Tom Brady free agency: Three reasons the long-time Patriots quarterback should leave New England

There’s something special about an all-time athlete playing his or her entire career with one team. There’s also something called reality, which more often than not dictates that athletes — even the all-timers — change jerseys. Such is the case of Tom Brady, who on March 18 will officially become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his 20-year NFL career. The 42-year-old superstar may very well be the greatest quarterback in league history, and his accomplishments will forever be etched alongside those of the New England Patriots, the team that drafted him back in 2000 and has hoisted six Lombardi Trophies with Brady under center. But none of that is preventing rampant speculation about where Brady might be headed other than Foxborough, Massachusetts, as soon as the gates to free agency swing wide.

Brady himself has fueled the gossip, while conflicting reports have done the same: Are he and longtime coach Bill Belichick at odds? Is he entering the market with the intent to land elsewhere? Might the Patriots finally make him one of the game’s highest-paid? We eat all of it up — every single morsel — because it’s Tom Brady, an all-time athlete if there ever was one. Just like when Peyton Manning inexplicably became a possibility for 31 other teams following a farewell to the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, the mere potential for a new chapter in the Brady book is big news.

But what if, in Brady’s case, it’s also even more special than the possibility of him staying with the Patriots for the rest of his career? What if, this time, the most fun and most logical and most special thing isn’t for the athlete to stick it out with the “one team,” but to finally, after two decades, check out the turf on the other side of the road?

Tyler Sullivan (who just happens to be a huge Patriots fan) thinks Brady needs to stay in New England and offers his <em>argument here</em>

Patriots fans might vehemently disagree, but here are three big reasons Brady should thank Belichick, thank Robert Kraft, thank Patriot Nation, and then move on for 2020:

His Patriots legacy cannot be improved

Cue the screams from Foxborough: “Of course it can! What if he wins Super Bowl LV?!”

Here’s the thing: If you, in 2020, are still denying that Tom Brady is one of the best QBs in the history of the game, are you really telling me one more Super Bowl title in New England is going to change your mind? The guy has been to nine Super Bowls and won six of them. Even if you wipe a couple of those away to account for the Patriots’ various scandals, he’s literally accomplished more than most of today’s active QBs — combined.

Point being, if you’re not already convinced Brady is among the best of the best, him sticking around to “solidify” his Pats legacy is unnecessary. There’s nothing to solidify. It’s already locked in stone. He’s already synonymous with the Patriots organization. Finishing his career elsewhere won’t change that, just like Manning and Joe Montana and Brett Favre all went grey playing for new teams but are still remembered for their true homes of Indy, San Francisco and Green Bay.

If, somehow, you happen to be in that crowd of Brady skeptics — the ones who think he still does have something to prove? Then you should want nothing more than to see him go elsewhere, where he’ll have his first and long-awaited chance to win away from the machine that is New England. That doubles as motivation for Brady himself to find a new home.

He deserves freedom from the Patriot Way

“Deserves” might be a strong word if you harbor ill will from Brady’s alleged involvement in the Pats’ scandals (or if you’re generally of the opinion that a multi-millionaire doesn’t “deserve” any career favors). It’s also not as if Brady has been clamoring to “escape” New England; he’s literally been there for 20 years.

But guess what? There’s no better way for Brady to showcase his trademark competitiveness than by embracing the ultimate competition (i.e. one unshackled from the Patriots). He didn’t go to nine Super Bowls with Belichick and Co. by accident. He knows New England has a system capable of producing unprecedentedly consistent success. Leaving that environment would restart his underdog story all over again, granting him, his fans and his family a chance to see what TB12 looks like as TB12 — not Tom Brady, the Patriots great who may or may not have been a product of Belichick’s genius.

As an added bonus, Brady going basically anywhere but the Patriots would almost assuredly give him a kind of personal freedom he’s never enjoyed as a star of the NFL. Only recently did this man finally open himself up to social media. But anyone who’s ever watched Brady on a single mic’d-up clip or late-night interview or documentary clip should know he’s got no shortage of personality. What would he look like — both on and off the field — without the constraints of the airtight, all-business Pats patrol?

On it, maybe he’d get even more control to run an offense tailored to his skills. Off it, maybe he’d dive deeper into his larger-than-life persona, not only in what he says but what he does. (Like taking a page out of the LeBron James playbook and going Hollywood! Perhaps not coincidentally, Brady just announced his own production company, a week before the start of free agency.

The Patriots flat-out might not be good anyway

Brady leaving New England would obviously still be a challenge, operating without Belichick and in a completely new system and city for the first time in two decades. But he’d also benefit from what’s likely to be a better on-field supporting cast.

This isn’t to suggest New England is bad or will be in 2020. Belichick deserves as much, if not more, credit for the Patriots’ ridiculous dominance over the last few decades, and he’s not going anywhere. With or without Brady, he’ll find a way to integrate a QB and lean on another strength to be competitive. The Pats, remember, have not had a losing season since Brady was a rookie, and they haven’t won fewer than 11 games in 10 years. Similarly, if Brady were to stick around, they’d probably do enough to win the AFC East and take another crack at the playoffs.

But are the Pats still good? Like, Patriots-level good? Their supposedly vaunted 2019 defense, which benefited hugely from an easy start to the schedule, couldn’t save them from an offense that struggled to elevate from “sluggish” all year long, and they’ve got half a dozen core players about to hit the open market with Brady. Meanwhile, prospective Brady suitors like the Los Angeles Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans are either chock-full of ascending weapons or salary cap space — or both. In many cases, the suitors can offer Brady more money than the Patriots (something we haven’t even mentioned yet!), but more importantly, they can offer talent that No. 12 was probably dreaming he had in New England: A Mike Evans, a Derrick Henry, a Keenan Allen.

We’d be crazy to suggest someone like the Buccaneers is a safer bet to win games in 2020 than the Patriots, but that’s when you have to factor in everything else: Brady wouldn’t just be getting Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and a few other inevitable free-agent prizes; he’d be getting the long on-and-off-field leash that comes from playing under someone like Bruce Arians rather than Belichick, he’d be getting a chance to expand his brand — his stardom — in new places, and he’d be making the NFL a whole lot more fun in the process.

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