Tom Brady is looking for help to improve the New England Patriots' aerial attack, and he's apparently doing the legwork himself trying to find veteran wide receivers who might be willing to join the team's receiving group.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network supplied the details about contact Brady has made with Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch:
What @MikeSilver & I are reporting: Tom Brady himself has been calling & texting Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd, gauging their availability— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 22, 2013
After the Patriots' win against Tampa Bay, Brady denied that he had been in contact with his former teammates about a possible return (via Ben Volin of The Boston Globe).
Brady on if he has talked to Branch & Lloyd: "They’re good friends and great teammates, but I haven’t talked to either of them in a while."— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) September 22, 2013
Normally, these types of reports are about teams making calls or scheduling workouts, so the fact Brady is trying to get the ball moving says a lot about the current situation in New England, where the offense hasn't been nearly as potent as past years in the early going.
Wes Welker is now catching passes from Peyton Manning for the Denver Broncos, Rob Gronkowski is still working his way back from multiple injuries and the Patriots released Lloyd before he was due a roster bonus earlier in the year.
What's the best course of action for the Pats?
As a result, Brady has been forced to work with an inexperienced group of wide receivers and tight ends. The Patriots' passing game has suffered because of it.
Kenbrell Thompkins, a star during the preseason, is a perfect example of the Patriots' problems. He's been targeted 21 times through two weeks but has recorded just six receptions. The rookie hasn't been able to get on the same page with Brady.
Thus, the superstar quarterback is reportedly seeking reinforcements before it's too late.
Publicly, Brady insists New England's struggles are not all about the young wideouts, according to Matt Pepin of Boston.com:
It’s not like the rookie receivers are messing up all the time, no, not at all. I’ve really been able to count on those guys. They’ve done an incredible job for what they’ve been asked to do. We’ve got to improve in all aspects of our offense, and that will hopefully remove some of the burden that is falling on the receivers right now.
Still, it's obvious Brady is not fully satisfied.
Lloyd caught 74 passes for 911 yards and four touchdowns for the Patriots last season. It marked the third straight season he topped 900 yards despite playing in a trio of different offenses. He hasn't signed with another team after New England let him go.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported earlier in the month that Lloyd has previously rejected other inquires about his availability, which at least six teams have checked on:
The Patriots, Jets, and 49ers are among at least six teams that have approached Lloyd about playing in 2013. Per a source with knowledge of the discussions, Lloyd consistently has rejected all overtures. ...
Lloyd has no interest in playing, taking the position that he's neither physically nor mentally ready to continue.
While Branch has a longer history with the Patriots, who drafted him in 2002, the story is otherwise much the same. He helped Brady and Co. get through some injury problems last season, making 16 catches for 145 yards, but wasn't brought back and remains a free agent.
Both are definitely capable of providing a boost to a Brady-led offense that isn't operating with the same type of efficiency this season.
Whether a deal actually gets done for one or both of them remains up in the air, but it seems Brady is trying to help the process along at the very least.