Ian Rapoport of NFL Network said Monday that the Chargers are expected to make "a bit of a run" at Brady, while some other teams once considered contenders have fallen by the wayside. Rapoport said he's received "almost nothing" from the Las Vegas Raiders that indicate they have any interest in signing Brady, who can become a free agent Wednesday for the first time in his 20-year career.
Brady is coming off one of the worst statistical seasons of his career, throwing for 4,057 yards and 24 touchdowns against eight interceptions. His 88.0 quarterback rating ranked only 18th among qualified passers last season. He completed over 60 percent of his passes just once in the Patriots' final eight games and struggled as New England flamed out of the playoffs with a Wild Card Round loss to the Tennessee Titans.
The Chargers mutually parted ways with longtime quarterback Philip Rivers this offseason. Rivers will also be a free agent Wednesday and is expected to command attention on the market, with the Indianapolis Colts often mentioned as a suitor.
The Buccaneers also have an incumbent quarterback set to hit the market in Jameis Winston, though his circumstances are far different. The 26-year-old is more than a decade-and-a-half Brady's junior. He's also coming off a season when he was wildly productive at his peak, throwing for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns, and the worst quarterback in football at his nadir (30 interceptions).
It's fair to wonder whether Brady, who turns 43 in August, is currently a better quarterback than either Rivers or Winston. Neither the Chargers nor the Bucs would be demonstrably better with Brady on paper, though both teams do have more skill-position weapons than he had in New England.
Even if there are fissures in the relationship between Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, a return to New England remains the most logical and best ending for all parties. The two sides need each other more than they want each other at this point, but any other result feels like a huge risk.