Tom Brady enters the offseason as a free agent at age 45 after setting NFL single-season records for pass attempts and completions in the last two campaigns with the Buccaneers. I’m told he plans to take a month or two to evaluate all his options to not make an emotional decision following Monday night’s season-ending loss to Dallas. In the meantime, here are his best and most realistic options.
Brady would instantly vault the Silver and Black into contention status. He’d have an arsenal of top-tier receiving threats with perennial All-Pro Davante Adams and former Pro Bowlers Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. You could add 2022 rushing champion Josh Jacobs if the Raiders sign him to an extension rather than let him walk as a free agent.
Perhaps just as importantly, Brady could finally reunite with coach Josh McDaniels. They spent roughly two decades together in New England and maintained a good friendship predicated on mutual respect and trust. Las Vegas currently has more than $22 million in cap space, according to OverTheCap, which slots as ninth most in the NFL. Money shouldn’t be an issue.
Traditionally, Brady has excelled playing with a dominant tight end. Waller isn’t Rob Gronkowski – who is? – but he’s a true vertical seam threat capable of dominating in the red zone. Renfrow is a slot assassin whose short area quickness rivals Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, or Deion Branch. Add Adams, a first-ballot Hall of Famer smack-dab in his prime, and Jacobs, a true bell-cow back, and the Raiders are very appetizing.
The Panthers are a sneaky team for a couple of reasons, none more significant than the potential to join forces with head coach Sean Payton. As great as Brady is, has he ever had anyone as good as Payton in his corner? With due respect to McDaniels, Bill O’Brien, and Bill Belichick, Payton is one of our generation’s truly great offensive minds. Remember, he took Drew Brees – cast off by the Chargers in 2005 – and helped transform him into one of the greatest quarterbacks ever.
Granted, Carolina is a long shot to land Brady, but it’s far from a crazy idea. Brady would get to stay in the NFC South, a weak division he’s familiar with. Payton and Brady would also have the luxury of a talented repertoire of receiver D.J. Moore and running backs Chuba Hubbard and D’Onta Foreman – should he sign an extension. The Panthers also have one of the NFL’s better offensive lines.
Here’s the real key, though. Owner David Tepper is hell-bent on making a splash with a sexy head-coaching hire and is willing to pay top dollar. As I’ve reported, Payton is seeking a multi-year deal worth at least $20 million per season. It’s my understanding that Tepper would be willing to pony up the big bucks for Payton but also wants a true franchise quarterback – the team hasn’t had one since Cam Newton’s heyday – to complement the uber-creative coach. Despite Brady being in the back half of his 40s, that won’t tame Tapper’s excitement if he can secure the two as a package for 2023.