Patriots Rumors: Tom Brady 'More Likely Than Not' Will Leave NE in Free Agency

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2020

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 04: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts during the the AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on January 04, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

For the first time in nearly two decades, the New England Patriots might be in the market for a new starting quarterback.  

During a Thursday appearance on Golic and Wingo, ESPN's Jeff Darlington said, "It's more likely than not that Tom Brady leaves the Patriots." 

Brady signed a new deal with New England last summer that technically extends through the 2021 season. However, the contract voids March 17, the final day before the NFL's 2020 league year starts.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the Patriots were planning for Brady to hit free agency so that all parties involved could have the full view of the situation before potentially paving the way for his return.

According to NBC Sports Boston's Tom E. Curran, the team plans to meet with Brady soon: "Negotiations will begin 'in a couple of weeks.' I interpret that as during or immediately after the NFL combine which starts about February 26 and concludes March 1."

Curran noted that New England will receive a $13.5 million hit in dead money should Brady not agree to an extension before March 18, which is the result of his last deal.

The reasons to stay with the Patriots are obvious. The 42-year-old has played with the franchise his entire career, and a wild-card exit shouldn't totally overshadow the team's 11th straight AFC East title.

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However, one could argue Brady's best shot at a seventh Super Bowl ring might come elsewhere. The Patriots were 11th in offensive efficiency, per Football Outsiders, so winning the division again in 2020 is far from a guarantee if what was the NFL's best defense endures any regression.

The length of Brady's tenure in New England could work against the team, as well.

A little over two years have passed since ESPN's Seth Wickersham reported on the Patriots' internal drama, with Brady and head coach Bill Belichick serving as central figures. Especially at this stage of his career, the future Hall of Fame quarterback might relish a change of scenery.

If Joe Montana can suit up for the Kansas City Chiefs and Peyton Manning can retire with the Denver Broncos, then nobody should be taken aback if Brady wears a jersey that isn't New England's next season.