Biggest question with Tom Brady right now — what does he want?

Ryan Hannable
January 07, 2020 - 6:00 am

For the first time in 20 years, Tom Brady’s future is unclear.

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The 42-year-old is a free agent for the first time in his career, so one of three things could happen: No. 1, re-sign with the Patriots, No. 2, sign with another team, and No. 3, retire.

All three scenarios are legitimately on the table and an argument can be made for and against all three of them, mostly because Brady hasn’t hinted towards anything. 

“I think I’m just . . . I’ll explore those opportunities whenever they are,” Brady said to NBC Sports’ Peter King following Saturday’s Wild Card loss. “If it’s the Patriots, great. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know," he said. "I just don’t know. I love playing football. I still want to play football. I think I still can play at a championship level. I’ve just got to go do it. I’m motivated to get back to work and training.”

All three possibilities can be found in that quote as well.

Brady said himself it would be “great” to return to the Patriots. He also said he still wants to play football and he thinks he can at a championship level, so if not in New England, it seems like he would want to play somewhere. But, then he also said if staying with the Patriots doesn’t work, “I don’t know.” Maybe that means if it isn’t in New England, he would retire.

The suspense will continue for the next few weeks and even months, but the main question that needs to be asked when it comes to Brady’s future is what is he looking for? What does he want? Those answers could give a good indication of what he will be doing in 2020.

If it’s the most money and commitment in terms of years, it won’t be in New England. 

Coming off the season he just had, being 42 years old, and the Patriots’ current cap situation, the team and Bill Belichick cannot and will not pay Brady like some of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, or give him more than a one year deal.

The highest paid quarterbacks made around and north of $30 million in 2019, and there’s no question the Patriots would never do that.

But, there could be another team that would. There are a few teams that not only need a quarterback, but are looking to make a splash and become relevant again. The Dolphins, Chargers and Buccaneers come to mind in terms of having money to spend and needing a player to become relevant again. And then the Colts are a team that has money to spend and is potentially in need of a quarterback.

What about a team that gives him the best chance to win another Super Bowl?

If that is most important to him, and not money, then certainly the Patriots would be very much in play. Other potential teams who have the best chance of winning right away seem to be the Chargers and the Colts.

There’s also always the chance after 20 years with the same team and coach he wants a change. 

In that case obviously the Patriots would not be in his plans and any other team would be in the mix. With that being said, there’s also the chance he doesn’t want change and if that is the case, he needs to be prepared to only get a one-year deal from New England for likely a little below market value.

With all that being said, it needs to be mentioned there’s a chance the Patriots simply do not want him back regardless of the cost.

If that is the case, and really for most of these scenarios, Brady needs to ask himself the question — would he want to play for another team? Would he be OK with not ending his career where it began in New England? If he were to go to another team, it likely would mean having to go to OTAs, which he’s skipped in the past to spend more time with his family, as he would have a whole new group of teammates, and in particular an offense, to get to know.

“I just don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m not going to predict it,” Brady said Saturday after the game at the podium. “No one needs to make choices at this point. I love playing football, I love playing for this team. I’ve loved playing for this team for two decades and winning a lot of games. And again, I don’t know what it looks like moving forward, so we’ll just take it day-by-day.”

While Brady may not know exactly what his future looks like, he needs to figure out exactly what he wants.

The answer to that question will make things a little clearer for him.