Tom Brady looks like he will continue to play in the NFL as all signs are pointing to him not retiring in 2023 and returning for a 24th season.
But if he does, it may not be in Tampa Bay for a fourth year as a Buccaneer. As a free-agent quarterback, he can explore his best options. The goal is chasing a ninth Super Bowl title with the most favorable landing spot.
The Buccaneers had a nice championship window and Brady helped them walk through it as NFC contenders, delivering a ring right away. Now that the 8-9 Buccaneers made a quick wild-card exit vs. Cowboys in the 2022-23 NFL playoffs, he should look for another underachieving high-potential team that has a similar profile. Here’s looking at that surprisingly long list, which also includes his current and previous teams:
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Las Vegas Raiders
This one’s a no-brainer, especially with the team benching Derek Carr at the end of the 2022 season for former Brady Patriots backup Jarrett Stidham. There’s a lot to like about Las Vegas in terms of offensive play-calling, as it would reunite Brady with Josh McDaniels. There’s also appealing weaponry with Davante Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow and strong running game, likely with a re-signed Josh Jacobs.
The Raiders could improve their skill positions, pass protection and defense to better support Brady, too, by making Brady-friendly moves in free agency in the draft with GM Dave Ziegler, a former Patriots personnel man.
Las Vegas plans to move on from Carr in a trade. That would create a clear-cut opening for Brady and give the Raiders the monetary means as well as his most comfortable coaching connection outside of New England.
The obvious Brady connection here is coach Mike Vrabel, one of his favorite teammates from the Patriots’ early Super Bowl dynasty. The Titans have battled for their place among the best teams in the AFC with their run-heavy offense powered by Derrick Henry and physical, scrappy defense.
But they have been capped by quarterback play and the passing game overall. Ryan Tannehill has been pretty good, but now he’s going into next year with coming off an ankle injury and a still-prime Brady would be an upgrade. The bonus is Brady accepting the challenge in a young-gun QB loaded AFC and joining the team against which his Patriots’ career team ended with a pick six.
The Titans desperately need a QB of Brady’s caliber to retain relevancy in playoff contention, given Josh Dobbs and rookie Malik Willis didn’t prove to be viable contingencies filling in for Tannehill.
New England Patriots
The Patriots aren’t getting the desired results or improvement from Mac Jones and it wouldn’t be ideal to just flip the switch to a second-year Bailey Zappe. New England should have its eye on a reunion with either Brady or 49ers pending free agent Jimmy Garoppolo so Belichick has a veteran QB he can trust.
The Patriots might want Brady back, however, more than he wants to go back. Winning big for a different AFC team where he could play against the Belichick and Patriots has a little more appeal.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers need to consider how good their offense can be with Christian McCaffrey if Trey Lance comes back fully healthy at quarterback. They also need to consider whether they want to bring bck Garoppolo as insurance, less likely now that rookie seventh-rounder Brock Purdy is playing well.
As much as a homecoming to San Francisco would be a sentimental way for Brady to end his career leading the QB-friendly offense of Kyle Shanahan’s Super Bowl contenders, the 49ers may not need such a splash to keep winning at a high level, especially if Purdy proves in the playoffs that he might be the long-term answer instead of Lance.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers would need to make more changes to appease Brady, perhaps including a coaching change from Todd Bowles. They might also need a renewed commitment to reload talent in some weaker areas via GM Jason Licht. Tampa Bay aced the initial recruiting of Brady so if the team wants him to stay, he must re-create some of those vibes to convince him they’re capable of another real run at the Super Bowl.
The Lions say they’re committed to Jared Goff as their starting QB, but if Brady would be interested in a return near his college stomping grounds in Michigan, Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes would need to consider it. The Lions can get out of Goff’s deal reasonably enough to pivot to Brady in 2023.
The young defense keeps improving and the offense is loaded with plenty of weapons, a fine blocking line and an often reliable running game. Brady could also enjoy the fact he’ll get two more regular-season duels with Aaron Rodgers, assuming Rodgers comes back for 2023 himself.
The Dolphins already courted Brady once in the wrong way once, so why not when it’s a totally legal process? They would be the better choice than the Deflategate-related and veteran bridge QB-obsessed Colts, but that’s only if they feel Brady can provide an older short-term upgrade over Tua Tagovailoa, whose is quickly developing a concerning concussion history, too.
The Stephen Ross-Michigan connection remains and this would be the only way for Brady to come to torment the Patriots in the same division.