The offseason has begun for the New England Patriots and so has speculation about the future of the organization and the greatest dynasty the NFL has ever seen. One man in particular stands at the center of it all: quarterback Tom Brady is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March for the first time in his career, and at this point in time all options seem to be on the table even though a retirement appears to be “pretty unlikely.”
Either way, the fact cannot be disputed that the Patriots are entering uncharted territory with Brady’s contract set to void on the first day of the new league year. The organization and the future Hall of Famer’s camp therefore have roughly two months to figure something out if Brady was to remain in New England. According to head coach/de facto general manager Bill Belichick, however, no energy has been invested in that future just yet.
“I’m sure there are a lot of questions about the future. Nobody’s thought about the future,” Belichick said during the opening statement of his final press conference of the season on Sunday. “Everybody’s been focused and working on Miami and then Tennessee. And that’s where all of the focus should have been and where it was. So, whatever’s in the future we’ll deal with at some later point in time. We’re certainly not going to deal with it now.”
Belichick trying to proactively stop any talk about contract situations and the like — especially as it relates to his team’s biggest star — proved to be a losing strategy as questions still popped up during the press conference. The veteran coach, however, stayed on course and repeatedly pointed out that neither he nor the organization as a whole has yet delved into the upcoming free agency or roster construction for the 2020 season.
“I know it’s out there like there are a lot of other things out there,” Belichick said when pressed on the matter. “We could bring up 50 questions just like that one, and I told you what my state is on that. You can ask all 50 of them, and it’s going to be the same answer 50 times. We’ve been working on Tennessee. It’s 12 hours after the game. I’m not going to talk a lot of things about the future, because it’s not — I’m not prepared to talk about them.”
“You could name 50 guys, 50 coaches, you could talk about anything you want in the future,” he continued. “They’re all questions that need to be answered at some point in time by the organization, by myself, by the coaching staff, by some of the players. But those are collective decisions that are not made by one person. They’re made collectively, and there’s a lot of time and thought and effort and communication that goes into that. Now is not the time.”
The NFL’s free agency will begin on March 18, but the critical point for the Patriots when it comes to most of their big name free agents — a list that includes not just Brady but also safety Devin McCourty, linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and guard Joe Thuney — is actually two days earlier. On March 16, the so-called legal tampering window will open when players can agree to but not yet sign contracts with all the other teams.
At least when it comes to the Brady situation, the Patriots would certainly prefer some clarity at that point. When asked specifically about his 42-year-old quarterback on Sunday and whether or not he would be willing to offer any information or recognition of his unique status, however, Belichick again pointed out that every situation would be different and that no two the same for any players involved in this general process.
“The future’s the future for all of them just like it is for Tom and anybody else you want to bring up,” he said. “Certainly, Tom is an iconic figure in this organization, and nobody respects Tom more than I do. I respect all of the other players and all of the other coaches in this organization too. I think that everybody that is part of it is an important part of it, and I want to give attention and communication and detail and thought into my input into those decisions.”
“But any decision that’s made is — it’s not an individual decision,” added Belichick. “There are other people involved, so there has to be some type of communication and understanding, agreement, whatever you want to call it. That’s not a one-way street. I hope you can understand that. One person can’t decide what everybody else is going to do when players aren’t under contract, and we have a lot of players who aren’t under contract.”