallagher (@MGsports_) January 30, 2020
That rumor was quickly debunked, but Brady played into the discourse with his cryptic social-media post on Thursday evening.
The post sent fans everywhere into panic mode. What could it mean?! (Turns out, it’s for a Super Bowl ad.)
Wednesday, Jan. 29 | 48 days
If you’re the betting type, you’ll love this news: The latest odds from DraftKings on where Tom Brady will start in 2020 have New England as the clear favorite. (Other teams in the top three: Chargers and Colts.)
Tuesday, Jan. 28 | 49 days
Rob Gronkowski weighed in on Tom Brady’s future, and he thinks his former QB has a right to test out that free agent market.
I truly believe that he deserves the opportunity to go explore — to see what’s out there,” he told the Globe’s Jim McBride. “He’s been playing for so long and just the way that he’s been playing — just the level that he’s been playing at — he definitely deserves an opportunity to go out there and test the market.’’
Where in the world is Brady, anyway? Manhattan, it seems.
NFL Network’s Mike Girardi reports that Brady, his wife Gisele and their children are living in New York City right now. Their home in Brookline has been on the market and remains unsold
Monday, Jan. 27 | 50 days
Now we know what Joe Montana thinks.
The NFL legend, who began his career in San Francisco and finished it in Kansas City, knows how hard it is for a veteran to adjust to a new team.
That’s why he’s telling Tom Brady to stay with the Patriots.
“It’s not easy to go to another team and get accepted, no matter how much success you’ve had and how many years you’ve played,” Montana told NFL Media. “They still want to see you come in and be the same player and be that loyal to them as you were to the other team you just left. So, it’s not easy [for] guys looking at that change, especially at the quarterback position.”
Sunday, Jan. 19 | 58 days
Tom Brady tells Westwood One he’s still interested in playing in 2020, and said he’s going to embrace whatever the future brings “with open arms.”
And Brady’s former backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, is headed to the Super Bowl after the 49ers beat the Packers, 37-20, in the NFC Championship game.
One more thing of note: Phillip Rivers is moving to Florida.
The quarterback is a free agent and, after 16 seasons with the Chargers, it appears the team is moving on from him. Rivers told ESPN that it was time to get closer to family.
“What this means football-wise is to be determined but it was time for us to move back closer to home,” Rivers said.
Why does this matter when it comes to tracking Tom Brady? Brady is a California native and Los Angeles has been a rumored destination if he were to leave the Patriots. This opens up a clear path.
Saturday, Jan. 18 | 59 days
Tom Brady was spotted talking with Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis on Saturday at a UFC fight in Sin City.
He wasn’t the only NFL star in attendance — Christian McCaffrey, Myles Garrett and Baker Mayfield were also there — and he also spoke with Mass. native and UFC president Dana White.
White had some thoughts on Brady’s impending free agency:
“If that dude isn’t playing for Boston, he’s playing here.”
Sunday, Jan. 12 | 65 days
The Browns choose to hire Kevin Stefanski, offensive coordinator of the just-bounced Vikings, instead of Josh McDaniels for their open head-coaching position.
What does that mean for Tom Brady? Well, it means that Tom Brady may be more likely to return if he’s not in a position where he’ll have to form a new relationship with a new coordinator — who might have a new offense. Ben Volin explains the details.
Saturday, Jan. 11 | 66 days
Two familiar names are one step closer to the Super Bowl after Saturday’s divisional games.
Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers are headed to the NFC Championship game after beating the Vikings, 27-10, at Levi’s Stadium.
Then, Mike Vrabel’s Titans stunned prohibitive favorite Baltimore in the late game, winning 28-12.
Friday, Jan. 10 | 67 days
Josh McDaniels spent more than seven hours interviewing for the Browns head coaching job. He and his wife Laura were flown to Cleveland by team owner Jimmy Haslam.
He was the final candidate to interview for the final NFL job open during this hiring cycle.
Meanwhile, Jim McBride took stock of the Patriots roster. Here’s a look at how it stood on Jan. 10.
Thursday, Jan. 9 | 68 days
Joe Judge is introduced as the new Giants coach. He divulges the only piece of advice Bill Belichick offered up: “He told me to just be yourself, and that’s all I know how to be.”
Meanwhile, Ben Volin plays a what-if game: What if Tom Brady leaves? Who would he play for?
Wednesday, Jan. 8 | 69 days
Brady posts on Instagram: “In both life and football, failure is inevitable. You can, however, learn from that failure, pick yourself up with great enthusiasm, and place yourself in the arena again. And that’s right where you will find me. Because I know I still have more to prove.”
What does that mean? It confirms his intentions to play football in 2020, just like he said after the Patriots’ loss to the Titans.
Tuesday, Jan. 7 | 70 days
Matt Rhule and Joe Judge both get new jobs. Josh McDaniels does not.
The Patriots offensive coordinator is scheduled to have interviews with the Panthers on Tuesday and the Giants on Wednesday. Instead, the Panthers chose to hire Rhule from Baylor; a few hours later, the word trickles out that the Giants are finalizing a deal with Patriots’ special-teams coordinator and wide receivers coach Joe Judge.
With Mike McCarthy off to Dallas, that leaves one option for McDaniels: the Browns. McDaniels is scheduled to interview with them on Friday. Or, he could opt to sit this cycle out, and try for another head-coaching job next season.
Any way you look at it, the Patriots will once again need to do some rebuilding on the coaching staff. Judge, 38, has been with the team since 2012 and received wide-receiver duties this season to help prepare him to step into a head role.
“Joe could probably coach any position on the field,” Bill Belichick said about him last year. “He does an excellent job of teaching players. He thinks quickly, the game comes easily to him. He understands concepts and adjustments and fundamental techniques. That’s the mark of a good coach.”
Now, Judge will be tasked with helping to develop Daniel Jones as he enters his first season as full-time starter in New York.
Monday, Jan. 6 | 71 days
Robert Kraft, speaking to NBC Sports’s Peter King, knows exactly what he wants when it comes to Tom Brady’s future: “My hope and prayer is number one, he plays for the Patriots. Or number two, he retires.”
Kraft lauded his quarterback just a day after Bill Belichick said “nobody respects Tom more than I do” but also said that the process is “not a one-way street.”
What does all of this mean? Here’s a breakdown from Ben Volin, who reads between the lines.
Sunday, Jan. 5 | 72 days
Bill Belichick found himself in an unusual place on a Sunday morning in early January: behind the podium at Patriots HQ for his end-of-season press conference.
The Patriots head coach wouldn’t say much about the way the Patriots plan to approach Tom Brady’s free agency.
“Everybody’s situation on the team is different. There are not two that are exactly the same, but future is the future for all of them, just like it is for Tom and anybody else you want to bring up,’’ said Belichick. “Certainly, Tom’s an iconic figure in this organization and nobody respects Tom more than I do.’’
Saturday, Jan. 4 | 73 days
There was nothing a hype video could do to save the Patriots in 20-13 loss to the Titans that ended their season. It was the first time the Patriots had to play in the wild-card round since 2009.
After the game, Tom Brady addressed the biggest question in his postgame press conference: How likely is he to retire? “I would say it’s pretty unlikely, hopefully unlikely.”
There you have it.
But if he continues to play, will it be with the Patriots?
“I don’t know what the future looks like,” Brady said Saturday night. “I’m not going to predict it.”
Katie McInerney of the Boston Globe Staff contributed to this story.