By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
What if, after all of this, Tom Brady just a wanted the right to pick his next place? What if it really has nothing to do with money or weapons or TB12? What if Brady has known for some time that the Patriots want him on purely a year-to-year basis and that Bill Belichick could press the eject button at any time?
And what if this is all about ensuring that Brady – and not Belichick – makes the final call on the career of the greatest player in NFL history?
Admittedly, some of this is new and some of this isn’t, and I’m not suggesting I’m offering a groundbreaking perspective. I’m not. But last fall, when Tom Brady asked the Patriots to forfeit the right to franchise him, the Patriots shockingly acquiesced. That opened the door for Brady to test free agency, which has led to all kinds of speculation about Brady’s motives in the first place.
He wants market value. He wants to launch TB12. He wants to have fun, he’s tired of playing for Belichick, he’s appeasing his wife.
Or maybe he just wants the right to decide when and where he will play his last game.
Or, more specifically, maybe he wants to ensure that Belichick doesn’t.
Let’s back up here for a second. Over the years, we have learned a great deal about how Brady feels, be it through his words and actions or those of his father. A few years ago, Tom Sr. suggested that the relationship between Brady and the Patriots “would end badly,” something for which Brady has long prepared. Belichick has traded away, among others, Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel and Logan Mankins – the last of which seemingly annoyed Brady so much that he grew a beard in Mankins’ honor.
Now Brady is the near the end and the Patriots have resisted, for years, giving him a contract extension, bringing the matter to an ultimate crossroads. And thanks to the franchise tag, the Patriots have always had the right to keep Brady (and pay him handsomely) or trade him wherever they chose, giving Brady no real say on where he played his final games or years.
Seymour got shipped to Oakland. Vrabel got sent to Kansas City. Mankins got jettisoned to Tampa. Bill had all the power and leverage – and everyone knew it.
So maybe something like this happened.
Brady: I’ve wanted a contract extension for two years and you’ve resisted giving me one. I know you have a business to run. Can you at least tell me if this is how it’s going to be?
Patriots owner Robert Kraft: We love you, Tom. We’re grateful for everything you’ve done. We just don’t think it’s smart to go beyond year-to-year. We’d say that about any 40-something, not just you.
Brady: OK, fine. I don’t like it, but I understand it. But I don’t think this is fair to me, either. If you don’t want to go beyond year-to-year, someone else might. Shouldn’t I get to at least make that decision before I get traded to Tampa Bay?
So Kraft nodded, the way he wouldn’t nod for anyone else. Because Brady, after all, is different. He’s not Seymour or Vrabel. He’s not Mankins, either.
Now, what we also know here is that Belichick didn’t love the idea of sacrificing the right to use the franchise tag on Brady, at least according to recent commentary by longtime respected Patriots reporter Tom Curran. But Kraft overruled him. And if Belichick scoffed at the idea, well, Kraft had an easy retort.
Belichick: So we’re just going to let Brady go, potentially, and get almost nothing in return?
Kraft: Funny, that didn’t seem to bother you so much when you traded Jimmy Garoppolo to your buddy Kyle Shanahan for a second-round pick.
So Belichick had his selfish reasons for ensuring the success of Garoppolo. And Kraft has his reasons for letting Brady walk – if it comes to that.
Of course, none of us knows how things are going to turn out. Maybe Brady signs elsewhere. Maybe he comes back. But whatever the outcome, the only things we know for sure are that Bill Belichick really won’t get to make the final call and that Brady has never been comfortable with the idea of the coach controlling his life.
So Brady gets to decide. Plain and simple.
And while he undoubtedly wants money and years and weapons, maybe it is really just that obvious.
Maybe Tom Brady already has what he wants.
You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.