As first appeared in Boxscore
By Aron Solomon
Monday night’s loss to the Cowboys was definitely not the pinnacle of Brady’s GOAT-ness, but for all of those hypothesizing this morning that this might be the end, let’s review just how accomplished this 45-year-old legend has been over the past decades.
Tom Brady was drafted as a quarterback in the sixth round of the 2001 NFL draft, 199th overall. At that time, Drew Bledsoe was entrenched as starting quarterback for the Patriots, having led them to an AFC Championship Game appearance in 1996 and being named NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2000. The team drafted Brady with hopes that he would be their backup quarterback behind Bledsoe. However, it didn’t take long before Brady began to show signs that he was going to be a superstar, one who would define his and eventually all generations.
Tom Brady led his Patriots to 17 division titles in 18 years. While reaching the Super Bowl once is remarkably hard for any NFL player, Brady has led his teams there TEN times. He has won seven Super Bowls, been named Super Bowl MVP five times, and was named NFL MVP three times, including in 2017, at age 40.
Making an argument that Tom Brady is not the greatest of all time requires a skill that I simply don’t have, even though I have never personally been a fan of his. It’s impossible to love NFL football and not respect Brady’s achievements.
So, this morning, at age 45, even factoring in Monday night’s lackluster performance, Tom Brady still has the skills of a good NFL starting quarterback. Is he the best in the game today? Far from it.
This QB ranking from nfl.com last week has Brady ranked 11th of 32 NFL starters. From where I sit, this seems a little high.
Ranking Brady above Justin Fields today, as these rankings do, seems a bit of a stretch. Brady is also ranked above Daniel Jones, which, as this season progressed, also seemed less realistic each week.
But even if Brady is the 15th or 16th best quarterback today – even if he literally defines the midpoint of NFL starting QBs – means that multiple teams should be pursuing him if he chooses to remain in the league rather than exit now for the $375 million contract waiting for him as an NFL analyst with FOX Sports.
Attorney Nancianne Aydelotte points out that there are special considerations for teams considering signing Brady:
“Any team looking to sign Tom Brady or any player in the top 1% age bracket of active NFL players is going to be very careful not to overcommit on the length of the contract.”
Brady, assuming that he wants to continue to play football – something that remains to be seen over the next weeks and perhaps months – could be a perfect two-year solution for a team looking to draft a potentially franchise-defining QB, such as Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, who declared this week for the NFL draft.
Stroud could play behind Brady for one year, then take the starter’s mantle with Brady on the sideline as his mentor for the second year of the contract. It’s a win for everyone involved and maximizes the value for the team of such a valuable draft pick. Whatever it would take financially to sign Brady for two years under this scenario is worth it – it would be an excellent contract for any NFL franchise looking to have their next long-term QB learn from the greatest ever.
It’s important to remember that unless Tom Brady wants to sign a new deal with Tampa Bay, which seems less likely this morning than even a few days ago, the team can’t force him to stay.
Brady’s current expiring contract has a “no-tag clause,” meaning that the team can’t put the franchise tag on him and make him stay – a very weird rule that allows a team to bind a player heading for free agency. We will be seeing this rule in the news a lot over the next few months as it is anticipated that the Baltimore Ravens will seek to apply it to their star QB, Lamar Jackson, whose contract is expiring with new contract negotiations still seemingly going nowhere.
My own prediction is that Tom Brady will sign somewhere aside from Tampa Bay on a two-year contract. He will be a true free agent with control over his destiny, assuming that he finds a team that considers him to be a great match. Where that will be is beyond my prognostication abilities. Some days I think Brady would be a good fit in New York with the Jets; other days, I see him in Raiders black. Most of all, I think the best fit is the Stroud scenario I described above, which could see Tom Brady in a Houston Texans uniform, as they have the number two pick in the draft and need a QB.
However this plays out, it’s going to be fun to watch. As an aside on Brady’s next move, he has been superb on his Let’s Go podcast, with former NFL star Larry Fitzgerald and broadcasting legend Jim Gray, This really bodes well for Brady’s future as an NFL broadcast superstar, but everyone wins – even FOX Sports – if Brady waits two years to make that transition. Two more years of stories to tell about the last chapter of the greatest career in NFL history will make Brady even better behind a microphone and on camera.
About Aron Solomon
A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst for Esquire Digital and the Editor-in-Chief for Today’s Esquire. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in Forbes, CBS News, CNBC, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Fortune, Venture Beat, The Independent, Fortune China, Yahoo!, ABA Journal, Law.com, The Boston Globe, YouTube, NewsBreak, and many other leading publications.