Tom Brady and Sean Payton both "retired" this offseason, but not before entertaining a team-up on the Dolphins, who were punished by the NFL this week for tampering with the quarterback and head coach while they were employed by the Buccaneers and Saints, respectively. Brady has since returned to Tampa Bay for at least one more season in pewter, while Payton is already teasing a return to the sidelines in 2023. But what if Miami had actually, successfully recruited the two superstars?

The ripple effects, it's safe to say, would have been monumental. Here's our best guess at how things would've unfolded if the Dolphins executed their plans by the rulebook:


Dolphins acquire Sean Payton for package including Tua Tagovailoa

Assuming Payton and Brady were always going to be a package deal, this would've cleared the quarterback room in Miami, while giving the Saints a longer-term option under center, not to mention a QB in Tagovailoa whose size and low-risk tendencies are at least distantly reminiscent of Drew Brees. Call it Tua and a 2022 second-round draft pick for Payton, who was either gonna retire or coach elsewhere and had earned the respect of ownership to finish his career on his own terms.

Saints hire Dennis Allen as head coach

No change here. With Payton gone, Allen still stands out internally as a natural, if uninspiring, successor/placeholder.


Dolphins acquire Tom Brady for package of picks

With Bruce Arians livid at Brady's decision to restart elsewhere, the QB ostensibly leans on Bucs ownership, and general manager Jason Licht, to facilitate the relocation, using his 2020 title run as proof he's already given Tampa Bay his all. Let's say Miami surrenders four draft picks for Brady: a 2022 first (No. 29 overall), 2023 first, 2023 second, and 2022 third. A hefty price, perhaps, for a 45-year-old QB with maybe a few years in the tank, but the Bucs can't justify — to themselves, or their fans — dealing the greatest signal-caller of all time for chump change.