By: Henry McKenna |
March 17, 2020 1: 46 pm
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft spent Tuesday broadcasting the message that Tom Brady wanted to leave. The superstar quarterback was breaking up with the Patriots — and not the other way around.
“If he wanted to be here, we would have put a deal together,’’ Robert Kraft told The Boston Globe after he and Brady met at Kraft’s home Monday night. “That’s what I thought was happening last night.’’
The truth is far more complicated — as it is with any breakup. But here’s what seems closest to fact: Bill Belichick and the Patriots ghosted Brady. They never definitively called off the relationship. They didn’t ask him to stick around, either. Belichick went about his life while Brady (figuratively) waited by his phone for a call, text, poke, like — anything. Practically nothing came.
The signs were bad from the start. When the Patriots decided they didn’t want to give Brady a long-term deal in 2019, he then asked for a clause in his contract prohibiting the Patriots from using the franchise tag on him. He wanted to have the freedom to make a change if the Patriots’ lack of commitment continued.
That’s exactly what happened.
At the NFL combine this March, Brady’s agent Don Yee said he was not meeting with New England to talk about an extension. It was another ominous sign. Yee chalked up the disconnect with the Patriots to the CBA, which was still being negotiated. And yet sources close to Devin McCourty and Phillip Dorsett told For The Win that their agents were on the books to meet with the Patriots in Indy. Why could New England meet with those players and not Brady?
McCourty got an extension on Sunday, making him one of the highest-paid players at his position. Guard Joe Thuney, meanwhile, was hit with the franchise tag. Suddenly, the Patriots were without cash. If Thuney signs his tag, the Patriots’ cap space would shrink to $5 million.
All the while, Brady was treated as an afterthought. There was some contact earlier this month, when Belichick called Brady, according to multiple reports. It didn’t go well, according to the Boston Herald. Past that, there were no contract negotiation, per NBC Sports Boston. I repeat: New England didn’t make an offer. Instead, they suggested it was on Brady to say what he wanted. What he wanted — at least judging from his actions — was to stay with New England.
Why do I keep saying that Brady was interested in — or at least open to — staying with the Patriots? Well, he could have jumped at the opportunity to sign with another team right when the tampering period opened. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t hesitate to make an aggressive bid, according to NFL Network. Instead, he awaited flirtation from New England. And he never got it.
This notion that Brady wanted out of New England feels like Kraft’s best attempt to cover his own butt. He doesn’t want to lose the love — and money — from fans. He wants the Patriots to look good amid Brady’s departure. But a look at the facts and circumstances point to Kraft’s claims as a piece of misdirection. Brady didn’t want out — he just wanted to be treated like Tom Brady, a six-time Super Bowl champion. Belichick, instead, treated Brady like every other aging veteran to hit free agency. It always felt like it was going to end this way — ESPN reported that Belichick was preparing for a future without Brady back in 2017 — but it’s still understandable that Brady would be hurt. That he thought he might be different.
But he isn’t.
Belichick had been passively prodding Brady toward the plank. Brady finally walked off of it.