BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The finally few days of "Brady Watch" have arrived; As of noon on Monday the Patriots no longer have exclusive negotiating rights with the six-time Super Bowl champ.
It appears the NFL has decided to stay the course with their offseason schedule, as word came down late Sunday that the 2020 league year will start on time, at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday.
Which, as we've mentioned before, means if the Patriots and Tom Brady are unable to reach a deal Wednesday, the team will assume a $13.5 million salary cap hit regardless of whether or not the quarterback re-signs in New England.
While it appears he is set to hit free agency and see what interest there is from other clubs, some of the heavily-rumored landing spots are no longer interested in Brady's services.
On Sunday afternoon, the Tennessee Titans reached a deal with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who led the team to the AFC Championship Game last season, while also winning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Shortly after the Tannehill news broke, the San Francisco 49ers decided to move forward with Jimmy Garappolo (who just helped them reach the Super Bowl), according to analyst Chris Simms. He also noted that the 49ers were Brady's "first choice" in free agency, hoping to return home to the Bay Area and play in front of family and friends still living there.
With Tennessee and San Francisco now out of the picture, it appears that the list of teams that will make a serious run at Brady is down to two. The Patriots, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote Sunday that it could it be down to just two teams with only hours to go before the start free agency. Florio seems to be under the impression that it is more and more likely Brady stays put. He even notes ESPN Insider Adam Schefter's comments on Sports Center over the weekend regarding the quarterback, where Florio points out that Schefter doesn't name any teams still interested, just that it's possible Brady leaves New England.
Why do people think now that all of a sudden, at the 24th hour, something’s gonna get done that hasn’t gotten done in previous weeks and months? I don’t understand that. And all these teams now that have been laying in wait, are all gonna have their crack and chance at Tom Brady. And I know he’s gonna be 43, and I know he’s not as young as he used to be. But he’s still the greatest quarterback of all time, and other teams for the first time in his career are gonna be allowed to talk to him and try to persuade him from leaving New England, and I think there’s a real chance that somebody’s gonna be able to do that.
Florio goes on to take a minor shot at Schefter, who he says is only saying that "all these teams" are interested to be able to get the scoop before anyone else and break the story.
By all appearances, Brady will have to choose between Tampa Bay and staying put. And the very real prospect of no offseason program could make staying put more practical for Brady. Especially if “all these teams” ultimately amounts to just one team, in Tampa. So why go out on a limb and suggest that a long list of teams are “laying in wait”? Well, sometimes, that’s the price that has to be paid to get a five-minutes head’s up on an agreement before the agreement is widely announced.
A different ESPN NFL reporter, Jeremy Fowler said on Sunday that according to his sources, many NFL executives believe Brady will return to the Patriots, and that this was all a ploy to get more playmakers on offense.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport confirmed Monday morning that Brady's list has dwindled, but he adds that the Los Angeles Chargers may still be in play.
We're about to find out one way or another what Brady is going to do in the next couple of days.
WBZ NewsRadio's Dan Watkins (@DanWatkinsRadio) reports: