When it comes to wondering what will happen with Tom Brady in 2020 NFL free agency, at least we know one important factor: The 42-year-old quarterback will not return to the Patriots after hitting the market for the first time in his 20-year career.
Answers about what's next for both Brady and the Patriots should be coming soon. We know Brady will not on the Patriots' roster Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, when the 2020 league year begins, and the team will be hit with a $13.5 million dead cap charge (signing bonus acceleration). That's why coach/general manager Bill Belichick needed clarity on Brady's plans; it should go without saying that New England's entire approach to 2020 and beyond depended on whether Brady would be part of the process.
NFL FREE AGENCY 2020:
Tracking the latest news, rumors and signings
The NFL's legal tampering period for soon-to-be free agents is ongoing, and Brady reportedly is being pursued by the Buccaneers and Chargers.
Until he decides where he will sign, though, the rumors around the most accomplished passer in football history will swirl at a furious rate. Below is a timeline of those rumors.
Tom Brady news, rumors on free agency
— March 17: The Buccaneers are the expected landing spot for Tom Brady "barring anything unforeseen," according to ESPN.
— March 17: ESPN reports Tom Brady "absolutely has a decision to make. His market is quietly very competitive, but not some crazy bidding war. Far more about finding a fit he likes rather than chasing (money)."
— March 17: Buccaneers GM Jason Licht tells ESPN they are "waiting to see what Tom decides just like everybody else."
— March 17: The Buccaneers and the Chargers remain "in the mix" to sign Tom Brady, but the quarterback's decision is not likely to come Tuesday, according to NFL Media, which adds "the plan for now is for Brady to go dark on everyone until he makes a decision."
— March 17: Tom Brady announces he is leaving the Patriots in NFL free agency.
— March 16: The Buccaneers have "made their intentions to Tom Brady loud and clear," according to NFL Media.
— March 16: The Broncos are not in on the Tom Brady sweepstakes, according to ESPN.
— March 16: The Buccaneers' interest in quarterback Tom Brady is "very real and sincere," according to CBS Sports.
— March 16: As the legal tampering period opens, the free agency market for Tom Brady is limited to the Chargers, Buccaneers and Patriots, according to NFL Media.
— March 15: The 49ers will not pursue quarterback Tom Brady in NFL free agency, according to NBC Sports, which adds, “It was Tom Brady’s No. 1 choice ... to go to San Francisco and be the starting quarterback."
— March 11: The Buccaneers "are going all in" on Brady in free agency, according to the Tampa Bay Times, which adds the team "will do almost anything" to sign the quarterback on the open market.
— March 5: SiriusXM NFL Radio co-hose Charlie Weis, a friend of Brady, says the quarterback told him "nobody knows anything" regarding his free agency, adding, "So anyone who is telling you they know, they don't know."
— March 4: Brady during an Instagram Live session with UFC president Dana White claims he "has a little vacation planned" and will be spending "a lot of time" with his family in the weeks leading up to free agency.
— March 3: Brady and Belichick speak on the phone about the quarterback's upcoming free agency, according to NBC Sports Boston's Tom Curran, who notes the conversation "wasn't particularly productive" and that the Patriots coach "was all business."
— March 1: The Patriots indeed want Brady to re-sign with them, and "Bill Belichick is not freezing Brady out," per NBC Sports Boston's Tom Curran. The Raiders reportedly are interested in Brady but will not "give great chase" in free agency.
— Feb. 27: ESPN NFL reporter Jeff Darlington says on "Get Up": “I’m now at the point where I would be stunned if Tom Brady went back to New England.”
RIP, my mentions.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) February 27, 2020
I know you’ll hate me. I know you’ll tell me I’m an idiot. And I understand why it’s so hard for all of us — myself included — to start accepting this likelihood. Hey, there’s still a chance. But... the reality is... Brady is looking forward to free agency. https://t.co/jDooyna2Hc
— Feb. 27: NFL Network reports the Giants are a team that potentially could be interested in Brady. The report is based on sources from the NFL Combine.
— Feb. 14: Larry Fitzgerald Sr., a member of the Minnesota media and father of the future Hall of Fame wide receiver, reports the Raiders are prepared to offer Brady $60 million for two years.
— Feb. 12: ESPN reports Brady and the Patriots have "not engaged in contract talks," but that there is "dialogue between him and the Patriots, which reflects that the situation is without animosity."
— Feb. 10: NFL Media confirms Patriots owner Robert Kraft is comfortable letting Brady test free agency. "From what I understand," NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reports, "Kraft's thinking on this was basically, if the sides came together, if Brady decides that the Patriots were his best option after testing free agency, and if Bill Belichick — who of course is making the decisions for New England — if he decides that Brady is his best option at this price, then in the end after all of this after going through everything, that it will mean that it's basically meant to be."
— Feb. 2: Brady trolls the entire internet when his Hulu ad runs during the Super Bowl a few days after he posted a cryptic tweet. Brady says at the end of the commercial, "I'm not going anywhere." This prompts another round of what-does-it-mean analysis.
— Feb. 2: ESPN reports the Raiders "are poised to pursue Brady if he doesn't re-sign with the Patriots before free agency begins," citing coach Jon Gruden's admiration for the QB and desire to bring him to Las Vegas.
— Jan. 12: A week after the Patriots' wild-card playoff loss, Brady says on a Westwood One radio interview that contract talks are "really not my concern at this point. ... I love playing football. I love playing for (the Patriots) organization. I really don't know what it looks like moving forward, and I'm just taking it day to day."
— Jan. 9: Brady posts a message on his Instagram account that suggests he intends to keep playing in 2020. "In both life and football, failure is inevitable. You dont always win," the post reads. "You can, however, learn from that failure, pick yourself up with great enthusiasm, and place yourself in the arena again. And that’s right where you will find me. Because I know I still have more to prove."
— Jan 6: Kraft tells The MMQB's Peter King his "hope and prayer" is that Brady returns to New England, adding, "He has the freedom to decide what he wants to do and what’s in his own best personal interest." Adds Brady in a conversation with King: "I’ll explore those (free agency) opportunities whenever they are. If it’s the Patriots, great. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know. I just don’t know. I love playing football. I still want to play football. I think I still can play at a championship level. I’ve just got to go do it. I’m motivated to get back to work and training."
— Jan 5: Soon after the Patriots lose to the Titans in the wild-card round of the playoff, Brady is asked about his future. "I don't know what the future looks like, and I'm not going to predict it," he says, adding it's "pretty unlikely" he will retire before the 2020 season. "Playing for (Kraft) and for Coach Belichick, there's nobody who's had a better career, I would say, than me. Just being with them. I'm very blessed."
— Oct. 27: CBS Sports reports the Chargers are a team to watch for Brady if the QB decides to leave the Patriots in free agency.