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NFL free agency rumor: Tom Brady’s market seems to be down to three teams

Related: Titans drop out of the Tom Brady sweepstakes, sign Ryan Tannehill to contract extension

Divisional Round - Los Angeles Chargers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s first ever trip to unrestricted free agency is only two days away, and with the legal tampering period beginning on Monday he will soon get a concrete feel for his market. While everything seems possible at this point in time, it appears as if Brady’s market may not be as robust as initially projected. In fact, if NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is to be believed, only three teams remain in the running.

“There are some teams we know are going to be interested. The Los Angeles Chargers [...] they’re expected to make a bit of a run at Tom Brady. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are another team that have some interest in Brady. Other than that, it seems to be the Patriots who have the most interest,” Rapoport said on Monday while also pointing out that neither the San Francisco 49ers nor the Las Vegas Raiders are expected to pursue the future Hall of Famer.

One major question was also posted during the segment: Where does Brady actually want to play? New England obviously has the system and the familiarity as well as a long and successful history with him, but both Los Angeles and Tampa Bay could try to lure the 42-year-old their way with financially superior offers and an improved supporting cast — the latter apparently being more important to Brady than the raw numbers of a new deal.

The Patriots, meanwhile, have only limited resources at their disposal to improve what has been a struggling offense in 2019. According to salary cap expert Miguel Benzan, the team is only $19.5 million under the cap at the moment with the contract for Devin McCourty not yet processed. Both the veteran safety and a potential Brady deal would cut significantly into this number, in turn limiting the team’s free agency potency.

Would this hurt New England’s chances of convincing Brady to return? Or will the market — or the apparent lack thereof outside of three teams total — cause him to reconsider his options and eventually stay with the Patriots after all? The latter scenario appears to be the best case for both parties involved, but a lot can change during the league’s legal tampering period and with Brady’s camp being able to negotiate with all teams.

For the Patriots, meanwhile, the timeline remains in place. If they want to re-sign Brady, they better do so before the new league year begins on Wednesday. Otherwise, his contract would void and the entire signing bonus of $13.5 million would hit the team’s books to further limit the financial flexibility this offseason. If, however, a deal is reached before that deadline, that number would be split in half and prorated over the 2020 and 2021 seasons.