One of the biggest storylines in the 2020 NFL offseason is the future of quarterback Tom Brady and whether he'll return to the New England Patriots or sign with a new team, ending his 20-year partnership with Bill Belichick.
According to Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports, "very little is going on," and "financial negotiations haven't begun." He added that Brady is willing to return "under the right circumstances," and Belichick is also open to Brady staying with the team.
Team owner Robert Kraft reportedly will let Belichick handle the decision:
"Kraft wants Brady to stay—he's on the record saying that. But he removed the team's ability to force Brady to stay when he agreed to wipe away the franchise tag in 2020 because he didn’t want Brady to stay against his will.
"And while my understanding is that the Patriots are willing to extend themselves financially to keep him, Belichick will receive no edict from the owner on what to do."
Last Sunday, Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reported the Pats would be willing to exceed a $30 million contract next season to retain Brady:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
The Super Bowl LIV @NFLGameDay Notebook with @MikeGarafolo: -- The #Patriots are willing to pay Tom Brady in excess of $30M if that's what's required to keep him. -- The #Chargers among teams expected to make a push. -- New England's fall back options include trading for a QB. https://t.co/G4dxkUQmTh
But Curran noted that the report has been a "source of irritation" for the Patriots and that the number listed "is now an albatross to the proceedings."
As Curran wrote, the situation could hold up quite a bit for the Patriots. If they don't re-sign Brady, it could make attracting further free agents difficult. If they negotiate but don't have an agreement before free agency, it could also put them behind the ball for other free-agent options at the position if Brady departs.
Those factors give the veteran quarterback quite a bit of leverage in these proceedings.
Plus, it's possible Brady hasn't been thrilled with how his contract has been handled later in his career. Curran reported that "the feeling Brady's gotten is that he’s somewhat of a stopgap until a better solution taking the team into the 2020s emerges. Meanwhile, the offensive talent around Brady has fallen off for a variety of reasons and he's been left holding the bag."
Brady appeared to drop the bag more than he has in the past. He finished the 2019 season with 4,057 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions, completing just 60.8 percent of his passes. His touchdowns were his lowest mark since the 2008 season, when he played in just one game before tearing his ACL. His completion percentage was his worst mark since 2013.
The offense's decline was obvious in a 20-13 AFC Wild Card loss to the Tennessee Titans, when Brady threw for just 209 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. A year removed from winning the Super Bowl, the Patriots were one-and-done.
It may end up being the final game Brady ever plays in a Patriots uniform. Probably not the departure he or the Pats would have envisioned.