Ex-Patriots player explains why Tom Brady’s possible exit could make it harder for New England to lure players

For the better part of the past 20 years, it hasn’t really been that difficult for the Patriots to lure free agents to New England. Any player who wanted a shot at a Super Bowl ring knew they could do it by signing with the Patriots, even if that meant signing for a discount. 

Being able to lure free agents to your team for under market value is a huge advantage, but it’s an advantage that could go away if Tom Brady decides to leave New England. At least, that’s the theory from former Patriots player Rob Ninkovich, who doesn’t think it’s going to be easy for New England to land key players if Brady is no longer the quarterback. 

“That would be a hard sell,” Ninkovich said this week, via the Boston Herald. “In years past, the Patriots have been able to get guys at a bargain, because it’s an older veteran, a guy who’s looking for a Super Bowl, for a playoff run. They’re approached by the Patriots, who say, ‘Look, we’re not going to guarantee the biggest contract, but we’re going to give you an opportunity to play in the playoffs and Super Bowl if you’re interested. Ninety-nine percent of the guys are ‘yeah, I want some validation for my football career.'”

If Brady decides to leave, free agents might start to look elsewhere. 

“It’s an interesting dynamic,” Ninkovich said. “Once Tom figures out what’s happening, and if he’s not a New England Patriot, do veterans, or other people in the past who say to themselves ‘I’m going to the Patriots to win a Super Bowl,’ still go?”

With less than a month to go until free agency starts, Brady still hasn’t dropped any hints on what his future plans will entail (He wouldn’t even tell Ben Affleck or Matt Damon). No one seems to have any idea if the Patriots quarterback plans to leave New England or if he’s thinking about sticking around for a 21st season in Foxborough. 

According to Ninkovich, Brady’s decision isn’t just big because he’s Brady, it’s also big because it might impact the decisions that will be made by other Patriots players who will be hitting free agency on March 18, a list of guys that includes Devin McCourty, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins. If Brady walks, Ninkovich sees a situation where players who are about to hit free agency might not want to return to New England. 

“It’s going to be difficult to try and bring everybody back. I would think if Tom comes back, one of those other players (McCourty, Van Noy, Collins) comes back,” Ninkovich said.  “But if Tom doesn’t come back, I don’t know if those guys are going to want to stick around. Because what’s the outlook for the team? Is it a rebuilding phase? What happens moving forward?”

So what’s Brady going to do?

Ninkovich, who played eight seasons with Brady in New England and won two Super Bowls, is starting to feel like the quarterback is leaning toward leaving the Patriots. 

“My gut is telling me Tom is motivated to prove a lot of people wrong,” said Ninkovich. “Looking at his Instagram posts, and all the things, ‘Keep talking bad about me. Bet against me,’ all that stuff, says he’s motivated. So it wouldn’t surprise me if he puts up the deuces to everybody, and tries to motivate himself to prove people wrong.”

If you want to stay up-to-date on every rumor and piece of news surrounding Brady this offseason, make sure to click here to check out our free agency hub for the Patriots quarterback. 

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