With Tom Brady becoming a free agent for just the second time in his 5,000-year career, it's time to seriously consider what the quarterback might do in 2023. That is, provided the quarterback who will turn 46 years old this summer decides to continue his fight against Father Time by playing in his 24th NFL season. Each day, we'll explore one possible option for Brady. We've looked at, and we've looked at . Today ... it's the New England Patriots.
BOSTON -- It's a storybook ending, no doubt. But it's almost too fantastical, too outlandish, too impossible to actually come true.
Tom Brady, at age 46, returning to his first NFL home -- his real NFL home -- to finish his career the way it was supposed to end?
It's certainly a bit of a fairy tale, but could it happen? Let's explore.
The Case For
OK, before we get to the big picture stuff, remember that if Brady is going to play in 2023, he's going to need a very good situation -- one that gives him a real shot to win a Super Bowl immediately. And the Patriots as currently constructed aren't quite there. But with a quarterback like Brady, they may be closer than most people think.
For one, the team just hired Bill O'Brien to run the offense. Brady worked with O'Brien for the three years after Josh McDaniels left, from 2009-11. Brady was the first-ever unanimous MVP in 2010, and he went to the Super Bowl in 2011. That was all with a receiving corps that was considered far from elite. There is presumably a strong level of trust established, and if Brady were to line up his potential OCs at potential future homes, O'Brien would probably rank highly.
The quality of the Patriots' defense may also be an appeal. The Patriots had a top-10 defense, despite the offense ranking 28th in time of possession. All of that extra work didn't prevent the defense from performing, and with a functional offense in 2023, the defense should be good enough to win some games.
Then there is ... everything else. Brady's Patriots career ended kind of ugly. He and Bill Belichick clearly had their issues, and despite some reasonable contract requests from Brady, the team (aka Belichick) never bought into the "playing until age 45" thing. It was a misjudgment on the part of the Patriots, who had to watch Brady win a Super Bowl in year one with the Bucs and put forth an MVP-caliber season in year two. The Patriots enjoyed two decades with the greatest quarterback of all time, experiencing unparalleled success ... but the ending was just a bit of a bummer.
Brady returning to New England can't change all of that, per se, but it could smooth over some lingering sour feelings -- both inside and outside of that building. If that really matters to Brady, then there's obviously only one destination that could resolve the matter.
The Case Against
Well, you know. For all that was just stated about the ending of Brady's career in New England ... it figures to be a bit of a hurdle. That may not be the case from Brady's side, though. He's a believer in The Four Agreements, to the point where he doesn't seem to harbor any resentment against Roger Goodell, who spent years trying to tear him down. So he could probably forgive and forget that Belichick made him get his pregame massages in a suite instead of in the team training room.
But could Belichick? Would Belichick welcome the whole circus and chaos that would come with bringing Brady back to Foxboro? On the one hand, he's done that before. He's seemingly enjoyed it at times. This, though, would be a lot different.
There's also the issue of the roster not being quite what Brady would be looking for. Namely, the offensive tackle situation is a bit concerning, as Trent Brown is coming off an ugly season and is the only real starting-caliber tackle currently signed for next season. A 46-year-old with limited mobility might be looking at the tackle and tight end spots before he looks at the receiving corps, and the Patriots might be lacking in that department.
The Patriots may not be eager to throw two years of investment in Mac Jones into the trash can, after spending a first-round pick to get him in 2021. And bringing in Brady would almost certainly mean sending Jones out of town, as the Patriots giving him Matt Patricia one year and a backup job the next might be too much for Jones to deal with.
Brady has also said that he hates the cold and doesn't want to experience it ever again, which makes sense on account of his old bones.
On a realer note, for all that was said in the case for Brady signing in New England, that could just as easily work against him signing in New England. It must have taken a lot for Brady to close the door on his New England career, and he clearly moved on, to the point where he didn't even acknowledge a single soul from the Patriots organization during his fake retirement announcement last year. There's a chance -- a good chance, really -- that Brady has no intention of even considering playing football for the New England Patriots ever again.
To be honest, it would be spectacular. From a fan perspective, from a TV perspective, from a business perspective, bringing Brady back to New England for the final year (or two) of his career would be outstanding.
It just feels too fictional to spend too much time considering it as a real possibility, sadly.
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