Losing Brady would be a massive blow on its own; the impact has been compounded by additional departures over the past few days. Here's a look at who is following Brady out the door, via NFL.com's free-agency tracker:
- QB Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- LB Kyle Van Noy, Miami Dolphins
- LB Jamie Collins Sr., Detroit Lions
- DT Danny Shelton, Detroit Lions
- C Ted Karras, Miami Dolphins
In addition, linebacker Elandon Roberts is off to join former Pats defensive coordinator Brian Flores' Dolphins, according to ESPN's Cameron Wolfe.
Rapoport also reported the Patriots traded safety Duron Harmon to the Lions.
The obvious question is how New England will replace Brady since it will determine the team's trajectory in 2020.
Jarrett Stidham is penciled in as the starting quarterback. The Patriots have only $8.9 million in salary-cap space, so finding a significant upgrade over Stidham would be difficult.
Lost in the discussion about the Patriots is how much the absences of Collins, Van Noy, Shelton and Harmon will hurt. New England leaned heavily on its defense last season, and the first three of those players recorded 16.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles while Harmon intercepted two passes and defended five.
According to Football Outsiders, the Patriots ranked first in defensive efficiency and 11th in offensive efficiency. They allowed a franchise-low 225 points and finished with an NFL-best plus-21 turnover differential.
Even if Brady had re-signed, New England would have regressed if the defense took a step backward.
Without Brady in the equation, though, the Patriots could be in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.