While the rest of the sporting world is on hold, the NFL is chugging along — providing sports fans and writers alike with some more light-hearted news to consume amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
America’s most popular league figures to keep that trend going this week as free agency officially starts with some high-profile names poised to switch teams this offseason.
Monday saw the beginning of the legal tampering period in which teams around the NFL are allowed to contact and enter contract negotiations with agents of players who will officially become unrestricted free agents when the new league year starts on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.
For now, all eyes will remain on Tom Brady, who is the league’s most prominent available name despite preparing for his age 43 season.
His accolades have become woven into the fabric of the history of the NFL — regardless of his standing as one a villain in almost every sports town outside of New England. The six-time Super Bowl winner also boasts 14 Pro Bowl selections, three MVPs, almost 75,000 passing yards, and 541 touchdowns.
Even in what was considered the beginning of the end of Brady — a down 2019 campaign — he still passed for 4,057 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a Patriots side that lacked legitimate playmaking targets in the receiving game.
That’s a statline a majority of NFL teams would take tomorrow, regardless of Brady’s age.
Now Brady gets exactly what he wanted, which was an opportunity to test the free-agent waters. Granted, the market isn’t necessarily as teeming as once thought.
This week alone, the Tennessee Titans brought back Ryan Tannehill on a $118 million deal while the San Francisco 49ers re-pledged their allegiance to Jimmy Garappolo following an NFC Championship.
Both of those teams were linked as legitimate suitors for Brady leading up to mid-March.
That leaves — at least at surface level — three legitimate contenders for Brady’s services in 2021: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Chargers, and the Patriots.
The Buccaneers are parting ways with Jameis Winston after he became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a single season while leading the league with 5,109 passing yards.
He failed to meet expectations when taken first overall in 2015 out of Florida State behind a 28-42 record as a starter.
Tampa Bay has enough cap space to outbid anyone and they offer the promise of a marquee receiver to team Brady up with in Mike Evans.
They appear to be the most aggressive team in the Brady sweepstakes and Las Vegas has taken notice. Per Odds Shark, the Buccaneers are listed as the betting favorites to sign Brady.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Monday morning that the Chargers are expected to make a push for Brady, as well.
Philip Rivers is out after 16 seasons and just six playoff appearances.
Signing Brady would obviously be a draw for a Chargers team that has failed to get fans in the seats, but a more feasible option for them is to draft a quarterback with the sixth-overall pick this spring and use their $49 million of cap space to improve the roster elsewhere.